This review contains spoilers.
5.11 The Distance
Sometimes it seems like The Walking Dead tries too hard to be something it’s not. There are so many dramatic elements in the show and, at times, it’s like it forgets that deep down, it’s a basically just an excuse to have heads explode and to get really creative with blood spray, bits of rubber tubing, and prop weapons. Somewhere within this melancholy show of dirty people scrounging for food in the dying glimmers of human civilization, there’s a gore maniac waiting to leap out and pulverize rubber skulls full of butcher shop leavings, and it’s when The Walking Dead embraces both sides of its coin when the show really shines.
It’s another tale of two episodes this week, even if there’s no actual division between an A plot and a B plot. There’s just one plot, Aaron the visitor and a promise too good to be true that divides the group quite literally in two. On one hand, Michonne, Carl, and everyone else. On the other hand, Rick, paranoid and crazed by one betrayal after another from groups too good to be true. A safe zone, food, water, applesauce, and all from someone who is entirely too clean and well-dressed for his own good? It makes sense that Rick doesn’t trust him any farther than he can throw him, and since everyone’s starving and exhausted, that’s not very far at all.
Is it too good to be true? Well, we still don’t know, but since it’s The Walking Dead, not The Stationary Alive, it’s pretty safe to assume it’s not going to end up well for anyone, though there’s going to be a temporary respite from the looks of things. But to get to the respite, they first have to drive through a whole bunch of zombies in a Cadillac. Also, in case you’ve forgotten Dale and his boonie hat, there’s an RV involved, too. Director Larysa Kondracki does a great job with the special effects scenes, even if it does seem like there are a few seams in some of the digital head stabs this week. Just the overhead shot of the car driving through the zombies on the road, the constant spray and splatter of undead against the windshield, and the awesome flare-gun-to-the-head scene would make the episode a good watch, but the most terrifying thing in the episode doesn’t involve the undead, but the living.
Oddly enough, a midnight drive through a road full of zombies, a running gun battle through a corn field, and the omnipresent risk of violent walker death is the least tense thing about the episode. As Aaron goes on about his group, showing pictures, getting roughed up by Officer Beard, and trying his best to win over Rick and company, Aaron is the source of the tension. Every time he’s asked a question about his group, he avoids some kind of direct answer (and gets great reactions from Carol, who looks like she’s ready to shoot him the first time he gives a goofy answer to how many people are in his group). It’s interesting to see just how far Rick is going, and just how much pressure he’s under to keep the group safe even from itself. Rick seems terrifyingly close to a complete breakdown of some sort. Even after the tension has passed, Rick still seems slightly unhinged as he stares in on Aaron and his boyfriend Eric having their reunion, as if they might be plotting some sort of shenanigans despite both being unarmed and one having a broken ankle. The little touches of humour from Aaron are appreciated, too.
Strange that the self-described crazy lady with a sword has grown into the voice of reason, and as much a leader of the group as Rick or Carol. However, I like how cohesive the group feels, and writer Seth Hoffman has them emphasize this by having their disagreements be exchanged in a few short words and looks, rather than long conversations. It moves quickly, even if it doesn’t pop, and it’s nice to see The Walking Dead actually go for something subtle and unspoken for once. Even if it does lead to Rick punching an innocent man (at least, so far) in the face for no good reason.
Is Alexandria the safe zone it is promised to be? Not so sure. The previews lead me to believe otherwise, and in one scene, it looks as though someone—not Eric—was watching Michonne and the group sent down the road to check on the rendezvous point. If one person can follow them and learn all about them, there’s no reason another person can’t do the same thing for more sinister reasons.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Them, here.
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