The Walking Dead Season 5: Them Review

Rick and the group trudge on for a new home in the latest episode of The Walking Dead season 5! Here is our review...

Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead show and comics…

How much more punishment can these people take? I think it’s really fitting, in all of this quiet (you ever realize just how quiet this show is?), to have all of this emotional noise, so much tension in these characters. Maggie can’t even properly mourn without a zombie interrupting her solitude. Daryl eats worms.

Death follows Sasha, who in one season has lost both a lover and her brother. She comes across a bunch of dead frogs in a dried stream and buries them. And the van’s out of gas, leaving the group to walk the rest of the way north, a dirty and sweaty Rick cradling his baby down the road in the burning sun.

Behind them, a flock of walkers, following their every move, like obedient sheep. Really, the message is as subtle as a hammer to the head (too soon?): death follows this group everywhere they go. A change of scenery isn’t going to do them any good. 

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These opening scenes kind of remind me of the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a weird way. Those apes fail to find food or water, beaten away by stronger animals, hiding in the darkness of caves from the predators. Sidenote: I don’t think I’ve ever watched a show where the characters were forced to eat dog meat. 


This episode really focuses on the suffering and mourning that several of these characters are going through after recent events. It’s the driving force of this episode and the early part of this season, but it weighs down a bit on me. Maggie asks Sasha, “How much longer do we have?” And I’m here wondering how much longer I can handle watching these characters go through the worst moments in their lives. 

Maggie has lost her faith. She has a couple of nice moments on the road with Carl, who gives her a broken music box she found, and Gabriel, who tries to speak to her as if in a confessional. I don’t have tell you who she turned away, right? It’s nice (it’s awful) to have to see her suffer, but hers is symbolic of the whole group, who are at the end of their ropes. 

The scene where Maggie finds what looks like a kidnapped teenager who died (and reanimated) before the outbreak is a very nasty reminder that the world wasn’t all that great before the walkers took over the world. You go all the way back in your mind to the very first episode where the first thing introduced to viewers are the good guys (Rick and Shane) and the bad guys, and this is a nice extension of that. What’s that girl’s story? Unlike the zombie bicycle girl from season 1, this girl probably won’t get a webisode.

Maggie tells Glenn that she’s tired of fighting, and it’s perfect that she keeps running into zombies by herself. Every time, she hesitates, either ready to leave the zombies on their own or…

Sasha, too, gets the brunt of the mourning, as she shows more of those berserk tendencies that have put her in harm’s way before. She breaks the line while the group is trying to scatter the zombies who were following them and almost gets them killed, she blows away that pack of hungry dogs, and she tells Noah, who is also mourning the two deaths that might be his fault (Beth and Tyreese), “Don’t think, just eat,” as they feast on the roasted dog meat. That sounds awfully like the thinking of a walker doesn’t it? You know what happens to characters who lose their humanity on this show.

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Abraham, whose entire life’s purpose was blown to bits in the first half of the season, tries to console Sasha, but she pushes him away. “We’re not friends,” she says.

It seems that the writers like sending Daryl off on his own adventures as much as I like watching them. This time, he’s out hunting for food and water, but it’s really about Daryl trying to mourn away from the others. He always copes with loss by becoming the outsider again. When he was almost killed in season 2, the fall of the prison, and now Beth’s death — he always goes off on his own to deal with his shit. 

But I think it’s the first time I’ve seen Daryl hurt himself — he’s worked himself to exhaustion in a moment of mourning — but he’s never, you know, put out a cigarette on his hand. It’s perfect that he has to force himself to cry by inflicting physical pain on himself. The physical really drives the emotional for him. 

“Growing up is getting used to the world,” Rick tells the group after they’ve found shelter from a storm. Should the group just learn to accept their shitty fates? Is this episode them accepting how they have to live? “We do what we need to do in order to live,” he tells them. It’s the first time in a nice while that we’ve heard Rick deliver a speech to his troops. Also, I’m pretty sure this is the first time the term “the walking dead” has been used on the show. Which is perfectly followed by Daryl’s declaration that “We ain’t dead.”

It’s another philosophical episode where the show’s big debate is at the forefront: should man be allowed to survive or has he spent enough time being cruel in the world? At least I think about this every time I sit down for another hour of these people’s suffering. Every hour these people don’t find a reprieve from their terrible existence, it weighs heavier on my soul. They really need to move this show off the road and to place where they can start to rebuild their lives or at least start a new and better one. There has to be some light in all of the darkness. Or else this show is going to tumble deeper into torture porn.

Can someone get these people a monolith?

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It’s nice to see the payoff of the episode, as Maggie, Daryl, and Sasha interact with each other and help each other cope. They’re the first three people to run and hold down the doors before the storm can tear them down. Daryl fixes Maggie’s new music box. Then Maggie finds a spark of hope in the morning to talk Sasha off a metaphorical ledge. “We’re going to make it,” she says, and it’s powerful, as they watch the sunset.

Ah, when Ross Marquand appears as Aaron, it is a) complete proof that we’re going to see some form of the Alexandria Safe-Zone, and b) it’s a perfect moment that goes along with the singing music box. It’s a good ending to an episode that is a big drag. For anyone familiar with the comics, you know that we can now at least hope for the best for a little while.

The show desperately needs some good.

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John Saavedra is the unofficial zombie specialist of Den of Geek. Follow him on Twitter!

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3.5 out of 5