I believe that everyone who watches The Walking Dead at this point (and that is more than just a couple people, I’m sure) know that it is not a series that really hides what it is going for. As much as it may have been nice for comic fans to hear Rick utter the words, “We are the walking dead,” I just as well assume there are plenty who have pretty much put together the parallel that is shambling corpses and shambling people walking together on the same road in a wonderful shot scene earlier in the episode, no dialogue required. I have talked about this series’ lack of subtlety in the past and while “Them” does not reach some kind of breaking point, it is an episode that is both kind of needed and also kind of repetitive. It helps that there is enough in this show to make it quite watchable, but at the same time, this week was a bit of a slog, as we dealt with the heat and the mourning with a bunch of people that rarely get a chance to smile.
The episode begins with Maggie and she really gets a lot to work with in terms of reacting coldly to each new situation she is presented with. Three separate instances find her encountering a walker on her own; reminding her of the world she lives in. A lone walker is merely getting in the way of her alone time; a walker in a trunk of a car, bound and gagged, delivers some very sad imagery, along with frustration; the final walker locked herself in a room with a gun, but decided to let herself turn over to the other side; showing the lack of a decision to give in willingly. Nothing has been easy for Maggie, as of late, even when keeping in mind that she kept up her hope and was able to find Glenn, against the odds. While Lauren Cohan has not been provided with the most depth as Maggie, among the characters on this show, she certainly knows how to sell a level of emotion, when given the chance. Many, myself included, joked about the fact that Maggie seemed to not care about her missing sister, but now that we are a couple episodes deep with Beth being dead, it is impossible not to care about the state she is in, or at least understand why. Of course, we have even more to see in Daryl and Sasha.
Sasha may not be much better than Maggie, in terms of character development, but it is very clear how affected she is by the death of her brother. If anything, there is plenty that makes sense about these two bonding in the wake of the deaths that have occurred in the past couple episodes, but while Maggie sulked through much of the episode, Sasha took action. When not being blunt to people like Abraham and Noah, she was happy doing damage to the walkers the group eventually decided to take on. It ruined the more passive plan of letting walkers fall down a hill, but she certainly got to let off steam by attacking those who wish to cause her harm, just like they did with her brother. Unfortunately, while no one got hurt, it was not something the others appreciated. It is fortunate that Michonne is around. She being a character that has been given better development, it helps to see someone deliver advice and know where it comes from based on their own past and what we have seen in that regard before.
Daryl is the last mourner I really want to focus on, as he, of course, is a fan favorite and someone very much tied to one of the recently deceased characters. No, I never believed in the romantic angle some were seeing with Beth and Daryl, but I understood the connection this show placed between them. Now with that being gone, another thing removed from the life of a troubled man, it is neat to see this show resolve to find a way to not have him looked too far down upon by the devotees who love his character. As a result, Daryl does breakdown and cry, but he also gets to do his tracking thing, eat worms from the earth, and act as steadfast as ever, when it comes to protecting the group and taking out walkers. We have seen plenty of Norman Reedus being effective on this show, so it is not surprising to find plenty to enjoy in what he brings in these emotional scenes. With that said, as repetitive as it may be to focus on the various forms of tragedy that constantly occur, he is one of the ones who is more helpful allowing us to get through these kind of beats.
As for the rest of the episode, it certainly does its job in communicating how hot it is and how our heroes are struggling. With no more vehicles to help them on their path, they are walking, thirsty, and tired; with the dead just far enough away to be an annoying threat to have to deal with at some point. We have seen this in various ways before. Not necessarily this exact scenario, but all of the characters are in no mood to be chipper about anything. They are fairly upset at the way things are, with nothing but time to reflect on who they have lost, what to do in the wake of their continued apocalyptic living situation, what deadly encounter is coming next, or when their time may be up. Last week was more depressing, but even without any major casualties this week, “Them” is an episode that is not trying to let anyone off the hook.
Mixing things up a bit is cause and effect. This is an episode that has some fun with what people want to believe in, when considering the lives of the people who still live on this show. There is nothing to really go on, except for symbolism and coincidence in the eyes of some, but it is interesting and a little silly to see water arrive out of nowhere, but not be able to trust it, only to be rewarded with rain seconds later. Then you have a shelter with a horde of zombies outside, with a storm strong enough to stop the threat, but not ruin it for the living humans. I certainly see what the show is doing thematically (teamwork!), but I am more pleased by it, given how sad this episode is otherwise, rather than purposely annoyed or skeptical of the choices made for certain occurrences.
Again, this is an episode that reflects something the show is very fond of doing: spelling it out for the audience. I am not the biggest fan of the way The Walking Dead continues to find ways to make everything super clear for everyone, but at the same time, this show does step out to do rather interesting stuff directorially (like last week), which is what helps, even when the scripts are not the strongest (like this week). Yes, people die and it sucks for everyone else. I was hoping we could have gotten past some of this, with last week’s minor time jump, but now this episode has happened, seems to reach an endpoint for the characters involved, and has a setup for the next adventure. It will likely not lead to an amazing, happy go-lucky turnaround for Rick and the gang either, but at least the show is not lingering on one story any longer than it needs to. And on the bright side, Rick hasn’t had to shoot a child in a while now…
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Nature did a number on the walkers outside of the cabin.
- As one who is a reader of the comics, I know where this Aaron thing could go, but quite intrigued by whether or not the show goes the route it could and how it would do it.
- That said, of course he looks shady as hell…
- Sasha really took care of those dogs. Geez.
- I like how there are a number of ways to read the scene where Abraham stops Eugene from drinking the water.
- “Some people can’t give up…like us.” – I can only imagine Melissa McBriding sighing at the script, upon seeing a tag at the end of that sentence to make a good line ruined by obviousness.
- Okay, it’s time to give Carl something to do besides holding the baby.
- Podcast I would listen to: Rick talking about his Grandfather’s war stories.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what myself and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.