“The fight it turns on you. You have to let it go.” — Michonne
Just when there’s been a sliver of doubt that the show has lost some steam because of last week’s episode which some have called a throwaway due to little to no action. When people say this it means the show barely has the so-called zombie action it has become known for. A show titled The Walking Dead always goes back to surviving the zombies around Rick and his people. Yet, the show needs to take the sort of breather that last week’s “Them” provided not just the characters but the audience.
Tonight’s episode looks to be the start of a new story-arc that mirrors a similar event in the comic book. The group has a journey where food and water has become scarce. A night trapped in a barn with zombies about to break through and hurricane winds and rain just outside. These people are true survivors. Rick’s leadership (questionable at times) have seen the group through the Governor and Woodbury, a viral outbreak, fall of the prison, Terminus and right up to Gareth and his Hunters. All these events have culled some of the more soft-hearted members of the team and just about left nothing of the group but the hard inner core.
They remain good people trying desperately to hold onto the humanity and compassion, but all the things they’ve gone through has begun to affect them in so many ways. Tonight we see how the burden of leadership and seeing how their trust has been betrayed over and over when it comes to strangers has begun to weigh on Rick. He sees how being on the road has weakened his people as water and food run low, but trust seems to be leaving him when it comes to those he sees as not his people.
Tonight we see Rick’s mistrust of Aaron (introduced as the mysterious “friend” who left the group bottles of water on the road) and his promise of a safe community reach paranoia level. The rest of the group have their own levels of doubt about Aaron, but willing to entertain the prospect of getting off the road and be somewhere safe even if just temporary. Rick doesn’t see it that way. What he sees when he looks at Aaron and listens to his words of safety and community are the same things the Governor and the Terminus radio message had promised in the past. His defense mechanism has become so pervasive in how he deals with the unknown that he’s lost sight of how this world needs pragmatism over anything else if one was to survive.
Michonne and others in the group understand that Aaron’s offer could be a trap and another Terminus, but they’ve become such pragmatists in this hellish new world that before they dismiss the offer as a danger they need to find out more. They see this offer as a way out of the road. A solution to the emotional toll their nomadic life has taken on them. Yet, Rick focuses on seeing this new development as just another trap that he needs to stop before it gets sprung.
The whole episode we see Rick’s mindset get questioned by not just Michonne, but others such as Glenn, Maggie and, to a certain degree, even Daryl knows that they need a viable and safe place to hold up. A barn that is stinking of horseshit would not do. Rick would back off his initial orders to take the fight to these new mysterious “benefactors” but we could see in his eyes and behavior that the others might be willing to give Aaron a sliver of trust but he won’t.
It takes some words of wisdom from Michonne herself who has noticed that Rick has begun to slide into a state of nihilistic behavior. She knows exactly how Rick feels. She herself was were Rick was when she first showed up to save Andrea all the way back in season 3 and when she first meets up with Rick at the prison. Rick has become so focused on his anger at all the people they’ve lost because of the “bad people” they’ve encountered that he doesn’t seem willing to want to trust anyone outside of those he already has. He has begun to let nothing but anger, distrust and paranoia dictate his decisions instead of letting his emotions tempered by pragmatism rule the day.
Will Rick give up the fight and allow himself to return to being the compassionate leader he was when this all began? Or has the Governor, Joe and Gareth worn his principles down to the point that he cannot go back to being that compassionate leader?
This season has been a gauntlet for the group. Rick might not have loss anyone like Carl or Judith, but as their leader every loss weighs on him and distances him from everyone. One could almost wonder if this was how the Governor, Joe and Gareth turned. Were they good people who were suddenly forced to kill and kill more people just stay alive. It will be interesting to see whether Rick joins those three or will he bring himself back from the brink.
The Walking Dead will always have it’s dosage of gore and zombie action. It will have it’s level of soap opera moments. This is a show that has begun to accept the fact that it will not be on the level of Game of Thrones or it’s stable mates like Breaking Bad or Mad Men. It has gradually embraced it’s very pulpiness and horror roots. For some people it’s way too late, but for those who have stuck around and gone the distance with this show then it looks like there’s hope yet both in new stories to come and how it’s writers have finally gotten what it’s all about.
- Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Distance”, was directed by Larysa Kondracki and written by Seth Hoffman.
- According to some little details revealed in this episode Aaron has been tracking and observing Rick and the group for over two weeks now.
- The sequence at night with Rick, Glenn, Michonne and Aaron driving down route 23 and suddenly running into a road full of zombies was one of the highlight’s for the show tonight.
- Glad to have the Winnie back even though it’s a different one and not Dale’s.
- Nice throwback to the show’s early days when Glenn showed Abraham that they had nothing to worry about the Winnie’s dead battery since they had an easy spare to use.
- Talking Dead guests tonight are the series’ own Dania Gurira aka Michonne and film director and writer Paul Feig.