The Walking Dead: The Distance Review

The group is approached by another survivor with promises of a brighter future, but is he telling the truth or is this a trap?

**********SPOILERS BELOW*********

The episode picks up immediately after the final scene of last week.  Maggie and Sasha bring Aaron into the barn.  The group immediately checks him for weapons as Aaron explains he has been following them for a long time.  He tells them that he is from a community and it is a safe place for them.  Rick responds by knocking him out with a single punch.  The group then searches his bag finding a flare gun.  When Aaron comes to, they ask him how many of his people are out there.  He explains that it doesn’t matter what he says. He shows them pictures of his home, a place surrounded by thick steel reinforced walls.  He tells them he would like to take them there to audition.  Rick sends Michonne to lead a group and find his partners.  The others are sent outside the barn in pairs to keep an eye and prevent any ambush

This scene sets the perfect tension for this episode.  We are unclear on whether Aaron is friend or for and while everything he says sounds great, it sounds too great.  The group has learned too good to be true means too good to be true.  They are extremely cautious and Rick makes sure to establish that Aaron is their prisoner.  Michonne really works well in her new role as the groups moral compass.  She is pragmatic but also hopeful.  Aaron’s introduction is excellent.  He is well aware of how the group will react and that there is little he can do to make them trust him.  Its clear this is not the first time he has done this, anticipating there questions but also aware of how little the answers will matter.  His explanation of what he would do if he wanted to ambush them is both entirely logical, showing his own tactical skills, but also it does not make you afraid.  We definitely get the feeling he is someone we can trust, which is a credit to the actor.

As Michonne leads her group in a search for the vehicles and Aaron’s partner, Glenn orders them to shoot anyone who comes near.  This makes the rest of the group question if they are now killing anyone they see.  Glenn assures them that anyone coming towards five people with guns is not coming to greet them.  They fail to notice a man hiding and observing them. They come upon a car and RV, verifying Aaron’s story.  Two walkers stumble out of the woods and are quickly dispatched by Rosita and Abraham,

Glenn’s new found pragmatism is a wonderful development for the character.  He really has come into his own as a leader and you can see that even Abraham tends to follow his instruction.  However, he is still lacking the cold ruthlessness that has become a firm part of Rick. Glenn is still the character we came to love.  Michonne as well as become a excellent moral compass for the group.  She lacks the tenderness of Tyrese, or wisdom that we saw with Herschel and Dale. Instead she simply hopes, but she is not a fool.

Rick tries to comfort Judith while she cries and is offered a jar of applesauce by Aaron to feed her, so she will not attract the walkers.  Rick insists that Aaron eat it first to ensure it isn’t poisoned and ignores Aaron’s pleas not to force him to.  After first appealing to the logic of poisoning the baby when he is at Ricks mercy, he tells Rick how he hates applesauce because his mother use to force it on him as well.  Rick insists and finally Aaron takes a bite proving it to be safe.  Rick then reminds him if the group isn’t back with the hour that he will kill him.

These scene is very effective at showing how firmly Rick’s paranoia has set in.  In earlier seasons he may have been willing to trust Aaron somewhat, but now he is waiting for the mans angle to be made clear.  At the same time this scene really helps to maintain the mystery of whether or not we can trust Aaron.  We would hope that he is telling the truth, but his reluctance and excuses on trying the food he insists to be safe makes us suspicious.

Abraham and Rosita enter the RV and after making sure it is clear they search for supplies.  They find a cache of canned food.  Abraham then asks Rosita if she thought that he was going to hurt her after he attacked Eugene earlier in the season.  She says no and assures him it is her that something is wrong with.

This small scene really shows how far the truth about Eugene rattled them.  While we have been made aware of how much it hurt Abraham this is the first time we have really dealt with the fallout for Rosita.  Finding out that the mission was a lie has made her close off her relationship with Abraham.

The group looks over the supplies they have retrieved and Rick tells Aaron that it is now the groups property whether or not they go with him to his community.  Michonne quickly steps up and tells him and everyone else they are going.  She clarifies there is no reason not to, and that everything Aaron has said so far has been verified.  Rick is still reluctant but agrees after the rest of the party makes their vote clear.  He stills refuses to allow Aaron to drive and while Aaron says he trusts them, he also will not risk his friends lives.  The group decides to take an alternate route from the one he suggested once night falls.  Aaron tells them that his group cleared the route he wants to take but Rick stands firm that they will be taking a different road.

It seems that the exhaustion and lack of supplies has finally taken its toll on the group with their agreeing to head to the camp.  One thing that really stuck out for me in this scene was Michonne though.  She isn’t blindly following and pushing them to trust Aaron.  She knows that him driving without them knowing where they are going is too risky. While she will argue with Rick on whether or not to check out the camp, she also puts her foot down with Aaron on driving them there.

