‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 5.10 “Them” (7.5 out of 10) Created by Frank Darabont; Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan; Sundays on AMC.
Tonight’s episode was a little bit better than last week’s (.5 points better, to be exact). It captured some of the urgency of the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ episode “33,” in which our heroes are exhausted to the point of collapse but they have to keep moving. The downside was that the episode had a difficult time maintaining that urgency, and we ended up with a lot of time spent moping in the wilderness.
No Time to Mourn
Before the opening credits roll, there’s this extreme close-up on Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) face, which is distorted with the grief of losing her sister, being stuck in the wilderness with little food and water, and, you know, the whole end of the world thing. In the background, a walker comes shambling closer. At this point in the game, Maggie has dropped enough undead to keep us from fearing for her safety, and she executes the interloper with an automaticity that we’ve come to expect from our survivors—they stab walkers in the head with the same indifference that we have when swatting a fly that has flown into the house. From what I can tell about the rest of season five, it’s this automaticity that our heroes will be combatting from here on out. Currently, there isn’t much separating our group from the walkers that are constantly at their backs. One of my favorite scenes from tonight’s episode shows our group in the foreground while a nasty horde of undead shambles slowly behind them. The way that the shot blends both groups together makes it difficult to distinguish who is who—just a bunch of walkers looking for food.
The Middle Slump
While the beginning of the episode is full of wilderness survival (feral dogs!), and the episode ends with a storm that leaves the zombie horde mangled and impaled by nature’s fury, the middle is a little dry. Sasha’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) anger issues, Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) booze drinking, and Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) self-mutilation are all stacked together in an effort to show us how the group is being stretched to its emotional and psychological limits. All of this is well and good, but the show really drags us through these moments. Perhaps the most effective was the interaction between Maggie and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), which called into question the existence of religion in a zombie apocalypse. It’s an interesting mixed message that, right after Gabriel burns his clerical collar, a rainstorm sweeps in. Not only does the storm replenish their water supply, but it wipes out the nasty horde of zombies that has been following them through the wilderness.
During the final moments of the show, we are visited with yet another clean-cut dude with a potentially dark secret. It answers the question about who left them a bunch of water, but as soon as this guy approaches Maggie and Sasha, there was a part of me that couldn’t help but feel like we’ve seen something like this before—a pleasantly-mannered fellow approaches under the guise of friendship only to find that he’s secretly in to skinning people and eating them. While I’m not totally sure how this guy’s appearance could mean anything but more trouble, we’ll have to see what his deal is.
I liked the idea of survival vs. living that was explored in this episode. When Rick calls himself and the group “the walking dead,” it drove home the point that humans need something more than just food, water, and shelter in order to be considered alive. It just took an incredibly long time for the episode to explore that concept.