Monday, February 16, 2015

Good & Bad: 'The Walking Dead' (2/15/15)
Season 5, Episode 10, “Them”  

Plot: Last night’s episode was all about getting a drink. Not a “damn drank” like our dearly departed Beth was so into that one time, but rather the most standard of drinks: water. See, the gang has been on the road for a while now, they’re nowhere near home or their destination (Washington, DC) and they’re running short on essential supplies. So that’s a problem. Also a problem is that within the group itself, there are three distinct factions: the people currently locked in an existential crisis, those trying to cheer up those who are locked in an existential crisis, and those who are just staying out of it. That first group (Maggie, Fr. Gabe, Sasha, Daryl, Noah) keeps getting its emotions all over everyone else, forcing the second group (Rick, Glen, Carl, Michonne) to give them the old “C’mon, buddy. Buck up.” The third group (everyone else) seems content to hang back and sigh loudly until things are resolved. This plays out over the entire episode. Then it rains, everyone has some water, it keeps raining, the gang hides in a barn, teams up to keep out some walkers and by the next morning we seem to be inching down the righteous path of healing. Then some new guy shows up and announces he wants to talk to Rick. Bam! Cliffhanger.


  • Good: I like how every so often this show deals with the nuts and bolts of actually surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Forget the zombies or the cannibals or the good people who’ve turned bad to cope or the bad people who’ve turned worse to cope. I don’t want to see people search for streams or forage for canned goods every week, but throwing episodes like this one in every so often are a good reminder of “Oh yeah, just living is hard.”
  • Good: Abe, Mr. One-liner. The gang hatches a plan to rid themselves of some walkers who have been following them for some time and the goal is to do so without having to exert any real energy in the process, since, you know, no water. Things go well, then Sasha – who is basically wandering down the road drinking spoiled milk at this point in terms of her emotional state – gets involved and ruins everything. This inspires Abe to proclaim: “Well, the plan just got dicked.” It’s nice to see he’s come through his own existential crisis from earlier this season with his PG-13 friendly sense of humor intact.
  • Bad: Sasha. It’s not that I have anything against characters grieving for their losses, it’s just I have a problem with characters working against everyone else in the group while grieving. I’m not asking you to pull your weight all the time, all I want is for you to stop pulling as hard as you can in the opposite direction. Just let go of the proverbial rope, get yourself together and when you’re sane, get back in there again.
  • Good: Like Noah. Look at him, just sitting there, being all mopey. Noah did literally nothing wrong this week. He just removed himself from all of the action and hopefully one day he’ll be useful. Maybe not, but at least he’s not a negative value anymore.  
  • Good: Fr. Gabe. Yup, shocking. This week, he tries to counsel Maggie, she basically says: “You are a turd” and that kicks off a shame spiral which ends in him burning his collar. This is perfect. His whole life, he’s only interacted with people as a priest. Now that he’s pretty much lost that whole “man of god” thing – betraying your parishioners to save your own skin will do that – he doesn’t know what to do with himself. All of the best characters on this show have had to give up or make peace with some element from their past before growing into something more interesting. Maybe this is Gabe’s turning point.
  • Good: Lovable gang of losers. Noah’s taking a break from accidentally sabotaging his own team and Fr. Gabe has left the ill-advised “Shawshank” getaways behind … I gotta say, I like this band of losers that have attached themselves like bad luck barnacles to the main gang. Together with Eugene, they’re stuck in this very-believable middle ground. They’re not super, badass, head-shot-every-time heroes, they’re not mustache-twirling, eye-patched villains, they’re just regular people who made bad to shitty decisions they won’t ever leave behind. They’re flawed, they seem human, and best of all, they’re not currently nearly getting people bit by acting like a fool, Sasha.
  • Good: So uh … what’s going on in Virginia? Last week we got a truck full of torsos and a field full of limbs. This week we find a walker gagged and bound in a trunk. Was she a walker before going in the trunk or … Part of me hopes all of this creepy weirdness is the work of a great serial killer who will prey on the group for seasons to come. Part of me hopes none of this is ever explained so I can maintain and develop that great serial killer storyline in my own head.
  • Bad: Glen has really settled into this new career as group water boy. Remember when he did stuff? Important stuff?
  • Bad: Mystery water? Is this Morgan?  Suddenly he’s not crazy and a million times better at surviving than Rick?
  • Good: Emo Daryl. Our beloved Daryl runs away from his parents (Rick and uh … Michonne, I guess) to go hide in the woods, smoke cigs, hurt himself so he can feel and then have himself a cry.
  • Good: Daryl eyes up that barn, thinking of the good old days when he and Beth would have drunkenly burned it the f down.
  • Bad: Hiding in the barn. I don’t like Emo Daryl as a plot device. I just want him to randomly disappear so he can listen to AFI’s Sing the Sorrow on vinyl and have it never explained or addressed.
  • Bad: Let’s have a frank conversation about god. I don’t need it to start raining the second Fr. Gabe loses his faith. I don’t need a Sharknado to cut through rural Virginia, destroying everything in its path save for the barn our heroes are hiding in, and I don’t need Fr. Gabe to find redemption and a new life with Jesus. I want him to be a guy who used to be a priest, got a bunch of people killed and who’s now being forced to be a new, different man. Growth is interesting. Finding a way to cycle back to your old life is less so. They’re not mutually exclusive, but the latter option has some troubling implications involving the hand of god as a plot device. Also, if god’s so invested in the lives of these people in the barn, maybe, I don’t know, call off the walker apocalypse? You know, seeing as that is pretty much a constant threat to his chosen people and all.
  • Good: Ohhh … “Walking Dead” mystery. Love it. Who’s the new guy? Why’s he so clean and so handsome? I guess he left that water too, yes? Is he …
  • Bad: Oh for f’s sake, he’s god isn’t he? Goddamnit Fr. Gabe, I just started to like you and now you ruined everything.   


