Spoilers for the latest episode of "The Walking Dead" past this point.
Let's get this out of the way first: Glenn (Steven Yeun) isn't back this episode. He still isn't even in the credits. But unlike last week's divisive Morgan-centric (Lennie James) "Here's Not Here," this week is all about Glenn's absence.
It's also about a lot of other things, including catching us up to the present after running the past four episodes nearly simultaneously (hence the title, "Now"), but mostly how the Alexandrians are dealing with the way of life that the Grimes Gang has been warning them would be heading their way any second.
"Open The Gates!"
When we last left our dirty, dirty heroes, Morgan heard a voice outside the Alexandria gates, screaming the get them open. We pick up mere moments before that, as a shocked Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh, who I still have trouble believing is a regular on this show), looks at the ruins of her once quiet neighborhood.
Michonne (Danai Durira) is informing Maggie (Lauren Cohan) that she doesn't know what happened to Glenn -- “We had to get going. I’m sorry. He said if he got stuck he’d find a way to send us a signal." -- when Rick (Andrew Lincoln), who clearly has been slow motioning running since two episodes ago, returns with the back half of the walker herd in close pursuit.
And there lies the inciting incident for this episode.
Still sort of pretending that Deanna is in charge but not really, Rick gives a cheer-up speech to the Alexandrians, telling them to keep their lights off and noise to a minimum, and everything will be fine. Including Nicholas (Michael Traynor), who blew his own brains out; and Glenn, who seemingly had his guts torn out but definitely didn't two episodes back.
Oh, and then Aaron (Ross Marquand) does a dumb thing that has surprisingly few ramifications: he confesses that the Wolves found out about Alexandria through the pictures in his backpack. "Those people who came back here, they found their way here because of me," Aaron says, but let's be real... I'm still pretty convinced that Enid (Katelyn Nacon) led them to Alexandria, and Aaron's backpack is a macguffin. That would certainly back up why most of this episode wasn't Rick executing Aaron, or the people having a protracted debate about how trials work in the new world.
Yes, they had other problems (read: thousands of hungry zombies), but at the same time the only punishment Aaron gets is self punishment.
Deanna Of Troy
Let's talk about where Deanna's at, shall we? By episode's end, she's essentially abdicated leadership of the people to Rick, but beyond her silent first 15 minutes, her arc is all about figuring out how to get her groove back. First her son Spencer (Austin Nichols) shuts down an insurrection when the people decide to take whatever they want from the pantry 'cause they gon' die, then pilfers from the pantry himself.
Then she encounters a walker inside the walls, and proceeds to stab it repeatedly in the chest with a broken bottle. You can read that as either her finally stepping up and causing some violence like she should; or a suicide attempt, since she doesn't even go for the head of the walker once (Rick saves her).
But probably the most telling moment for her is when she momentarily gets inspired and starts jotting down ideas on plans of Alexandria. She puts in plans for a mill, for crops, for ideas that will let this place grow. Is she broken? Mad? Either way, she writes down one final note: "Dolor hic tibi proderit olim."
In order to impress you with my smartness, I'm going to tell you this is the second part of a quote by Ovid. The whole quote is actually, "Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim," which translates as, "Be patient and tough, someday this pain will be useful to you."
It's interesting both that she leaves out the first part of the quote -- she doesn't have the luxury of being patient -- and how even if the idea hasn't crystallized yet, that she knows this horror can be turned into something positive. Outwardly, she's given up. But inwardly? She knows that Alexandria isn't quite dead yet.
That said, skipping ahead a bit, she uses that pain to approach the wall at episode's end, slamming it repeatedly with her hand and doing her little bit to "fight" against the walker herd. Only what she doesn't notice? There's a crack in the wall. Perhaps she should have jotted down another Ovid quote instead: "Omnia mutantur, nihil interit," or, "Everything changes, nothing perishes."
Meanwhile, At The Andersons
Rick's new family has some adventures this week, too! Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) seems to be adjusting best to their new lives, casually dragging a dead body, and killing a resident who took the news of their impending fate poorly, slit her wrists, and came back as a member of the living dead shortly after.
