The Walking Dead "S5E10 Them" - Review

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The Walking Dead "S5E10 Them" - Review

If Jack Nicholson narrated The Walking Dead; “When I was your age they would say we can become walkers or survivors. Today what I’m saying to you is; when you’re facing hopelessness and starvation, what’s the difference?”. Jack may have nailed right there as this week when reduced to emotional and physical breaking points there’s little to chose between the group of survivors and their departed counterparts as we witness them slowly staggering into the unknown and even eating anything living they come across. All while wondering if they really can’t handle the truth that this is as good as it gets. Why not quit joking around, shorten your bucket list and just take the easy ride out? Because sometimes hope will still come shinning through.

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Them –The group is still 60 miles from Washington when all supplies run dry and empty suddenly making their survival a matter of days and hours at a time. This desperation causes many to question the long term future of their current existence and whether or not they still believe the world could ever go back to pre-zee living again.

Last week saw the emphasis on the group pushing on despite the events of Atlanta. Now three weeks on from the hospital shooting we watch that pushed to the extremes when everything possible is taken away from them; vehicles, food, water, shelter to leave them vulnerable and barely still standing. This develops into a very interesting individual character analysis of faith. The focus is on the main grievers of Daryl and Maggie over losing Beth and Sasha over Tyresse’s shock departure last week; each dealing with things in their own unique way. The most fascinating is Daryl who’s hardened himself up so much that he can’t deal with his feelings over Beth even if he wants too. To the extent he actually has to self harm himself with a cigarette just to achieve a physical context for his emotional pain and let it all out. And of course, in true Daryl style, he somehow still manages to look like a badass with all the waterworks flowing. Sasha meanwhile travels into a more familiar blood drunk form of grief as even when physically depleted she still goes on a walker slaying rampage at the risk of everybody’s lives. In fact by unexpected contrast her actions at the bridge showdown help make it one of the most interesting walker battles this season. The minimalist energy expenditure approach at the beginning, fighting smart using the edges of the bridge to play walker lemmings, are a new tactical style approach we haven’t witnessed since the “fence duty” antics at the prison. Then when the plan “gets dicked” and Sasha forces them into the default hand to hand approach seeing many characters weaker and struggling creates genuine tension and peril. Best showcased when one unimpressive loan walker grabs hold of Rick in a fashion he normally wouldn’t bat a rugged eye at, only see him unable to break free and needing to be saved. Michone works well in this context as an advocate for Sasha maintaining her composure rather than carrying on being reckless.

Finally in the mourning trio, Maggie is a clear case of despair and abandonment; “before this was just the dark part.... I don’t know if I want to fight it anymore”. She sees only one ending for herself and everyone else so why bother continuing to suffer in the mean time? Why not just let it happen; echoed by different walkers and bodies encountered throughout the episode such as a Daryl’s forest friend that clearly blew his own brains out the frail barn dwelling body that had a gun but chose to keep trying until the end. Her feelings become the biggest direct representation for overall group moral. It also gives us such much missed emphasis on the Glen/Maggie relationship which made barely a cameo in the season’s opening half. Here we get to see Glenn become her source of strength as he forcibly inserts the word tomorrow back in hair vocabulary “we fought to be here and we have to keep fighting”. If faith is on the minds of many it would seem pointless not to include Father Gabriel who definitely has one of his better episodes as his doubting in his religious beliefs provides some easily relatable grounding for the crucibles the others are going through. His moment of throwing is collar on the fire before joining the group in their freshly delivered Korean buffet symbolises his acceptance of the lines that must be crossed for survival. Yet his purifying reaction to the sudden lifesaving rain storm adds the real depth to his character as apologises to the big guy for faltering.

Indeed the <insert politically correct deity> almost deserves a guest starring credit this week as his/their/its presence is explored more than any episode previously. There’s the aforementioned rain that follows the Admiral Ackbar water cache after the group painfully decide not to touch it despite being hopelessly dehydrated. In fact the resulting storm even develops into a metaphoric Noah’s Ark as the storms take a turn for the biblical and the group shelter in the barn enduring hell to stay alive only for the ensuing meteorological wrath to mangle all the surrounding walkers like they too were the descendants of Cain. The night time barn attack also boasts some incredible visuals from Daryl glimpsing through the gate to the lightning illuminated worker herd on their doorstep. Or the entire group frantically bracing the gate (when Carl abandoned Judith who didn’t think something really bad was going to happen) to hold back the swarming hordes. It forms a fantastic representation of how hard they must all fight to hold back the zombie course of the world. The sharp smash cuts from face to face glistened by the crashing lightning are just electrifying and the whole sequence is so epic you almost expect a Toy Story 3 level giving up in acceptance from the group. Similarly to the flood parallels you could draw Exodus comparisons to the earlier starved trudging on scenes as the group crawl on in search of their Promised Land.

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Them is not an obviously likeable episode for its slower pace and heavy use of silence and stillness to amplify the despair but Heather Bellson’s script has enough quality in it to keep the character explorations worth watching and delivers a rallying payoff worth enduring any hardships for. The episode even manages to deliver Rick’s most iconic comics line in an altered but wonderfully moving manor as he tells his father’s war story of accepting that he’s already dead but choosing to live “This is how we survive, we tell ourselves that we are the walking dead”. His notions about the new life being easier for kids growing in it are also brilliant. The conclusion most definitely sets up the main plotline for the remainder of the series and confirms their destination of the Alexandria Safe Zone. The big question now becomes how many episodes it will be before they get there. It still feels like a few and if like in the comics it will become a longer term point of stay the logical approach is to conclude the season on the point of settling allowing for significant advancing time gap in the off season. After a couple of wandering episodes it should also see some welcome purpose injected into proceedings. For now, unless we end up flying over the cuckoo’s nest, this is how we survive until next week... we tell ourselves that we love The Walking Dead.