Carol’s baking cookies and hoarding chocolate. Rick is on the beat, tracking down vandalism. Gabriel is setting up a his congregation and receiving gifts of fruit from his parishioners. Abraham is working construction, and Noah is considering a career change. The town drunk and potential domestic abuser is raising eyebrows and starting gossip among our heroes.
Everyone’s fitting in just fine. Doing their part in the community. Working their shift.
Everyone is calm in Pleasantville.
Pleasant Valley Sunday, isn’t it?
The song made famous by the Monkees speaks of how “ordinary life” is actually just a cover for simmering anger, discontent, and passions. Explosions are masked by recipe exchanges and baking and kids playing. Ordinary idealism is just a front for the pain of realization.
The devil is in paradise, disguised as an angel.
This symbolism reaches throughout the episode. First, we have Aiden and Nicholas, the runners who are supposed to be the bravest, most cunning of the community, responsible for finding and delivering necessary supplies to those who dare not venture beyond the walls of the Safe Zone. We knew from the previous episode that Aiden was a cocky bastard without a clue who needed Glenn to knock him on his ass, but now we find out that he and Nicholas left their last two runners to die in order to save themselves. And Nicholas, who gets the award for A-hole of the Year, leaves not only Aiden to die (or, well, leaves Glenn alone to try to save him, which is virtually the same thing), but also leaves Glenn and Noah at the walkers’ mercy (and it doesn’t end well for Noah).
A devil is revealed.
This revelation peels away the layers of why this town of inexperienced housewives, civil engineers, and drunks have survived for so long: they are willing to sacrifice each other in order to survive. Aiden and Nicholas reveal that that’s “who they are” and that they did it to their comrads, while the construction team was willing to do it to Franscine (until Abraham stepped in). Aaron was most impressed to witness that Rick’s group “didn’t turn on each other” as he was scouting them, and, given what he’s probably witnessed as the MO of his own community, we can see why this was such a unique quality. The quiet community isn’t as peaceful as it appears. There are cracks just below the surface of this town on the edge of forever.
The other devil comes as no surprise to those of us who read the comic book and know the tale of Jessie and her son, and certainly was not well hidden to Rick and Carol, two people who know what domestic abuse looks like. Pete isn’t exactly an angel, but domestic violence is certainly the devil in Alexandria, or any society for that matter. A devil that is often hidden behind smiles, children who cling to strangers, and smashed owl structures. Rick, who as a cop would have dealt with domestic issues frequently, and Carol, a victim herself, were both quick to uncover the devil in their mist.
The biggest and most obvious devil in this paradise is, of course, Rick’s group, who, as Glenn has said, have been “out there too long.” Rick and Carol (and Daryl, in the beginning at least) had already been planning a take over of the town out from under the well-intentioned congresswoman simply because she’s “too soft”. With Maggie overhearing the plan, and Glenn, Eugene, and eventually Tara’s anger over Noah’s pointless death, their coup will grow. Of course, it won’t take much for the others like Abraham to join Rick in any rebellion, and the devil is alive and well, ready to strike and take over paradise. They seem on the surface like saviors to the community, people whom as Maggie said, “know what they are doing.” But in reality, they are dangerous. Father Gabriel, my nomination for the Judas Award, is actually accurate in his warning to Deanna (but hey, Gabe, forget about how they saved you from Walkers twice and kept you alive for weeks!). They will not think twice about betraying, killing, and taking over everyone in this trusting community if it means saving their own. What they did “out there” is not what makes them the devil, but what they are planning to do to the residence, trusting people who, like they once were, might have too much faith in outsiders and be too willing to take others in.
One has to wonder what Daryl’s role will be in all this, given that he wouldn’t take the gun and seemed wiling to give the place a chance, and Aaron’s observation that he knows “good people from bad people.” Will he betray Rick’s plan? Or is there another “devil” in Pleasantville that has yet to be discovered, perhaps a member of the community itself?
And what of Carl, who is fitting in with new friends and enjoying virtual fighting via video games?
And what the hell does Carol need with stolen chocolate? Am I wrong to see those chocolate bars fitting into her plans somehow, death by chocolate? If there ever was a devil in disguise, it is Carol in her Betty Crocker get-up and serial killer plots.
Major Prediction here: Glenn’s days are numbered. He’s been in the spotlight too much, had separate arcs and missions from Maggie too often, and taken too great of a leadership role for him to last much longer. And with all the foreshadowing of him with a bat it doesn’t take much to guess at who’s hand will be his demise, nor how.
But until then…..Pleasantville is breaking down, and Pleasant Valley is showing discontent and danger under the surface. The devil is in paradise, but the demon is really just the drive to survive and protect your own – at all costs.