"I used to not want to see the way things are," Jessie says, using the tried and true method of saying exactly what your motivation is out loud. "It’s not that I couldn’t, it’s that I -- I didn’t want to. But this is what life looks like now. We have to see it. We have to fight it. If we don’t fight, we die."
Thanks, Jessie. Anyway, she then makes one major tactical error, trying to lure her son Sam (Major Dodson) down from hiding in his room by offering cookies. THE SAME COOKIES THAT CAROL (MELISSA MCBRIDE) THREATENED HIM WITH LAST SEASON!!! Just kidding, but that kid really has a f--ked up relationship with cookies now, I bet.
And then there's Ron (Austin Abrams), who is playing some sort of weird, dangerous game. Carl (Chandler Riggs) comes to Ron for help finding Enid, who went over the wall in the season premiere and is definitely not the leader of the Wolves or anything. After they have a grapply boy fight, Ron tells him that he's saving his life by not letting him go, that Rick would follow, other people would go, and someone would die.
And then Ron tells Rick anyway, ostensibly to explain how he saved Carl -- who he says is with Judith, though we all know Judith was probably taken by the Wolves so maybe he's lying? -- but also to convince Rick to train him to use a gun.
Oh, and then later, Rick makes out with his Mom.
So... What's the end game here, exactly? Is it to show what happens with a regular family gets sucked into Rick's world? Is it to offer Rick a semblance of peace again? Or are they hiding some sort of dastardly secret?
I swear we'll get to the part you're all most interested in, in a second, but first let's talk about some more smoochin'. Specifically between Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) and Tara (Alanna Masterson), because they're both lesbians, and if you're the only two lesbians in the post-apocalypse, you're going to fall in love.
...And that's pretty much it. There's a nice bit where Tara -- who is getting headaches pretty frequently, which definitely won't pay off in something horrible at all -- tells Denise not to be afraid of curing the redshirt Michonne and Heath (Corey Hawkins) brought back two weeks ago of his leg injury; and then Denise uses her same statement to say how she's not afraid to smooch up a storm.
But like I said, that's pretty much it. One of them gon' die, right? Because as much as they want to say it isn't the end of the world... It is.
Maggie Has A Secret
Let's -- at long last -- get into it, shall we? True to form, Maggie isn't just going to sit around and wait for Schrodinger's Glenn to reveal whether he's alive or dead, she's going to go look for him. And Aaron, because he feels heartsick and guilty over the Wolves' attack, is going with her. Even if she doesn't want him too.
But both are going, and particularly after they see some random residents writing Nicholas and Glenn's names up on the Alexandria wall of the dead. "If he’s alive, he’s trapped, maybe taken," Maggie says, "If he’s alive he needs my help. And if he’s dead I don’t want to be waiting on him."
So they head into the sewers, because nothing bad ever happens in sewers -- and there, they encounter this week's gross out walkers. They're covered in muck, rotted away, and so soft and mud-covered that Maggie's hands get stuck in one of their chests when she tries to stop them from biting her.
Aaron takes care of the walker for her, though, and then they make it to the gate to the outside. They'll still have to fight their way through the herd -- something Aaron is prepared to do -- but Maggie grabs the gate and pulls it shut.
That's when Lauren Cohan gives the most heart-breaking monologue of the season:
"No. NO. It don’t work! I burned my last picture of him. Because I said I wasn’t going to be away from him again. Because I didn’t need it no more... I’m pregnant. He didn’t want me to go out there and I said yes. And if I were to have gone... If I was with him, maybe I could have helped him. I don’t know if he’s alive. He would have shown me by now, that’s what Michonne said. I just want to see his face. I can’t. I don’t get to know what happened, why it happened, what I did right or wrong. Not now. I have to live with that. You do too."
And then they embrace. Look, there's a lot to unpack here, from Maggie's pregnancy, which -- as we know from Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) a few seasons back -- is no picnic in the post-apocalypse, to their mutual decision to go back to Alexandria.
It's one of the more fascinating character moments of the season so far, too, because Maggie gains her hope back by not looking for Glenn. Instead, she and Aaron head to the wall of names and erase Nicholas and Glenn. For the time being, they've decided to fall on the side of hope because they can. Even when the rest of the world looks negative and dark, what they're hoping for is... Hope.
I guess they've never watched "The Walking Dead."