After a pair of episodes (albeit separated by a winter hiatus) where ‘The Walking Dead’ said goodbye to two cast members, it was probably destined that we’d get a filler episode this week, as the storyline makes a transition from one phase to the next. But good god, was this week’s entry dull. We’ve seen a handful of meaningless episodes over five seasons of this series, but ‘Them’ (the title of Sunday’s episode) is no doubt going to be remembered as one of the worst.
For the majority of Season 5, fans have complained about how Maggie seemed to show no concern about where her sister Beth was or what kind of trouble she might be in. With Beth now gone, fans get a whole episode devoted to Maggie lamenting about what she’s lost. You know what they say – be careful what you wish for!
The group are now reunited and on their way to Washington, D.C. The van Rick has been driving finally runs out of gas, which means that everyone has to walk. (This may be a first on this show. I’ve mentioned in other recaps about the seemingly unlimited supply of petroleum in the post-apocalyptic world.) The search for water and food plays a big part in this week’s story, but damn, could these people walk any freakin’ slower? Perhaps it went unnoticed by many, but in some scenes this week the characters are moving at about the same speed as the Walkers that inhabit their world. At this pace, they’ll reach D.C. around Season 10.
There’s one scene this week that’s kind of interesting. As Maggie and the group come across some abandoned cars, Maggie opens the trunk of one to find a female Walker tied up and gagged in the back. I wonder what her story was. I’m sure that it’s more interesting that anything going on with our characters in this episode. Was she kidnapped? Was she assaulted? Was she… oh wait, Glenn’s come along and killed her for Maggie, so it doesn’t matter now… back to everyone walking and whining.
In a scene that is sure to get emails and protests from members of the SPCA, a group of wild dogs emerges from the woods near our heroes, and Sasha shoots them all. Then the group cook and eat the dog meat. Hey, give these guys credit; at least no one suggested killing Eugene and making burgers out of him, although it’s still a long way to Washington.
Daryl spends a lot of time away from the group this week, running into the woods to search for water/food, then coming back empty handed. Earlier in the episode, Carol tells him that he needs to be able to feel what happened to Beth, but Daryl has been pretty emotionless about everything. On one of his solo treks into the woods, he spots a barn in the distance and sits down to light up a cigarette, snubbing it out a few minutes later on his own hand. At this point, Daryl breaks down and cries. He’s probably crying for Beth, but he could also be crying over how awful this week’s script is. Daryl, buddy, I feel your pain.
As the group move further down the road, they come across a bunch of bottled water in the middle of the highway with a sign that says “From a Friend.” Dying of thirst, Eugene volunteers to test the water for safety, but Abraham knocks it out of his hand. Rick believes it might be poisoned. At this point, the skies open up and start pouring down rain, although there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky before now. Our heroes rejoice and fill up their empty bottles as well as their mouths in the downpour, until they realize that they’re just getting really wet. Daryl tells them about the barn he found, and they all travel there for shelter.
That night, around a campfire, Rick tells the others about his grandfather, who fought in World War II but never talked about his experiences. Rick once asked him about how he made it through the war, and his grandfather told him that he treated every day like he was already dead. “We do what we need to do, then we get to live,” Rick tells the others. “We are the walking dead.” Of course, this is a nod to the famous line from the comic book, where it’s revealed the title actually refers to the survivors and not the Walkers. It came much earlier in the comic and it’s much quieter and subtler here, but it’s a nice call-back to the source material and perhaps the only memorable part of this week’s episode.
Later that night, a bunch of Walkers try to get into the barn and everyone has to join in to keep the doors shut. They succeed and, the next morning, Maggie and Sasha exit the barn to discover the storm has taken care of most of the Walkers, with many still moving but incapacitated by fallen trees and other obstacles. Maggie and Sasha sit together watching the sunrise when a mysterious, clean-cut stranger shows up and introduces himself as Aaron. He claims to be a friend (the same person who left them the water?) and wants to talk to Rick. “I have good news,” he says.
I’m not very far along in the comics, but I assuming that its readers are already aware of who Aaron is and what his motivations are? Educated guess: he’s yet another in a long line of characters who seem to be good at first, and then turn out to be evil, right? I have no problem with this show bringing on human characters to oppose our heroes (it would get dull just killing Walkers week after week), but how many times do we need to go through this particular scenario?
As you’ve no doubt noticed, I didn’t particularly care for this week’s entry, nor did I think it did much to flesh out the character of Maggie, which seemed to be the primary purpose of the storyline. I’m starting to think that 16 episodes per season is a little too many for ‘The Walking Dead’, as we seem to get a lot of filler episodes every year (always including a handful where star Andrew Lincoln doesn’t appear at all). I’d like to see the show cut back to 12 or 13, but we all know that this is AMC’s golden goose, so that isn’t terribly likely. In fact, I’d be surprised if the network doesn’t start pressing for 20 shows per season sooner or later.
Am I wrong? Did I totally miss the hidden subtleties of this week’s story? Or were you, like me, bored to tears? You know, like Daryl was.