It’s been a very long week of guessing (or revisiting the comics, if you’ve been keeping up with Robert Kirkman’s book) for fans of The Walking Dead.
Last week, the show received a newcomer named Aaron (played by Ross Marquand), who revealed himself to Sasha and Maggie at episode’s end. A well-groomed, friendly gentlemen pops out of nowhere to say hi? How do you think Sasha and Maggie reacted? And how do you think Rick feels about this stranger? It didn’t take long to find out in this week’s episode, titled “The Distance.”
First thing’s first, who is Aaron? I wrote a short preview of the character and all things super spoiler-filled, just in case you want to find out the easy way. Otherwise, follow me:
It’s almost hilarious how upset everyone is that Aaron has shown up. Maggie and Sasha escort him back to the barn, and I don’t think I’ve seen a group of people pull out their guns so fast in my life. Judith starts crying. Aaron tries to explain “the audition” for entry into the community he represents, even shooting off some jokes — “Audition sounds like we’re a dance troop. That’s only on Fridays.” No one laughs. Except me.
Aaron has some proof, pictures of the closed community, which — let’s stop kidding ourselves — is the Alexandria Safe-Zone. He tells the group how important it is for the community to recruit more members in order to grow in strength. Then Rick, who is kind of sort of checking out the low-quality pics of the Safe-Zone (“No one gives a shit,” says Daryl), walks up and punches out Aaron. Cue credits.
I know the writers didn’t mean for the opening scene to come off as hilarious, but that’s just what that scene is to me. Things have been really tense on the show lately, especially after Terminus, but this sudden peak of tension just kind of did it for me in all the wrong ways. There’s enough precedence for the way Rick and the group act towards strangers, sure, but I don’t know. Things have become a little too grim. If Aaron turns out to be another bad guy, I’ll have no choice but to roll my eyes.
Rick is really busy trying to find out how many more Aarons there are out there, waiting for them to ambush the group (and rightfully so), and Aaron is just like “I left you water bottles on the road, dude.” Of course, Aaron isn’t helping his case, either. He says things like “Doesn’t matter how many of us there are. You still won’t trust me” and “If I wanted to ambush you, I’d just burn this barn down.” Which makes Rick want to murder things.
Luckily, Michonne is sick of the bullshit. She wants to find a home, so she vouches for Aaron, and leads a group out to find Aaron’s buddies and their vehicles. Aaron is left alone with Rick. Good idea? Nah. Rick tells Aaron that if the group isn’t back in an hour, he’ll put a knife in Aaron’s head.
Aaron tries to entice Rick with a jar of apple sauce…Yes, you read that, right. He sees Rick having a hard time and offers Judith apple sauce. Okay, Rick takes the apple sauce, but not before making Aaron try it first to make sure it isn’t poisoned. Aaron again makes himself look sketchy by rejecting the apple sauce, telling the origin story of his hatred of apple sauce. Hahaha! Again, the apple sauce is super safe, and maybe even tasty. “I just wanted to show that we have apple trees at the Safe-Zone.” Yes, I’m butchering these lines, but get over it.
Ross Marquand’s first complete episode on The Walking Dead is fantastic. He’s perfect as the lighter character the show desperately needs. It used to be Eugene, but he fucked up. Aaron is perfect comic relief. Oh, and how sweet is the moment between Aaron and his partner, Eric, who is also the guy who’s been waiting for Aaron to signal with the flare? I haven’t seen any heart-warming moments between any of the characters on the show for a pretty long time. The usual lovebirds, Glenn and Maggie, have been busy trying not to die this season.
THE ROAD TO THE SAFE-ZONE
Michonne and friends find two vehicles belonging to Aaron and Eric, who is hiding behind a tractor (?), and they’re full of food, like Aaron said. So that convinces the group (except for Rick) to head out to the Safe-Zone with Aaron. Even then, Rick doesn’t want to go through the route that Aaron and his group have cleared off in and out of the Safe-Zone. Instead, Rick decides to go a much more dangerous way because he’s afraid Aaron’s group is going to ambush them. You have chosen poorly.
The scene in the car where Michonne is asking the three questions Rick always asks newcomers is pretty much the best, reminiscent of a really good thriller. And it’s properly followed by Glenn’s rampage on Route 23, running over zombie pedestrians. Those shots in the car are so perfect, the dark blue of night punctuated by the fierce red of zombie guts all over the windows.
After, uh, “clearing the road,” obviously the car doesn’t start again. Which sends everyone into a frenzy, as the zombies inch closer. Glenn is almost killed again, trying to take down the walkers. (Sidenote: I’m kind of tired of the writers putting Glenn on the chopping block just for shock value.) Aaron tries to run for his life when he sees a flare in the sky, which makes him worry that something terrible has happened to Eric. Glenn has to save him from being mauled by a walker. On top of all that, the rest of the group, who were following Glenn’s car in a RV (R.I.P. Dale), go missing.
So begins a proper Walking Dead setpiece. Which defuses pretty quickly. Who knew Rick’s group had a secret whistle? Did you? Have they used it before? Tell me in the comments. Either way, Daryl and Rick signaling each other through magic whistling is awesome.
The show ends on a really nice note, which is not a thing I thought I would say again in my reviews. But it looks like we finally got that change in the status quo that this show desperately needed. I haven’t minded the quieter tone of the season, foregoing some of the action and plot development to focus on the characters. That doesn’t mean the tone of the show has to become grim grim grim, though. It seems like the show is about to become fun to watch again.
Welcome to the Alexandria Safe-Zone.