The tenth episode of The Walking Dead’s fifth season was one that was long overdue. It was the most basic of episodes – with little to no progression of the overarching plot – as we saw the group meander along a ‘long and winding road’ en route to DC, allowing us to focus on catching up with various characters.
In ‘Them’ the focus fell on the three characters who were closest to the departed Bob, Beth and Tyreese: Daryl, Sasha and Maggie. The attempts to compare and contrast their respective reactions was a tad blunt in its execution, but the characterisation benefits were plentiful, showing each of them isolating themselves and giving up on survival as they usually know it.
Daryl physically isolated himself, going off on wholly unnecessary jobs such as trying to find water immediately after rejecting Glenn’s offering of a bottle of some. For the most part though, his characterisation didn’t really change – he’s still the somewhat emotionless, somewhat heroic, somewhat mysterious Daryl we all know.
Maggie best embodied the giving up concept. At a couple points in the episode she decided against finishing off a walker, almost as if to say, ”why bother?’ This defeatist attitude was also a central theme throughout the episode.
Saving the most significant till last, Sasha underwent a drastic transformation into a familiar TWD trope – the brainless killer. Perhaps this a logical reaction when grieving in such a devastating world, but it’s certainly popped up a number of times over the years. Here, however, it made a very strong impact. By trying to run from becoming what Tyreese became, Sasha was inadvertently doing the exact opposite. In a sense she was also giving up, no longer killing for the prospect of hope and survival, but simply because it seemed to be a distraction from life. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes next.
Also featured was the long awaited religious undertone that Gabriel brought with his introduction. His abandonment of his faith to the fire was symbolic, yet the Noah’s arc parallels weren’t exactly subtle. A storm? Check. A large group surviving inside a wooden structure? Check. A sudden intervention seemingly answering the wavering hero’s desperate prayers? Check. This ending spoiled the penultimate scene, which saw the three core characters bound together to prevent a walker onslaught.
In a classic TWD ‘riddle discussion’, with characters favouring unnecessarily complex platitudes over basic English, the writers finally managed to smuggle in a line they’re been holding back for five years as Rick declared – “We are the walking dead”. Talk about bleak.