The Walking Dead – Recap: We Are The Walking Dead
Recap video and review of The Walking Dead – Season 5 Episode 10 – Them:
“Them” is a strangely ponderous episode for The Walking Dead, although I guess that’s to be expected when the last two episodes each featured the death of a major character.
You could argue that not a whole lot happens this week outside of introspection and worldbuilding. After the death of Tyreese last week, the group is struggling to find the drive to keep surviving, since it’s all beginning to seem pointless. What results is a lot of grieving mixed in with survivalist struggles, from searching for water to foraging for food and, yes, killing walkers. Really, this is the type of episode that will either thrive or fail based on how invested you are in this particular group of characters. If you’re invested in seeing Daryl (Norman Reedus) survive, then you might tense up every time he leaves the group to go off on his own. And you might find it compelling to watch him digging for worms, or burning a cigarette on himself in an attempt to force some measure of feeling. Similarly, if you can feel the grief that Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is feeling over the loss of Beth, then it’s easy to become engaged in her attempts to move past that grief. Or rather, Glenn’s attempts to move her past that grief. For the most part, Maggie is faced with the question of whether she even wants to keep living, since surviving is its own kind of curse. Joy of joys, we survived! We get to keep suffering!
In a way, it’s easy to sympathize with what these people are going through, since nothing every really changes from one day to the next. You can keep fighting to move forward, to keep your legs moving and your mind alert, to stay one step ahead of the walkers. But it seems almost inevitable that they’ll catch you, or you’ll find the hope of a safe haven only to learn it’s either a trap or a place destined to crumble. That’s essentially what this world is, a place devoid of hope. Hell, the only real hope is in the fact that there’s nowhere left for this world to go but up. This world is at rock bottom as it is now. “Them” is an episode that fights with the notion of hope, and doing so in a minimalist fashion. For example, one of the most haunting moments of the episode features Maggie coming across a walker in a trunk. It’s a young woman whose hands and feet were bound, and whose mouth was gagged. Maggie can’t bring herself to put the girl out of her misery, and while one could argue it’s because of the girl’s similarities to Beth, you could also argue that it’s because of the inherent eeriness of the girl’s circumstances. Was she the victim of an abduction prior to the outbreak? Was she simply left in the trunk to die? Or was it a Governor situation, where a father tries to keep his daughter with him despite her having turned?
We’ll never get an explanation, and that’s why it’s so chilling. It gives a sense of a larger world outside of these characters and their grief. Maggie is suicidal, but she’s not the only one with problems: Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) is so full of rage over Tyreese’s death that she tries to get Michonne (Danai Gurira) to charge into a herd of walkers with her, offering to go alone when Michonne refuses. She then ends up killing three stray dogs who threaten the camp. The right move, yes, but a move driven more by an explosive to desire to act than by any pragmatic instinct. Noah (Tyler James Williams) isn’t eating, still loaded with guilt over Beth and Tyreese. Similarly, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is giving up his religion, burning his collar after an intimate talk with Maggie about the nature of religion in a world as godless as this one. And Daryl? Well, he ends up discovering an abandoned cabin in the woods, but only because he ends up leaving the group to go off and grieve on his own in the woods, releasing all the tears that have been building up since Beth was lost. Basically, everyone has got it rough here.
However, while giving up could be easy, that’s not what these characters do. When push comes to shove, they still fight. As Rick (Andrew Lincoln) explains, “We are the walking dead,” explaining that they’re the ones who keep forging on to survive despite not actually getting to do much in the way of living. Maybe you don’t get to enjoy the life you fought so hard to save, but you still fight anyway, because you can never really know what tomorrow holds. It all culminates in a storm that brings the group together, barring the cabin door to protect themselves from a herd of walkers outside. It’s a fittingly dramatic scene that threatens to end with a character’s death. But then…well, it doesn’t. A storm wipes out the walkers, and the morning sunshine provides Maggie and Beth with the hope that tomorrow will be better. That this is a world still worth the fight. As Maggie plays with Beth’s old music box, a new stranger arrives. Named Aaron, he represents a possible new avenue for hope in this new world. He wants to speak to Rick, claiming he has “good news”. What that entails is anyone’s guess at this point (well, unless you’ve read the comics), but the music box coming to life with Aaron’s arrival brings a grim touch of foreshadowing to the proceedings. Maybe Aaron will be bad news, or maybe he’ll be the best thing that could have ever happened to this group. But the ultimate point still stands: you can’t find out what tomorrow holds if you give up. The group may be the walking dead, but it’s not inconceivable these people can find their way back to a life worth living.
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