WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Season 6, episode 2 of The Walking Dead.
This week's episode of The Walking Dead, 'JSS,' was insane with the brutality that the Wolves brought upon the unaware residents of Alexandria. But while the episode was filled with over the top violence from the Wolves, it also contained references to a different kind of violence that just a few residents of the town had suffered in the past.
Back in Season 5, one of the big story arcs revolved around the Anderson family and their abusive patriarch, Pete, who was thankfully killed by Rick in the season finale. Despite getting a small insight into the fear Jessie, Ron and Sam went through with Pete in Season 5, it wasn't until this week's episode that we learned more about what this family had gone through.
Each Anderson family member had a detail of their lives with Pete revealed in 'JSS,' the first coming about Ron, when he and Jessie had an argument in the kitchen near the beginning of the episode, and the following exchange went down:
Jessie: There are things we need to talk about, there are things that you need to learn.
Ron: What, are you serious?
Jessie: What is it? Do you, do you blame me? Huh? Do you actually blame me? Raise your left arm above your head. You can't. Tell me why.
Jessie: Your father was dangerous.
Whether this happened prior to the family arriving in Alexandria or not, this exchange makes it pretty clear that at some stage Pete beat Ron so badly it is now physically impossible for him to raise his left arm over his head.
Once Jessie realizes that the Wolves are attacking Alexandria, she gives orders for Sam to put himself in the closet and tells him to "close the latch just like I showed you." When the pair realize one of the Wolves is already inside the house, both of them shelter in the closet and we learn that, unusually, they have a latch on the inside of the door. Sam had actually talked to Carol about hiding in his closet from his father back in Season 5 episode 15, but it wasn't until now that we saw how they kept him out.
Disturbingly, as Redditor TheFlarnge points out, this is actually something police officers see quite frequently in real life domestic abuse cases -- victims installing latches on the insides of doors to keep their abusers out, to try and keep themselves safe. In a show about violence and zombies, this latch inside the door was a chilling, and unfortunately an all too real addition from The Walking Dead writers.
In the final scene with the Anderson family in 'JSS,' we saw Jessie using what was probably a survival technique she had picked up living with an abusive partner. After a short scuffle with one of the Wolves inside her home, Jessie pretended to be knocked unconscious so the woman would stop beating her. As soon as the intruder turned her back, Jessie grabbed her hairdressing scissors and had her revenge.
Jessie's attack on the Wolf was prolonged, violent and bloody, and it was almost certainly a release of years of pent up anger at someone threatening her and her children. Just when she thought she was finally through with having this threatening force inside her house, and around her children, along comes along another danger, and well, Jessie wasn't about to take any chances.
A show making a difference
This isn't the first time The Walking Dead has touched on abuse in families, most notably we saw the abusive relationship between Ed and Carol (and Sophia) in Season 1, and audiences have also heard stories about Daryl's traumatic childhood.
Earlier this year, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd spoke about her hopes that the show inspires women in abusive relationships to break free from their abusers. Hurd also mentioned that Melissa McBride (who plays Carol) has actually received mail from abuse survivors, thanking her for giving a voice to their struggles, going to show that just because a TV show is about zombies, it doesn't mean it can't also share positive messages about problematic societal issues.