Episode 11 - The Distance
23 February 2015
The core of this was very strong. When I criticise a show I'm often weighing up what it has earned with me as a viewer. What my expectations for the series as a whole are. Where I am emotionally on a journey with the characters. So when I say the core of this was strong I mean the meta core. The part that played with my expectations as a viewer. We are in Season 5 of The Walking Dead and the one consistent message which the show has offered is "our people are the only good ones." Trust no one else.
So at no point did I believe Aaron's story. Every time his story strayed from the plausible I felt tenser as I awaited the inevitable reveal. His aversion to apple sauce, his refusal to give up the location of his community and his strange photo collection were all solid details trying to push us into a state of permanent tension and it worked.
But then another part of me says "how bad a producer of TV do you have to be to produce another Woodberry or Terminus right now?" There's still another five episodes left in this half season. Maybe this really is a place full of decent people. Or perhaps Aaron is just crazy or delusional or a lone trickster?
I still don't trust him. The show has trained me not to. But he also suffers from Ben Linus syndrome. When Ben was down in the hatch being questioned by Sayid there was always an absence of details. Where was the talk about getting off the island? Where were the questions about what was happening back in the USA? Similarly if Alexandria has surgeons and wonderful people everywhere then where are the details? Where is the talk of how they operate? Who is their leader? How long have they been there? When did they first see Rick's group? Why do they send out only two people at a time?
I would have liked more debate within our group but I liked what we did get. I was particularly pleased with Glenn's comment that if Aaron's people were like them then they should be scared. He may have meant it in a "we're tough and ruthless" way. But I took it as a recognition that in this world people just can't get on anymore. There's too much to lose by trusting others and so two groups of good people would inevitably tear one another apart through paranoia.
But that's where the episode fell down. Rick's comment that nothing could convince him to go through the gates of an unknown community sounded EXACTLY what the bottom of line of his character is. But then by episodes end he was ready to walk through the gates without any real idea of what's behind them. Even though Aaron told him the truth about several details that doesn't prove that Aaron himself hasn't been coerced into leading our survivors into a trap.
I hope no one will take this as a crass example but in Ancient Thebes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Band_of_Thebes) homosexual couples were placed in battle lines together to increase their willingness to die for their comrades. Aaron and Eric's obviously genuine feelings are not convincing evidence of the truth of Alexandria's claims as a sanctuary. The glimpse from the van of a city prompted far more questions than it answered. I mean if it's that big and secure then why did Aaron need to keep its location a secret?
Rather than walk in en masse it seems like Michonne should have volunteered to go in with Aaron and see if it was a safe place. I know that would have been a huge personal risk but our group could have kept Aaron or Eric in exchange. I can see why that decision wasn't taken though. To play out this whole scenario in one episode did make the episode one of the best paced the show has ever produced. And presumably next week we discover that Alexandria really is a sactuary of sorts before it inevitably falls or our survivors leave.
I'm pleased that the show could really suck me in for an hour even if I wasn't pleased with Rick's final decision. He should have hidden more than one gun out there.
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