  1. This episode was basically a religious parable. I said that to my mom after the gang celebrated the rainfall-but only after the man's roll of thunder made the gang cower like a bunch of Old Testament Israelites. The reveal that they survived while the trees didn't cemented that. The writers don't seem to trust the audience at all, so of course Father Gabe had to ask for forgiveness in the divine thunderstorm. I agree with you about him. Forge a new identity. He's way more interesting in your re-imagining of him.

    If I heard correctly, the new character has the name Aaron. I perused wikipedia for biblical Aaron stuff (it's a throwback to my LOST days) and found that he played a leading role in stories of conflict during the Israelite's wandering in the wilderness. Aaron inevitably pissed off Old Testament God (Duncan Trussell refers to Old Testament God as "Loon-Loon") for building a false idol. I guess we shouldn't trust magic water man.

    I usually dig religious/spiritual themed episodes. Books, too. "Them" had too much cliched grieving tropes. Sasha was the worst. I want The Walking Dead writers to find a more dramatically interesting way for the characters to grieve besides 'numb with grief', 'dangerous because of grief', and 'hurting self because of grief'. It's not easy to do grief on television without using those standbys, but those paid professional writers could try, especially when writing a show that's mostly surviving and grieving.

    So next time they should borrow from Community and have Eugene build a dreamatorium. Abe thinks it's a great idea. Eugene mutters, "I got it from a TV show." Abe falls to his knees in despair.

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  3. You're spot on sir. Heavy-handed doesn't even do all the religious stuff in this episode justice. And that's proof as you said about how the writers don't have any confidence in their audience.

    I don't know if we'll ever get to this point with these characters, since they're supposed to be the good guys and all, but I'd like to see them get to a point where death becomes just a thing. They bury the dead, say a few words, and then move on. They're surrounded by death at all times and it just seems like so much work to completely meltdown every time something bad happens when bad things happen constantly. But we'll probably just get the same cycle you pointed out on rotation.

    I like you doing the leg work on this Aaron character. It's probably good to be suspicious of new people in general, and that goes double for new people bearing gifts. I'm kind of hoping that in next week's cold open, Aaron turns all that water he gave them into wine while simultaneously walking across it, causing Fr. Gabe's head to explode. Then Aaron resurrects him, high fives the camera man and dances out to Funk's music

    Eugene and Abe in a dreamatorium would be amazing.