TV Recap: The Walking Dead, ‘The Distance’

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The Distance Plot Summary:

When a mysterious man named Aaron (Ross Marquand) arrives promising a new home, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) puts his entire group on high alert. Do they dare risk another Woodbury and Terminus situation? It isn’t long before everyone is divided, with Michonne (Danai Gurira) making a definitive stand.

Apocalypse focused fiction revolves heavily around the theme of loss. The entire backbone of the concept is society falling apart at the very seams. That collapse stems from the removal of many things people take for granted nowadays. Physical items are justifiably given utmost importance. Things like water, food, clothing, a stable shelter, any basic life necessity. Take away these and it’s easy to see normal people go completely insane. These items, however, can be obtained through whatever means. They’re crippling until you have a reasonable quantity. What really does the most damage is losing what you can’t hold, namely hope and trust. You can lose that and never gain it back. In a way, having hope or being able to trust people are the most necessary resources of all. It’s unrelentingly difficult to live on your own, and if you don’t have hope for a better future, it’s tough to get that will to keep going.

Ross Marquand as Aaron -Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Ross Marquand as Aaron -Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

For the first time in quite a while, hope and trust might actually make a comeback in The Walking Dead. Okay, people aren’t going to start singing campfire songs because the undead are disappearing, but the promise of a legitimately safe community is a huge deal. Alexandria, with the promises of being well stocked with food and medically knowledgeable people, is positioned as this shining beacon in a world filled with darkness. It can actually be exactly what our weary survivors have wanted. The ending close-up on Rick’s eyes tells it all. After experiencing a night of undead horrors, and being met with bloody silence at both Woodbury and Terminus, Rick is instantly hit emotionally by the sound of children. Children laughing. Children playing. His angry glare immediately vanished into glassy-eyed disbelief. Michonne said it perfectly: The fight keeps you alive and safe, but eventually you have to let it go. Alexandria can still go to shit (I’m up-to-date with the comics so I know things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows), but this is the first time the fight has actually dissipated. It’s a huge deal.

Rick’s lack of trust in Aaron was expected. You can’t go through people like The Governor and Gareth without being skeptical of a friendly face. Yet after a while, it started to get a bit extreme. I get why Rick punched Aaron square in the jaw. He was right for distrusting the applesauce Aaron wanted to give Judith, and the man even refused to eat it himself because he hated the stuff. Suspicious! Sending his people out to investigate was smart too. Rick wasn’t taking any chances and for good reasons. There came a time though when it went too far, where it actually stopped being believable. Why would a man who wants to protect his people openly go down a road that isn’t clear? The car scenes were visually stunning, and the ensuing attack was incredibly visceral, but it was a completely avoidable risk. Aaron had already proven himself. Everyone except Rick was with him, though not completely I might add. Michonne, Rick, and Glenn (Steven Yeun) did have a meltdown when they found his listening device. When it was all over though, and Rick still pledged to keep Aaron apart from Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), you could tell everyone was like, “Okay Rick. Enough is enough.”

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Not a lot of screentime was given to most of the group, but the true episode stars, Michonne and Aaron, were more than willing to take limelight. Michonne really cemented herself as a leader here. When Rick was battling his unrelenting doubt, Michonne was there to oppose his actions. She proved that she would side with the man in a heartbeat, obviously, but while everyone else was questioning Aaron’s honesty, Michonne hopped on first. It was the trust of strangers that got her where she is today after all. All the praise rightfully goes to Gurira for absolutely owning every scene she was in.

Ross Marquand is a delightful addition too. This was the first chance for us to actually learn about Aaron and he did not disappoint. Aaron is a pretty big role to fill as well. The character hasn’t done a lot in the comics as of late, but he was integral in putting our characters on the path that brought us where we are in print. I’m totally down for the writers to give Aaron a bigger presence in the show. Marquand was great bringing us through his emotional rollercoaster. He was calm and collected regardless of what Rick threw at him. His shock felt real when Rick actually believed he wanted to poison Judith. Aaron and Eric reuniting was the high point for them. We’ve only known this guy for one episode and already you can feel the love between him and his boyfriend. Oh right, he’s gay. There’s a scene where two men kissed. Rightfully, the show treats this the way it should, like a normal relationship. It didn’t receive any more attention or character shock as Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) kissing.

The end of days is definitely nothing to shrug off. It’s easy to see the despair around our characters and think, “Man, nothing is ever going to get better.” Yet even the tiniest shred of hope must remain and the introduction of Alexandria is proof that this pays off. Rick abandoned all hope and it almost put his entire family, not to mention his whole group, in life threatening danger. Michonne ended up being the rallying point and it brought everyone to a new community. Plus, as Rosita (Christian Serratos) pointed out to Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Washington DC is right there. They made it, or at least got very close. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) wasn’t entirely off after all. The DC area did have safety, which even includes legitimate homes, something Michonne fell for instantly. Surely it’s better than a barn that smells like shit.

Rating: 9/10

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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
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