Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(TV) The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 11 “The Distance” TV Review

“The Distance” was great episode where we got to see the depths of Rick’s paranoia and someone, finally, get in his face and question his authority which instantly brought an end to the “Ricktatorship.”

While Rick officially brought an end his dictatorial reign at the back end of season three and part of season four, Rick still has made just about every major call since then without little or no push back. As per usual, not all his decisions we’re great including the dangerous 100 mile hike to Washington. But in “The Distance”,  Michonne makes herself heard and makes Rick see sense.

While we’ve seen Michonne grow leaps and bounds from when we first saw her and in this week’s episode we see her browbeat Rick into giving new character Aaron a chance. However, for all that we’ve seen in the last five seasons of The Walking Dead we can’t fault Rick from looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Just about every time the group has placed trust in strangers they’ve paid the price from the Governor to the Terminus residents and now a polite, well dressed and clean shaven man comes along promising salvation is sure to cause suspicion. Rick paranoia pops up front and center the moment Maggie and Sasha introduce Aaron to the group as Rick quizzes him wearing his “I’m going to kill you and wear your face” look. Despite the understandable skepticism, hostility and caution among Rick and most of the group, Aaron manages to keep his composure selling his community to a tough crowd.

From the first few minutes we can tell that Aaron has perfected his pitch and is a skill salesman but trust is hard enough to establish in the world we live in but so just imagine how much harder it is to do in a zombie apocalypse where the only humans left are more dangerous than the flesh eating monsters aimlessly walking around looking for lunch. This point is punctuated as Rick gets sick of his well-polished sales patter and nails him  with a right cross that put Aaron out cold.

And with that begun the episode long clash between Rick and Michonne as she gets in Rick’s face for attacking Aaron but Rick is too busy preparing for an ambush from Aaron’s group. Aaron come back from right cross induced stupor and still manages to keep his cool despite being decked and interrogated by a dead eyed Rick. In this scene Aaron makes a great point about trust when he questions Rick skeptical mindset about as points out to Rick that no matter how many of his people he says is out there, Rick won’t believe him anyway because he’s skeptical from the outset.

However his well-reasoned and argued point goes way over Rick’s head as he continues to wear his paranoia on his sleeve. You can’t really blame him as for all that he’s lost since the zombie apocalypse began; he still has the most to lose out of the group which makes the safety and well-being of Karl and Judith his number one priority.    

So for all the well-reasoned and argued points Aaron can come up with under serious interrogation from Rick and the group’s more skeptical members, he’s not making any hay on getting them to join his community. However Aaron does kind of shoot himself in the foot when making a point about what would happen if he had foul intentions by describing how he would ambush a group. This was a whopper of a mistake given all Rick and the group has shown him is hostility and suspicion. However I don’t really think this the fault of the show’s new character but of the writers of TWD looking for ways to introduce tension where it doesn’t exists.

The writers are well aware that TWD suffers from a serious lack of dramatic tension in light of the show having no real antagonist with The Governor gone and the Walker now a palpable but ultimately manageable threat. So far Aaron has maintained his polite demeanor and has given the group no reason to trust him but with the writers looking to introduce tension where there isn’t reveals the writers eagerness to fix a problem they can’t fix anytime soon.

After Aaron makes another attempt to get the group to trust him by revealing that another member of his community is up the road with a camper, Rick and Michonne clash again as Rick thinks it’s a trick but Michonne, notably desperate for sanctuary in the second half of this season, is willing to give Aaron the benefit of the doubt as is Maggie.

Rick, not willing to take the risk, retorts that Michonne’s plan to check Aaron’s claims out are dangerous but Michonne rightly points out that living hand to mouth in a barn in the middle of nowhere isn’t exactly safe either. Then what happens next is pretty much one of the highlights of the episode as Michonne rallies the group into following her plan and sternly insists that Rick plays ball. We’ve seen Rick for the most part get his way without much resistance right or wrong but in “The Distance”, Rick is forced to follow the lead of one of the group members.

This a good development as the “what Rick says goes” regime the group has pretty much cosigned from the outset clearly needs tweaking. Most of the group has been fine with merely surviving but Michonne has been pushing for a place to settle and realizes that it may take a risk like trusting a stranger to get it no matter how much what they have to say or offer is hard to believe due to the group’s bad experiences with other groups willing to take them in.
The group then splits in two with some of group following Michonne while other hanging back looking out for threats. Michonne’s plan was the smart play but leaving Rick with Aaron wasn't due to his paranoia clearly getting the best of him. We find that out pretty quickly as Rick threatens to put a knife in the base Aaron’s skull if  Michonne and co weren’t back in an hour.

In between the couple of scenes where we see that Aaron’s story checked out, we see the depths of Rick’s Paranoia after Aaron offers Rick apple sauce to feed Judith to stop her crying because she might attract walkers. Rick then makes Aaron taste the apple sauce before he gives it to Judith which is understandable but telling given the fact that if Aaron did poison the apple sauce, it would be an automatic death sentence for him given his job means he has to encounter groups with every reason to distrust him.

When Michonne, Maggie, Glenn, Rosita and Abraham return to the barn with a bevy of canned food, Michonne once again campaigns for the group to leave the barn, most of the group is onboard given Aaron story checked out and even Daryl, who’s been a Rick loyalist for the longest, joins Michonne in her insistence to leave the barn and join Aaron’s community.

Seeing that Michonne has pretty much has the whole group on her side, Rick reluctantly agrees. Once again Ricks mistrust puts him and others in danger as Aaron tells him and the group which road to take back his group but thanks his paranoia, Rick decided to split group with him, Michonne, Glen and Aaron take another route and the rest of the clan take the route Aaron suggested.

The plan pretty much went Pete Tong for Rick, Michonne, Aaron and Glen as Aaron was correct when he suggested that Rick’s plan to go down a route his group hadn’t cleared of walkers was a bad idea as Glen mows down a herd of walkers. The group get out of the car when  Aaron gets out of the car after seeing a flare light the sky. If the plan hadn’t already gone awry it’s about worse as the group end up having to shoot and chop their through a herd that nearly gets them killed before they make it back on to the main road and walk the rest of the trip.

As the group meet up again we follow Aaron into as he meets up with his partner Eric and find out Maggie and Glenn aren’t the only hope for relationships in the zombie apocalypse. The few seconds we spent with Aaron and Eric revealed a relationship that’s tender and loving which makes one of the bleakest and cynical shows on television today a more bearable watch considering the emotionally draining episodes over the last two weeks.

In the next scene we see that Aaron has some steel to go with his politeness as he stands up to Rick when tries to tell him where to sleep. This scene was particularly telling because Aaron was prepared to take on Rick before Glenn stepped in to talk sense into him. His steel is even more impressive as while he must have figured out by now that while Rick is good man willing to do what it takes to protect the ones he loves, he is also a stone cold killer with a serious case of paranoia made worse by the burden of leadership.

The real highlight of the whole episode was in the last three minutes of “The Distance” as get a close up on Rick’s eyes and in them we see a man looking for hope while waiting for other shoe to drop until the hears the sound of children playing which allows him relax as we see the life rush back into his dead green eyes. For all faults the show has, the performances from its cast are almost always on point with Andrew Lincoln acting his boots off in this episode.

Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron, was also pretty good in his first full episode as we, through his performance, learned much about his character. Now that Rick and co are now part of another group, we get to see how they deal with a group of real human beings that don’t want to kill them and keep their walker remains or eat them alive.

The show has needed an instance where the group joins a community where they’re not in control and now we get to see whether they can really play nice with others or has the being out in the world hardened them beyond repair.

We may get some answers on that front next week.

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