The group hits the road with Glenn, Rick and Michonne riding with Aaron.  While they make their way down route 23 they maneuver through a hoard of walkers.  Michonne takes another look over Aaron’s photos and realizes that there are no people in them.  Aaron tries to explain that he tried to take a picture of the whole community but couldn’t get the exposure right.  Michonne begins to panic and starts asking him the three questions they used as a screening process in the prison.  Rick discovers a long range listening device and Aaron explains that he told them he had been observing them.  Rick and Glenn panics and begin swerving into walkers, jamming up the car.

The car ride was a suitably tense scene.  The story Aaron relates to explain the lack of people in his photographs is perfect in context where we can not tell if its a lie or not.  The same with the listening device as we can understand that he may have expected it to be inconsequential information, but to the group this means whoever was listening to him now knows their plan.

The car is stuck due to walker limbs in the grate, a large group of walkers bearing down on the group.  Michonne manages to unjam the car just as a flare goes up in the distance.  Aaron begins to panic and makes a desperate run into the woods with the others following him.  The group gets separated and Glenn is nearly killed fighting off walkers.  Glenn manages to find Aaron still tied at the hands fighting off a walker and for a second contemplates leaving him to die.  However his conscience gets the better of him and Glenn saves Aaron and cuts his bond.  Glenn tells him he can run if he likes but he has to find his friends.  Aaron reminds him of his own words “we can survive, but we have to do it together”.  Rick and Michonne struggle against a hoard of walkers and are rescued by Aaron and Glenn with rifles.

It is such a treat to see the walkers a threat again.  At this point the survivors logically have to be capable of handling them largely on their own.  But a long standing point is that a pack of walkers is dangerous due to sheer numbers and the difficulty with taking them all down.  Its also nice to see Glenn is not as jaded as he may have thought.  He still is unable to leave a man he doesn’t know is evil to die.

The group reunites at an old building and Aaron asks where Eric is.  The group leads him inside to a man with a twisted ankle who Aaron kisses passionately, and then discusses the days events.  Eric is the partner he referred to and he hurt his ankle and set off the flare.  Carol and Darryl’s group then took care of his injury while waiting for the others to catch up.  The group finally begins to trust Aaron but Rick is still reluctant, and insists that Aaron sleep in a separate part of the building from Eric while they wait for morning to hit the road again.  Aaron refuses and tells Rick is he wants to keep him from Eric’s side he will have to shoot him.  The rest of the group intervenes convincing Rick that Aaron and Eric would be no threat and have given them no reason not to trust them yet.  Rick agrees.

A lot of hype has been made about this being the first openly gay character on the Walking Dead.  First off this is just not true as last season we were introduced to Tara from the Governor’s group.  You can be forgiven for forgetting this as she has unfortunately all but disappeared save for group shots.  A problem that the show is still trying to work around is the large size of the cast. Now that they are all together, unfortunately many characters have lacked any real screen time or impact because of this.  That being said, it is such a relief that there is no acknowledgment of Aaron’s orientation in the show by the others in the cast.  No one cares what his sexual orientation is and it is great that we are at the point where  Aaron is not being treated as a “gay” character, but just a character.

The group drives onto what we now know to be called Alexandria.  Abraham and Rosita begin to bond again as they drive with the Washington memorial in the distant view.  Eugene plays cards with Tara.  Noah and Aaron discuss possible medical help for Noah’s injured leg.  Abraham notices the battery running low on the RV and asks how far away they are.  He is told they are a little over half way and grows excited saying they are going to make it.  Unfortunately the battery dies and Abraham grows annoyed at yet another obstacle in their path.  Glenn just smiles and shows him a spare battery in the RV.

A nice quiet scene that manages to convey how far this group has come.  Seeing Abraham and Rosita starting to be happy again gives you hope for their relationship.  Eugene playing cards with the others is a great way to convey the groups forgiveness.  The best part of this scene for me was Glenn’s callback to Dale, as you remember Dale was the one who taught them how to fix the RV.

As they reach Alexandria’s walls Rick hides a gun in some garbage in the woods.  He and Michonne then sit in the car.  Rick is clearly trying to work up the nerve to go inside and then hears children behind the walls playing.  Michonne asks him if hes ready, and he picks up Judith and tells her he is.

We don’t know if Rick will ever really be able to let go of his paranoia, or even if he should.  This paranoia helped his people have a fighting chance against the Terminus group and its just so hard now to think you can trust anyone.  It’s a very interesting direction for the character.

FINAL SCORE:

9.5/10

Overall this was a very strong episode and a good sign that while the story may have to slow down once in a while, it will not shy away from the intensity or payoff for long.

+Glenn still has a heart

+Michonne is still smart

+Rick is crazy prepared

+The question of whether or not Aaron really is what he says handled very well

+The walkers are a threat again

+Call back to Dale

-Still trying to figure out what to do with such a large cast

 

Image Credit:http://www.newnownext.com/gay-characters-share-first-kiss-on-the-walking-dead/02/2015/

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