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In the arc of a season, especially on a show so fraught with peril and existential uncertainty, sometimes everyone needs a breather, an episode where nothing1511465720631797931 much happens, a pause to regroup and ponder, and this was that episode with a vengeance. While the Glenn evisceration cliffhanger continues to hang; Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha remain at large; 10,000 zombies circle Alexandria; and the savagery of the Wolves attack lingers in the air; the lesson of the week from within the walls is “priorities.”

1511465720558918571Toward the end of the ep, once and future Alexandria leader Deanna — who remains inexplicably unaware that you have to kill a zombie in the head — asks Rick if all her dreams for a civil society in this blighted world are just fantasy. Rick pauses, finally says, “No.” What is left unsaid is that intelligent and efficient ordering of priorities in a survivalist situation is literally life and death.

Planning a delicately balanced and self-sustaining society with agriculture and storehouses and doilies and stuff is worthwhile, is an expression of hope, and if you don’t have hope you don’t have a future. But these aspirations are secondary to immediate survival needs and the number one survival need in a world of zombies and depraved killer humans is self-defense.

One must take a measured approach to every activity that does not address survival, and be ready to act efficiently and without hesitancy when threatened.

That doesn’t mean one should abandon basic morality and civility and assume all humans not already a member of one’s own “clan” are to be summarily eaten,twd exploited, or simply killed. Then you are Terminus or the Wolves or Morgan before he met Eastman . But clearly one must err in favor of caution, establish a perimeter, and guard that perimeter tenaciously. Thick, sturdy walls and an alert, well-armed citizen militia — a frontier fort mentality — must be established before quality of life matters can be addressed.

So sure, you can draw up plans for plots of crops and a yoga center, but do so while fully armed, trained, and with keen eyes scanning the horizon. That is the lesson Rick and crew have been trying to impart to the wobbly, naive, and now despairing Alexandrians: reality cannot be hidden from, self defense is the top priority, morality, quality of life, and love matter, but only to the living.

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