Episode 10 - Them
18 February 2015
This was a significant improvement over the last few episodes. The emotional context of the whole group was clear and the visual presentation of their struggle was interesting.
I really liked the way the group allowed a comfortable following of Walkers to build up before expending energy on them. It was a scenario we hadn't seen before but one which instantly conveyed the sense that the group were slowly drowning under the pressure to survive in the wild. The idea of flinging Walkers off the side of the road, rather than trying to fight them, was another original sight.
The balance between the group as a whole, small individual spotlights and the three mourners was nicely handled. As a group we got a pretty clear sense of who was looking out for who and which characters were closer to breaking than others. For some the deaths of Tyreese and Beth were a sad but expected bump in the road, for others it meant more. For some the loss of food and water was the real problem. I liked seeing Gabriel begin the process of accepting what he'd done. I was interested to see Abraham still protective of Eugene in spite of himself.
I was pretty happy with Rick's "we are the Walking Dead" speech too. The idea of heading into battle having already accepted one's death is a solid anaology for life in the zombie apocalypse. And it seemed as good a low-key rallying cry as one could hope for in the groups current state. However Darryl's indecipherable mumble of "We aint them" was an odd rejoinder. I guess he was trying to explain that Rick's analogy couldn't apply to someone like Beth who'd brought joy and music to his life. But I'm not sure. I also found the barn door sequence odd. The Walkers appeared en masse out of nowhere and then the jump cut to the next morning made it seem like it was all a dream. It's hard to believe the group would only leave Darryl on guard duty if they were surrounded by Walkers.
The focus on the pain of Darryl, Maggie and Sasha was well produced. Although I would have preferred to not have the ham fisted moments when each of them got a camera shot to themselves (when the group paused in the road) or when they were the ones to be first to the barn door. Maggie gave the strongest performance and portrayed a sense of resignation very convincingly. Her reaction to a poor woman tied up in the trunk of a car was particularly affecting. The explanation of her seeming disinterest in Beth last season was not very convincing but would have made sense if she'd explained it back then.
Darryl was pretty good too, his constant desire to be alone made sense. It seems like Carol's gone back to playing his surrogate mother this week. Sasha was ok but it's hard to sympathise with her reckless endangerment of the others when she decided to abandon the Walker dodging plan. If I was going to go all the way with the nit picking I would also point out that Beth must have been dead for weeks before Tyreese perished. So really these characters shouldn't have been in the same state of mourning.
The ending was solid as we meet a new stranger and the music box gave it a nice off beat note to close on. However I remain cynical about the show as a whole. In part because the groups privations led predictably to a meeting with a new settled community which in retrospect makes this feel slightly like a bottle episode. And also because this episode reminded us of how fit to burst the ensemble has become. As well manipulated as the character dynamics were here it's pretty clear that the show can't service this many characters. Which means that several people are probably about to be killed off. That's fine in theory but I would like to actually care about some of them before they go. Episodes like this tease me into thinking the show might turn a corner but I know that round that bend is just another rotting corpse.
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