It is amazing how The Walking Dead is a show where the happiest episode in a while is one that features an entire car getting splashed with zombie goo. Easing the breaks on the bleakness seen in the past few episodes, “The Distance” has the luxury of being the start of something new for our heroes. A new character is given the chance to explain himself and Rick & the Gang are understandably cautious. Tensions are high, but this ultimately gives the show a new angle to work with. What I really enjoy here is the focus on the state of mind of Rick. He is a major factor in this week’s episode, but not due to his role as the leader of the group. Really, Rick is more of the antagonist in a sense, which makes for an interesting episode overall.
I mention Rick serving as basically the bad guy, because it is seems pretty true. Every action he takes throughout the episode is a hostile one. He makes threats and approaches every situation with a sort of brewing tension and difficulty that will hopefully not amount to anything more substantial, even though his actions all seem like ones that could lead to harm. It is only by the end of “The Distance” where things finally smooth out, as far as Rick is concerned. Look, I enjoy Rick in certain episodes, but it has mainly been during the times when he is a man of action and less talk. Andrew Lincoln has certainly been doing all he can (fake beard or not), but the character is not as inherently interesting as some may want him to be. This is why it comes as a relief when we get the many episodes that are not directly focused on him. So with all of that said, getting an episode that really focuses on Rick’s psyche, it was nice to see the approach taken in the way that it was.
As we meet Aaron and get some explanation of where he is coming from, it does not take long before Rick knocks him out cold. We may be past the days of the “Ricktatorship”, but Rick is still one to lay down his form of the law in the bluntest way possible. Thankfully, we have Michonne on hand to provide a different line of thinking. Just as Tyreese (RIP) suggested a plan that did not involve killing everyone in the mid-season finale, Michonne wants to believe in a way where she and the group can investigate and move on towards what is hopefully a legitimately great offer. I have mentioned before how glad I am that Michonne has gone from simply a bad ass woman with a sword to a character with enough presence in terms of both physicality and emotion that she can effectively explain something and the audience can feel the weight behind her words. The Walking Dead may have had rockiness stemming from the management of the first few seasons, but certain characters have come a long way, which helps when it comes to selling us on these situations that have characters expressing how they feel.
I could keep bringing this back to Rick, as it was interesting to see him be stubborn towards a tied-up Aaron, while caring for Judith by himself, but I think I will jump ahead to the nighttime drive. “The Distance” does a really good job of building tension, even if it is not as thrilling as other episodes of The Walking Dead may have been. Part of that comes from the handling of Aaron. Ross Marquand does just enough to make Aaron likable and funny, without going too far to tip the scales in either direction, as far as whether or not he is on the level. That said, leaving my own knowledge of the comic out of this, I would say the show certainly wants us to believe in what Aaron is saying. With that in mind, once our heroes are on the road, I love the way time stops when Michonne realizes that no one has asked the three questions.
Quicker than an African swallow has time to pick up a coconut, all hell breaks loose, as these questions distract Glenn, who proceeds to plow through a bunch of zombies. The larger group is somewhere else, but we watch Aaron run off and the other three deal with way too many walkers at once. I may not have been too ‘excited’ by the tension in the previous portions of the episode, as far as visceral thrills go, but this walker-filled sequence certainly had me worried. It is an episode like this that tends to rub me a bit awkwardly, as the balance of character and action can sometimes be too jarring for this series, but at the same time, “The Distance” was a little different, based on the ‘how’ concerning the characters involved and what they do both as a team and individually.
And so this brings me back to Rick. Despite making decisions with a ‘greater good’ in mind, Rick was the cause of a number of issues on this week’s episode, but it took him until the very end to really see the light. It was neat to see Michonne take action, I liked that Aaron finally stood up for himself, but it was the huge close-up shot on Rick’s eyes, as he heard the sound of children, that did a lot of good. While we may or may not know what to expect at this point, seeing an episode like this, which effectively provides a level of arc for its lead character, is a strong way to propel the series into a new direction, whether it is a familiar one or not. Rick may not always be the one I want to stand behind, but this is the right kind of focus for him.
Following some dour weeks of The Walking Dead (because we all thought the zombie apocalypse show would be nothing but fun), this episode brings back the notion of hope. Ideally, it means our heroes get a break from intense drama, but at the very least we have some sort of salvation delaying harsh tragedy from rearing its ugly head yet again for a time. Ideally, Rick & the Gang do not have to deal with another ‘sanctuary that is secretly evil’ situation, but regardless, I enjoyed the way it brought us to this episode’s conclusion and next week should be better because of this approach as well.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Rick blasting a zombie in the face with a flare takes the prize this week.
- Aaron, just eat the damn applesauce.
- I enjoyed the brief scenes between Abraham and Rosita. It shows how well this show can do with minimal character bits.
- Glenn was really kicking ass and taking names this week.
- Rick hid a gun because that’s just what he knows.
- “Audition makes us seem like we’re some kind of a dance group…That’s only on Friday nights.” – Aaron has jokes! Also, he’s gay. That shouldn’t matter, but the show did try to make it seem really important.
- 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.