Forget Dale. Forget Lori. Forget Bob, Beth, and Tyreese. Tragic, horrible deaths, all of them — but they pale in comparison to the greatest Walking Dead death of them all: Rick’s beard.
The former law man became a current law man, sans beard, in the latest round of The Walking Dead, as Rick Grimes and his group of survivors finally returned to civilization. After weeks and weeks on the road without any concrete notion of salvation, the Ricktatorship can now kick back and relax in Alexandria, a walled-in community just a handful of miles away from Washington, D.C. — although relaxation doesn’t come so easily for any of these people.
Take Rick, for instance. Here’s a man so traumatized by his experiences in the apocalypse that he almost got his entire fellowship killed on the way to Alexandria, because he couldn’t trust a single, smiling stranger. Even now, inside of Alexandria, Rick appears reluctant to accept the new status quo. He’s the first of his group to meet with Deanna Monroe, the community’s leader, and a former Washington congresswoman. Under her leadership, Alexandria has flourished where so many others have perished. The community has been insulated from most of the horrors associated with the zombie outbreak, to the point that Monroe’s fellow Alexandrians are, in a word, soft. Even she admits her people’s weaknesses, which is why she’s thrilled to have some true, hardened survivors like Rick and friends under her roof.
Deanna isn’t the only one excited that Rick’s people have joined Alexandria. There’s Jessie, a mother of two, who seems to take a liking to Rick, even as her husband comes across as seriously shady, throwing shade at Rick at night from the comfort of his porch. There’s Jessie’s kids, too, who are thrilled to have a new playmate in Carl. For his part, Carl is just as happy, if not happier, to finally catch his breath and play some video games.
But that doesn’t mean Carl is breathing too easily. Games are great, yes, but survival is greater, and he’s concerned about that prospect. It’s nice to have a roof over his head, and walls as added protection, but he’s worried about how these safety measures might weaken all of the strength he and his companions have gained under Rick’s reign. Likewise, Glenn notices weakness in Alexandria’s foundation, getting into a fight with Deanna’s douche-bag son Aiden when a supply run almost goes completely off the rails. No one’s more uneasy than Daryl Dixon, who is so fearful of society that he refuses to take a shower.
Rick is worried, too, but he’s willing to give Alexandria a fair shake. He accepts a job as the community’s new constable, with Michonne serving as his right-hand woman. He allows Carl to have a playdate with Jessie’s kids, and even allows himself to make a new friend in Jessie. Heck, Rick even shaves his beard, putting an end to the most ferocious facial hair on television, and bringing him back to his boyish Love Actually roots. He might not be convinced that Alexandria has what it takes to keep his people safe forever, but he’s willing to give it a shot. It’s the best available option at the moment.
Besides, Rick has a plan. He wouldn’t be Rick Grimes if he didn’t have some tricks up his sleeve. And these tricks are sure to please not just some of his more civilization-averse compatriots, but the audience as well. When night falls on their third day in town, Rick steps out onto his front porch with dirty Daryl and prim-and-proper Carol, wearing a baby blue blouse that negates her Sarah Connor street cred just as much as Rick’s murdered beard makes him look like a fashion model. Both Carol and Daryl express their concerns about Alexandria making them weak — that these people, who have never seen apocalyptic life outside of these walls, aren’t capable of surviving in this world. Rick reveals that he shares their fears, but isn’t all that worried about it.
“If they can’t make it, we’ll just take it,” he says, and by it, he means Alexandria. It turns out that you can take the savagery out of Rick’s facial hair, but you can’t take the savagery out of the man himself. The Ricktatorship remains alive and well, civilization be damned.