After two consecutive episodes of major characters dying in The Walking Dead, “Them” shows us the laid-back, slow-paced, and frankly quite boring side of the gang as they recuperate through major losses and changes.
The majority of the episode is long shots of the characters trudging up the dusty roads of Georgia, having lost all willpower and support. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) has become the wild card of the group, screwing up organized group efforts and being in a very pessimistic state of mind. Maggie (Lauren Cohan), whose excuse for not really caring about Beth throughout the episode was “I thought that she was dead,” is completely devastated. Daryl (Norman Reedus), who we know is super sensitive under that tough exterior, is unable to control his emotions. Since this allows the directors of the show some artistic reign and focus on specific characters, giving way for more depth and gravitas in each of their struggles, it still could have all been summed up in a 20-minute clip.
Nevertheless, the episode does provide wild turns, mainly towards the end. The main obstacle that our characters seem to be struggling with is, in fact, the monotony of their struggle. The walkers provide a continuous onslaught of nuisance and trouble, as a herd of walkers basically trails the group for the entire episode. They’re a never-changing and undying force, relentless in their mission of making the lives of our characters miserable. That’s gotta be tiring after 5 seasons. Were it not for Sasha, the group may have even succumbed to the jaws of a pack of wild dogs that appear mid-episode, later providing much-needed food. So by this point, the gang knows what to expect and how to deal with trouble. But with the additional burdens and weights from loss of loved ones and the general lack of direction, how long can they really hold up together?
Just as tensions seem to escalate to a point of no return, there’s an actual moment of catharsis. It occurs right after the gang receives an anonymous gift of several water bottles, with a note saying “from a friend”. Everyone’s a little suspicious except for Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who dives for a water bottle before Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) smacks it out of his hands (his lack of inhibitions in this apocalyptic world is actually a little inspiring). Right after, there’s a rainfall that drowns the group in happiness. The tensions all seem to evaporate as they grab empty water bottles and leave them out to be filled. Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) lie down on the muddy ground, soaking in the rain. Everyone’s just having a good time.
As the storm escalates, the group quickly runs into a farmhouse that Daryl spotted earlier for shelter. At this point, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) gives an inspiring speech (which is featured in the second trailer for this half of season 5). He urges the gang that it is essential to do what they gotta do to live, in order to survive. After all, “we are the Walking Dead” (Yeah, he actually says that. I can just imagine everyone watching the show screaming wildly at this point, as I did).
The effect of the rainfall and Rick’s speech makes a mark on the group in the middle of the night. Daryl notices that the entrance to the barn door is left slightly ajar and may potentially break open, due to the torrential rain and, you guessed it, a herd of walkers that happen to sense that humans are inhabiting the house. Slowly one by one, each person gets up and barricades the walkers from infiltrating the cabin. It takes all that they can muster, but you can sense their determination and newfound willpower to survive. Enough is enough.
The next day, Sasha and Maggie leave the cabin for a bit and take a walk. As the two members of the group who have recently lost a sibling, a bond is forged between them. Sasha, whose loss is more recent and definitely more unexpected, receives consoling and motivation from Maggie. For someone who at the beginning of the episode was completely broken, her struggles seem more resolvable and her morale fixed, just like the little music box of a ballerina that Carl (Chandler Riggs) found early and gifted to her. In her eyes, and hopefully in Sasha’s eyes too, she believes that they will make it.
As unexpected as anything on this show, their gathering is interrupted by the arrival of an unnamed character, who according to later episodes is Aaron (Ross Marquand). His appearance is unpredictable and slightly creepy, as he emphasizes with his hands up to the two that he is just a friend (he undoubtedly provided the water bottles), and that he knows Rick. Just as he says this, the music box starts to play.
While the episode was definitely weak in a lot of areas, specifically with respect to the delayed and stretched out scenes showing one character staring off screen as they think, the ending definitely provides a major game-changer for the storyline. The group’s reformed sense of willpower and motivation will hopefully carry them through to future episodes. And despite a lack of originality in terms of characters, I’m still excited to see what changes Aaron will provide for the group as they continue their trek to Washington DC.