Published on February 16th, 2015 | by Bean0
The Walking Dead – Season 5 Episode 10 “Them”
A new low has been reached on The Walking Dead, but I’m not referring to an ingenious way to glory in carnage or horrify the masses. Tonight’s episode takes an interesting turn into fresh territory. What happens when you run out of everything; food, water, gas, energy, hope, reasons to fight. Mainly revolving around the three most-recently bereaved characters in our ramshackle company, Maggie, Darryl and Sasha. “Them” spends it’s time grinding the pace to a halt, something a show largely running on pure adrenalin rarely allows for. As such, the miserable trio are the first people we encounter, and their desperate dead-eyed stares howl a warning.
Opening on Maggie’s raw, tear-stained face, we pull out as a walker stumbling noisily towards her, slowly coming into focus. She barely manages to drag herself through the tedious and harrowing ordeal of another knife to the head before collapsing back into a heap of sorrow, setting the tone for what’s to come. Next we find Darryl scratching about in the dirt, and coming up trumps with a worm. My better half commented ‘nice bit of bait’, but alas, nope – this is dinner. Sasha fares no better, discovering only a dry river bed dry scattered with dead frogs. Maggie asks “how much longer we got”, and her meaning is apparent whether she clarifies or not.
The endless traipse under an unforgiving southern sun leaves the gang weathered and Rick willing to allow a trail of walkers to gather in their wake, opting to simply out-walk them until higher ground or some mustering of their forces can be achieved. His statement that “They’re not going anywhere” has never seemed so bleak. Rick has gone from being the idealist to the pragmatist over the course of five seasons, by way of red-rage and furious intensity. “Them” calls for a number of characters to counter the desperation felt by the trinity of gloom; Rick and Carol take Darryl’s case, Glen and the preacher reach out to Maggie, and Michonne and Abraham fail to get through to Sasha.
It’s not a subtle structural approach, but the episode goes with it, and makes the most of the format by employing heavy symbolism. There is drought and deluge, as there is catatonic grief and catharsis. There is even the meta moment where Rick states his conviction that “we are the walking dead”. This line cannot have been chosen or delivered lightly and the show must always be careful when being self-referential; it’s brutal hyper-realism cannot bear very much of the glib that comes hand in hand with such conventions. Still, the performances are strong – or at least celebrate their fragility – bravely grappling with dialogue that makes subtext text. That it coincides with a life-threatening water shortage allows the situation to spiral and there is a sense of teetering on the brink of disaster throughout the episode.
The tipping point comes as they shelter from the storm, figuratively and literally, and regroup with a damp campfire story from Rick. On the face of it, not much to keep your chin up, but whatever his desired outcome, it gets a rise out of Darryl. His repeated assertion that “We ain’t them” is the first glimpse of hope for the grieving – he finds his defiance first. The three are the first to throw their shoulder to the grindstone, or in this case a shoddy-looking barn door, as crisis hits. Ultimately their desire to protect each other is what shakes the apathy off; as Glen earlier comments “We can make it together, but we can only make it together.” Clunky, but straight from the heart!
Naturally, “Them” has a surprise up it’s sleeve, ending on the narrative grace note of the arrival of “a friend”; the mysterious other who left paranoia-polluted water for the group in their hour of need? It remains to be seen how this far too clean Gap-model, both-strap-backpack-wearing friend can turn our heroes lives upside down, though really I concur with Eugene – how can it get any worse?!
Review by Nina Clark
Request! Could somebody perhaps fashion a wee sun-hat for Judith? Jeez!
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