Them Plot Summary:
After burying Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), the group begins the journey to Washington D.C. After their vehicles run out of gas, they take the journey by foot in the grueling, unforgiving summer humidity. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), still reeling from her brother’s death, is fueled by anger and rage, which she channels through multiple violent (and irresponsible) outbursts. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) begin to feel crushed under the weight that is the loss of Beth (Emily Kinney).
Warning to all those who despised last week’s mid-season premiere: you’re probably going to hate this episode too.
Yes, it was one of those episodes. There’s a lot of walking, a lot of silence, a lot of brooding and a lot of feels. If these type of episodes make you want to run for the hills, and there is a sizeable amount of you out there that this applies to, you’ve been warned.
‘Them’ is not the sexiest of episodes, but it’s a necessary one. The group has not had onscreen time to mourn the sudden and out of nowhere deaths of two of the big emotional characters in the series — Beth and Tyreese. The show’s M.O. with major character deaths, outside of a handful (e.g. Lori Gimes, Sophia), has always seemed to be the following: a character dies but the the group is either immediately on the run or in a battle, and there’s never time to truly mourn. But now, the group has all the time in the world as they slowly trudge through the brutal Southern summer to make it to a possible promised land in Washington D.C.
Maggie, Daryl and Sasha have been three of the toughest characters in the series. They’ve all have lost people they’ve loved before, but they’ve been able to toughen up and solider on. Yet, Beth and Tyreese were such emotionally resonant and sympathetic characters (to both us and the characters in the series) so it’s harder for them not feeling some sort of emptiness and loss. Think about the others these characters have lost – Bob, Herschel, Merle. Sure they were all characters that were close, beloved people in Maggie, Daryl and Sasha’s lives, but they just didn’t have the emotional weight of a Beth or Tyreese.
Furthermore, seeing these three normally tough characters begin to crack under the unrelenting conditions (both emotional and physical), really drives home the themes of doubt, despair, fear and hopelessness that seem to be the overriding mantras of this half season.
The choice of placing this episode in the summer isa perfect one. Everything is exacerbated by hot, humid weather. Think about when you’re that hot — you hate everything. You’re whiny, grumpy, uncomfortable in your own skin — it’s the ideal climate for self-doubt, self-loathing and self destruction. Also, think of the dog days of summer, time just moves an infinitely slower pace.
While the pacing and tone of the first half of the episode is rather raw and sometimes laborious, the second half knocks it out of the park. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) delivers the kind of speech Rick needed to deliver at this moment. He speaks of asking his grandfather if he killed anyone in World War II, to which he would not answer. When Rick asks if German tried to kill him, the grandfather recounts the way he would get himself through the war — accept the fact he’d most likely die on this day and then go fight the war. The perfect parallel for the group. Then Rick utters this line…
“We are The Walking Dead.”
This line will either send chills up your spine or make you roll your eyes. While it may seem corny to some, as it’s been something we’ve known for years, it’s the kind of line that comes at an appropriate time. The group needs to realize their fate is most likely death, but they need to focus on the goal at hand — fighting and ultimately reaching their goal of one day getting out of this mess and living life. This is further driven home when the walkers storm the barn the group is staying in. Everyone seems to snap out of their own, personal hell and realizes that in order to survive it takes everyone to for the group to stay alive. No one man or woman can save everyone, nor is any one person’s problems bigger than that of the group. It’s a great allegorical moment for the episode.
Performance-wise, Lauren Cohan and Sonequa Martin-Green own this episode. Martin-Green has had some nice moments since her debut, but this may have been her best performance to date. She turned the usually level-headed Sasha into a complete rage monster and she executed it with such ferocity and fire. Her scenes with Michonne (Danai Gurira), while brief, were off the charts intense. They really made you believe these two would come to blows at any second. Cohan played the other side of the emotional coin, internalizing her pain until she finds a female walker bound and gagged in the trunk of car. It’s a shocking moment, and it’s the breaking point for Maggie. We’re literally watching her fall a part onscreen and Cohan proves once again to be one of the most convincing and most heart-wrenching weepers on all of television.
The episode concludes with the introduction of a new character, which of course means everything’s going to be turned on its head and the group is once again going to be on high alert. To some this a tired theme, but from the trailers the level of paranoia and fear that the series is injecting into the episode looks amazing.
‘Them’ is an episode that is both an emotional and narrative table setter. It’s not one of those episodes that will make the highlight reel for the season, but it’s definitely one that packs an emotional wallop. It’s a necessary episode that allows the characters time to mourn as well as for us to establish new emotional connections with these tried and true staples of the series. It is also bridging us into the new potential “big bad” as well as possibly hinting at who might not make it out alive by season’s end. All-and-all, solid episode that one should not sleep on.
Rating 8 out of 10
Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom