The Walking Dead: Them

The show opens with the group still on the road, 60 miles away from their destination of Washington, D.C. and they are in dire straits.  Maggie is sobbing alone in the woods attempting to deal with her recent loss. Without food or water, we find that Daryl is digging up and eating earthworms and Sasha is combing a dry riverbed for the potential ground water but instead finds a bunch of frogs belly-up, a potent and foreboding biblical symbol.  The intro ends with Maggie considering how long they have left to live, rather than how far they have left to go.  This is survival.

Photo from: Huffington Post

The group runs out of gas and is forced to walk the remaining distance to Washington.  On their walk Gabriel attempts to console Maggie but his attempt Maggie falls flat.  In general, I am still uncertain which way Gabriel will go.  He is obviously attempting to connect to the group and participate.  I feel, however, that this is largely because he knows that his survival is bound up with the survival of the group.  It’s hard to tell if he really cares or is just playing the part because it means further survival.  There is the potential for a safe-zone ahead; we will see.

The interaction between Carol and Daryl in the woods has lasting implications that play out over the entire episode.  Several times Daryl attempts isolate himself.  Carol tells him that he needs to let himself feel the pain, that he is not dead.  While Carol and Daryl go to look for water the rest of the group decided to deal with the army of walkers that has been trailing them for miles.  While this was a tense and enjoyable scene, for me it didn’t make much sense in terms of how they dealt with the walkers.  Luring them to the edge of a cliff seemed to be more risky than effective.  They are certainly low on resources and need to conserve energy but none of them seemed to have their weapons drawn and ready in case things got sticky.  Their plan goes out the window when Sasha decides to take it upon herself to dispatch the walkers.  Sasha is drunk with rage at the loss of Tyreese.  Much in the same manner that Tyreese himself was consumed by anger at the loss he suffered at the prison. She demonstrates that her decision making is clearly impaired and she put the entire group in danger by breaking formation and attacking the hoard of walkers head on.

The scene with Maggie and the kidnapped walker in the trunk of the car was a strange one to me.  She has never had a problem before doing what needed to be done but here she hesitates.  The only reason I could think of to explain her inability to act is that the walker looked like Beth.  In addition to her similar appearance, Beth was also kidnapped.  I still can’t figure out why Glen leaves the trunk open; the walker isn’t going anywhere.  As they take a break next to the road, a group of feral dogs emerges from the woods snarling and clearly posing a danger to the group.  Sasha shoots the dogs the dogs.  The group finally gets food.

As the group eats the dogs, a bloody collar sits in the road, a reminder of the world that they used to live in; these used to be pets.  I thought that this image of the collar in the road was an interesting juxtaposition against Gabriel burning his priest collar, as both symbolize the distance they have travelled from the old world.  Noah tells Sasha that he is unsure whether or not he will survive.  Sasha’s response (“Then you won’t”) was perfect.  We are certainly entering bleak territory when the instructions to survive become,  “Don’t think. Just eat.”  This line reflects a larger theme in the episode about the group becoming non-humans; it is the walkers that don’t think and just eat.  This is a slippery slope.  I am sure Gareth said something similar to his followers upon having to consume a human for the first time.

Having procured food, the group still needs to find a source of water.  They came across water bottles sitting in the middle of the road with a note attached  that read “from a friend.”  What?!  Is someone watching them?!  Water is an essential resource and perhaps these bottles were too much to carry for someone who had earlier passed on the same road and so maybe they were left there; but, the idea that a fundamental resource just shows up in their path is hard to believe for the group and they are understandably skeptical of the gift.  Never before had something so fortuitous happened to them.  This becomes one of the more ominous moments of the episode.

There is a tremendous moment of levity when it finally begins to rain.  This, however, quickly goes from relief to a new kind of threat when they realize that this won’t be a passing shower but a full fledged lightning storm.  Taking shelter in a barn that Daryl found while out scouting for food and water, the group waits out the night.  While the scene in the barn gives the impression of small cracks starting to form in the bonds between the characters and the conversation further solidifies the necessity of the group itself.  This I believe is where the title of the episode comes from.

The unmentioned half of the title is “Us.”  For the group it is US vs. THEM. When Rick relates a story about his grandfathers experience in World War II to the group, he concludes that they are the walking dead.  This was a really awkward scene and the explicit mention of the title in Rick’s speech (though it comes from the comics) was kind of jarring.  It also could be that until this point in the episode there was very little talking.  But the scene quickly reorients itself as Daryl objects: “We aren’t them.”  Presumably, this is because Daryl has started to crack the tough exterior and let himself feel loss and pain.  Daryl’s stoicism up until this episode has been greatly admired.  He has always been the guy trudge on; whatever needed to be done his emotions wouldn’t get in the way.  He has certainly showed emotion on other episodes, notably when Merle dies however, this episode really cues us into the pain he feels after losing Beth.  He unflinchingly snuffs a cigarette on the back of his hand while crying. It’s the emotional fight where Daryl is actually most vulnerable and he eventually realizes that emotion, the ability to feel—this is what separates the group from the undead.

The group exists together.  They live together.  They lose together. They grieve together.  When the storm reaches its peak everyone is required to hold the door closed from the storm/walkers outside.  This is the perfect metaphor for this episode.  They need one another and together they will succeed.  The last scene of the episode is similar to the first, except rather than isolation expressed in lonely sobbing, Maggie and Sasha set out together to watch the sunrise.  Whereas Sasha put on the tough exterior for Noah earlier, telling him that his uncertainty about survival would be his downfall, she opens up to Maggie and tells her that she shares that exact sentiment.  They are interrupted by a man who wanders out of the woods, calls himself “Aaron” and asks to speak to Rick. The end of the episode and the introduction of this new character has far reaching consequences for the survival of the group and its members.  Was this the friend who left the water in the road?

 

 

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