The last few installments of The Walking Dead have been a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions. It seems as though the tables are turning now, though, as new face Aaron brings the possibility of refuge and solace to the group. God knows they need it.
“You’re survivors. And you’re people.”
With last week’s episode Them ending on a mysteriously promising high, The Distance picks up straight off the back and throw us into the deep end of Rick’s battle with good and evil. Strapped to a post in the same barn that they’ve been hiding out in for a couple of days now, Aaron is left simultaneously justifying his motives and grappling with the possibility of death. Of course, it isn’t the first time the group have stumbled upon strangers that proclaim to be friends, people that they can rely on for safety and shelter. Whilst The Walking Dead is in essence a show about the zombie apocalypse and always will be, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a broad spectrum of possibilities in terms of narrative arcs. If the show wants to progress beyond its tried and tested formulaic format – stumble across a stranger, find a place to stay, everything goes to pot, move on and walk around for a bit, repeat – then there has to be some leaps and bounds when it comes to plot points. Comfortingly, Aaron’s arrival marks such a plot point.
What’s so intriguing about this new character is his sheer politeness. His desire to please and prove himself in the nicest possible way makes him both trustworthy and disconcerting, two opposing viewpoints that are embodied by the group. As we have now come to expect from our leading man, Rick approaches Aaron with trepidation (and a lot of pent up anger, as can be seen when he knocks him unconscious with one swift punch to the temple). His drastically pessimistic look on the world they now inhabit is beginning to grate on not only his companions, but audiences as well. As it becomes glaringly obvious that Rick has major doubts about believing Aaron’s story, Michonne takes it upon herself to grab hold of the reigns and steer things in the right direction once again.
For a while now Michonne has been dominating things. She’s been almost like Rick’s second-in-command up to this point – Daryl has taken a bit of a back seat whilst he hashes out his own problems – but it feels as if Michonne could overthrow the rule any day now. And that’s something we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to. Despite making a firm decision to head to Aaron’s supposed sanctuary, the decision isn’t unanimously approved of.
“Just because we’re good people, doesn’t mean we won’t kill you.”
Going against Aaron’s advice, Rick decides that the group will up sticks at night in the hopes of shaking off any possible threat that fellow survivors may pose. Once again, we are reminded that the walkers are no longer the main enemy. This is most prevalent in a scene that sees the group split off to prove Aaron’s testimony; hearing noises in the foliage, the group is on high alert with the possibility of human danger. However, when a hungry walker stumbles out in front of them, there is an audible sigh of relief from all involved.
There’s been somewhat of a pause in the horror and gore that brandished The Walking Dead as one of the scariest shows on television, but The Distance makes up for it in spades. One particular scene is a visceral explosion of blood and guts that bombards you with everything you could ever wish for from the horror genre. There’s love too though, as we meet Aaron’s partner (who’s not in the best of ways following a near-death run-in with a hoard of walkers and a car tyre), and we’re reminded once again of the truly representative diversity that the show is credited for.
As the end draws near, it’s make or break time for Rick. Approaching the built-up gates of their possible new home, a genius extreme close-up of Rick’s ageing eyes highlights just how much these next few minutes mean not only to him, but to the people he feels most responsible for. It is in this scene that Carol delivers one of the most memorable lines of the series so far:
“Even though you were wrong, you were still right.”
That one phrase pretty much encapsulates the current situation in The Walking Dead. As frustrated as we may get at Rick’s inability to trust any more, we absolutely understand and appreciate his reasoning behind it. They have lost so much, and at this moment in the time they simply can’t afford to lose anything else.
Words by Sophie Mace.