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Published on February 24th, 2015 | by Bean

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The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 11 – “The Distance”

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“The Distance” treads a fine line between repetitive narrative beats and evolving themes. This is not a complaint, as it turns out to be one of the most interesting episodes of the season. The issues at the core of The Walking Dead remain exactly what they were when it began, they simply become more intensely felt as fresh traumas occur; how do you define ‘living’ when surviving is paramount, and what will you do to stay alive? When the choices you have narrow down to a savage point, how do you retain your humanity and what does the surviving population become? These ideas make up the fabric of the series, but tend to come to the fore when new situations, characters and conundrums rear their heads, as they do in “The Distance” with the arrival of Aaron, Eric and Alexandria.
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We’ve encountered many different groups at this stage of proceedings. We started with the quarry camp and the beginnings of Rick’s company, then Herschel’s farm which they assimilated. The prison held it’s own dregs, and they fell into two camps; those willing to fall in line with Rick and those who are now dead. The Governor was the first character to bring with him his own community, sheeple though they were, and Woodbury’s facade – always too clean and wholesome to be genuine – was eventually torn away, revealing the rotten lunacy at it’s core. Darryl’s ‘Claim’ gang were up front about their regressive, barbarous ways, as if self-awareness were justification enough. They would have eaten themselves had Rick not torn their throat out.
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Terminus posed the next offer of sanctuary to the fractured splinters cells, who’d been staggering about the countryside for a whole season. It matched Woodbury’s lunacy and advanced beyond the brutality the Governor’s community concealed, to cannibalism and the wanton viewpoint of humans as ‘livestock’. The group’s sojourn at Terminus was mercifully brief, but the insanity followed them out, and Bob was the casualty. The final representation of how community works in the zombie apocalypse, aside from the ugly remnants of Noah’s home in Richmond, was the Hospital, and the best they could offer you was imprisonment, slavery, rape and likely a bloody death. But hey, they had DVD’s and…oh yeah, another crazy leader.

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Rick’s intense mistrust of any outsider, particularly one smilingly selling his utopian walled community – what, the one with no visible people? Yeah, great – is not just warranted but really the only thing that has kept the group alive until this point. The fact that the group can overrule Rick’s decisions is an important democratic distinction that was earned over time, but it remains a hoary trope that they frequently do this at the cost of lives, resources and further trauma. Time and again they don’t listen to Rick – who is the proxy audience yelling at the screen, “No!” – and they get butchered.

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How the latest haven plays out will tell us a lot about the future of The Walking Dead. Two points occur; firstly, by the law of averages, it can’t just go tits-up again straight away, and it really oughtn’t be run by a raving nut-job. Secondly, and conversely, it also cannot work out, as that would certainly spell the end of the series. There must be conflict, and they must keep moving; settling is stagnation. So it falls to the show-runners (or Robert Kirkman, I suppose) to determine a new and interesting way of Alexandria going to hell.

What is playing out most significantly at this point is Rick’s paranoia. I’d be more intrigued to see his suspicion of unknowns and their legitimate refuge be the catalyst of it’s failure, than because a sinister plot is brewing and “these folk really can’t be trusted!”. However, Aaron continually underscores how valuable a strong group can be, and much is made of the concept of the ‘human resource’. The asset is people; how many you have, and more importantly, what they bring to the table. This is true, but the transactional society which operates on a primal level is a dangerous game.

Of course nobody gets to be useless in any apocalypse, let alone one where you must battle undead hordes on a daily basis. Season 5 has already killed off three of it’s softer-hearted characters in Bob, Beth and Tyreese, and Eugene pertinently proved that purpose and capability are invaluable in episode 4, choosing to spin an extraordinary yarn rather than admit to being without much in the way of useful skills (and also rather than bloody learn any!). But I digress.
If the group will “do whatever it takes” for the chance of security, even throw caution to the wind, then they will likely reap exactly what they sow.

Review by Nina Clark

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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