In every season of The Walking Dead, there's at least one episode where the cast aimlessly trudge around, fretting about death and zombies and that, while the audience impatiently waits for the next attack. "Them" is season five's, but with one important difference – it's really good.
The death of Ty last week was a surprise, but not a particularly welcome one. For the first time in a couple of seasons The Walking Dead was starting to feel predictable. "Them" continues boldly down this path of abject misery – but with a purpose that's gradually revealed over the course of the episode.
Rick's group is at its lowest ebb. There's a drought and they're running low on food. Day after day they plod hopelessly down an endless highway. Abe is retreating into booze. Gabriel is starting to question his faith. And Daryl is numb with shock at the loss of Beth. But "Them" is not designed to wallow in the horrors of the world. Instead, this is the episode where the group start to accept their losses and begin the first stages of healing.
Sure, they spend much of the hour divided – sniping at each other, sneaking off to be alone and cry (oh Daryl...), scuppering zombie-trapping plans for the sake of a quick punch up, and so on. But at the end, as a terrifying storm and a horde of walkers conspire to put an end to them, they come back together. It's this moment of unity that helps them get through this long dark night of the soul and see the sun rise on a new day.
After a frankly depressing first third, it's a moving and cathartic development. There's even the suggestion that, just occasionally, moments of grace exist in this bleak world. The drought gives way to rain. The storm defeats the walkers but leaves the survivors unharmed. And Sasha and Maggie share a quiet sunrise together. Even Rick, in his fourth-wall breaking "We are the walking dead", moment is starting to see possible glimmers of hope again. It's not subtle, but it works.
Elsewhere, Lauren Cohan gets the episode's standout scene. She discovers a walker, trussed up and locked in the boot of a car. No doubt reminded of Beth's abduction, she slams the door shut again, but is then compelled to try and put the creature out of its misery. In a moment of intentional bathos, the boot jams shut, leaving her to frustratedly yank at it until Glenn steps in. It's a lovely little scene that manages to get across her grief at her sister's death without explicitly talking about it.
"Them" is unlikely to be anyone's favourite episode of The Walking Dead, but it's an important one. Man cannot exist on worms and wild dog alone, and nor can this show on shock deaths and misery. To survive you need hope – and "Them" restores it.
Menu A L'Apocalypse
Forgive the pidgin French... Despite the lack of supplies, the gang eat a number of interesting foods this week. First Daryl munches on a delicious worm (mmmm, wriggly), then they kill and eat some wild dogs. Who says living in the apocalypse would lead to a bland diet?
Who Is Aaron, Anyway?
Comic book spoilers ahead... So who was that nice young man in the clean clothes at the end? Was he really a friend, as he suggested? And how does he know about Rick? In the comics, Aaron is a recruiter for the Alexandria Safe-Zone – a haven of civilisation amidst the carnage of the walker-filled world. He's likely been following and watching Rick's group for a while (yeah, could have used your help last week, bud) to see if they are suitable candidates to live in the walled off community. He's also gay. Looks like we'll be seeing much more of Aaron and his pals in the next few weeks.
For those keeping track of such things, it's stated that "Them" takes place three weeks after things went tits up in Atlanta.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US on Sundays and Fox in the UK on Mondays.
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|The one where||The gang go on a long walk and experiment with new culinary experiences.|