My expectations were fairly low going into “One More”. An entire 50 minutes focused on the adventures of Gabriel and Aaron as they scavenge for more food around Alexandria? Hard pass, thank you very much. And yet, despite that seemingly mundane premise, “One More” offers up one of season 10's strongest episodes to date, entertaining across its entire runtime while offering new insights into characters we had shrugged off many seasons ago.
Thematically, “One More” is all about the past and how we let it shape our future. Aaron and Gabriel's trek from one dilapidated building to the next is littered with constant reminders of the world that once was, and the devastation of its fall. Skeletal remains of families cuddled together offer windows into their intimate final moments, ancient walkers lie semi-dormant after years of baking in the Virginia sun, while the pair's discoveries of expensive whisky and once popular cuddly toys present totemic throwbacks to a lost civilisation.
But neither Aaron nor Gabriel are under any illusions about the society they once knew. "The fact that people would pay $2000 to get drunk is a huge part of what was wrong with the world", says Aaron, sipping single malt over a meal of cooked boar in a warehouse the duo are spending the night at. "This world isn't built for the way we used to be", adds Gabriel a few hours later, with the pair now slouched drunkenly over bean bags following a marathon poker session.
There's a palpable sense of mutual respect shared between these two characters, both jaded yet principled father figures, who often go hours at a time without uttering a word during their journey, but are more than willing to laugh together at their own expense, be it after an unexpected encounter with a muddy puddle or close shave with that aforementioned boar. The episode is an enjoyable waste of time in their company, even if Gabriel's minutes-long monologue about a dull childhood memory does drag on a little too long.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the boar and whiskey the duo happily hoover up belonged to someone; a grizzled hermit named Mays, played by Terminator 2's Robert Patrick. The Walking Dead's single-episode guest villains usually come and go with little impact, but – thanks to Patrick's performance and some choice lines from the writing team (including a delayed joke about using the Bible as toilet paper) – Mays makes for a compelling micro-antagonist.
Sure, the like-for-like homage to The Deer Hunter's famous russian roulette scene feels a little derivative, but the actors make it work, ratcheting up the tension and peeling back unexpected sides of their characters, before delivering a killing blow of a last-minute turn that – for once in The Walking Dead – even I didn't see coming. Gabriel's cold-blooded murder of Mays might have shocked both Aaron and ourselves, but can we really fault him for commiting the act? Like the priest said, the man was a threat to himself and others, no matter how redemptive he appeared to be in his final moments.
The episode’s final coda, in which the pair discover May had imprisoned his brother to watch his wife and child slowly decompose in front of him, only seems to vindicate Garbiel's actions, and his understanding of a world where "evil people are the rule, not the exception". These two characters were once The Walking Dead's figureheads of quixotic belief; one in a God, the other in the goodness of people. They will return to Alexandria with those beliefs still intact, but a little more beaten than before. And so life in the apocalypse goes on.