After last week’s “we’re barely hanging on” downer of a drudge through the backroads of post-apocalyptic America, we get a sliver of hope. His name is Aaron and he is oddly clean and quite friendly, considering, you know, The Walking Dead. With the arrival of Aaron, only one thing was absolutely certain: he’s going to have a bad time. Not only was he walking in on a group of survivors who had been put through the proverbial ringer and are coming off a series of tragic losses, but he’s encountering a group that’s been burned by every other would be savior for nearly six years. Honestly, when you roll up suddenly and say ‘take me to your leader,’ you have to expect to be manhandled. A lot.
Though the thread has been lost in the sadness and meandering of the last couple of episodes, the arrival of Aaron was the perfect time to address Rick’s growing reactionist leadership of the group, his shoot first/ask questions later (maybe) decision-making and instant suspicion of everyone new that the group comes across. Granted, Rick has been right to suspect Gabriel, and later the police officers in Atlanta, but at least in the instance of the former his reaction was overblown. Gabriel was hiding a dark secret, sure, but it wasn’t one that threatened the group. As for those cops, well, Rick knew what he was dealing with there, but running over Officer Lamson and then shooting him? That was a little much considering that he just gave Sasha a bump on the head.
Keeping in mind all that, not to mention the evisceration of Gareth and the other Terminus survivors, if one was expecting Aaron to get a warm welcome, you were going to be profoundly disappointed. Sasha and Maggie bring him back to the barn, where Rick immediately orders everyone to be on guard for an attack. Aaron tries to explain that there’s nothing to fear, he comes from a community that’s safe and is recruiting new members assuming you pass the audition (although he admits that’s a terrible word for it). He’s got pictures, too. Apparently they found a camera and were able to take some shots to prove that the community was safe. Even after hearing all that though, Rick still knocks him out.
I’m not sure if Rick’s gun butt shutdown of Aaron was supposed to be funny, or a subtle foreshadowing of the brutal face of cynicism he was about to show him though the rest of the episode, but what the hell, I laughed. I also laughed at Daryl telling Aaron “Who gives a shit?” when Aaron was going on about the camera with which he took the pictures he had.
Ross Marquand played his scenes very, very well, cool and steady enough to make Aaron seem believable, but at the same time making you think that his answers are a little too well prepared. Meanwhile, Andrew Lincoln leaned a little too far into Rick’s caveman-like tendencies, telling Aaron in regards to the ceased supplies from his Winnebago, that “This is ours now.” We get it Rick, you’re not buying what Aaron’s selling, but you don’t have to sound like the school bully of the zombie apocalypse while doing it.