We’re finally getting a change of direction – and a change of scenery – in The Walking Dead‘s world.
This week’s episode entitled “The Distance” was a delightful mix of thrilling, unsuspecting stories one after the other that kept me on edge. The main idea throughout the episode was trust, and featured a ton of character development for Rick.
We begin where we left off at “Them”: Maggie and Sasha have just been approached by the mysterious Aaron. They lead him back to the barn house, where he is officially treated as a hostile subject (makes sense considering their past relationships with outsiders). As soon as Aaron starts to explain himself and how he’d love to take this group over to his own community, Rick saunters over and punches him, fully completing his less than warm welcome.
In Aaron’s bag, the group finds a flare gun. But nothing too “harmful” looking. And so they consider to themselves, is this guy actually nice? Of course, the default answer is no. It seems a bit different with this guy though. As he explains himself further, he describes that over the course of his watching over their group, he’s noticed that a) they’re survivors, but more importantly b) they’re people. And that’s why Aaron wants to help them out: “people are the most important resource”.
Rick immediately is simultaneously on the defense and offense. He needs to protect his family and pack and letting his guard down on this guy doesn’t seem so good. Not doing anything to this guy doesn’t seem so smart either. Thankfully, we get a diversity of opinions from the group. Michonne and Glenn, with a hint of Abraham, speak up and give their two thoughts on the situation: they shouldn’t rule out Aaron completely. If they don’t continue exploring places, how interesting could this walker apocalypse be for Rick?
The group splits into three, with Rick and Judith watching over Aaron, and two other groups venturing out to check for Aaron’s accomplice(s)/car(s). Aaron tries to win Rick over with benevolence and tries to appeal to Rick’s “good-natured” side as a human being, but Rick shuts him down. “Just because we’re good people, doesn’t mean we won’t kill you.” Right on.
Abraham, Maggie, Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita tag with each other into the forest, waiting to see if anyone with malicious intent approaches them. There’s an unexpected scene featuring just Abraham and Rosita, which is frankly out of the blue. The only thing that we seem to get out of their conversation is that they still maybe perhaps have feelings for each that will potentially blossom into something more substantial than passionate moments watched over by Eugene. It’s really uncertain (personally, I’m a fan of Rosita and Tara getting together – honestly, anything is fair game).
Back at the barn house, the rest of the group tries to explain to a very stubborn Rick that exploring Aaron’s community is a good thing. And you know when Michonne, who rarely speaks up, has a strong opinion and stance against the Ricktatorship, it’s pretty darn important. And thus, reason triumphs. They make arrangements to leave.
When he’s alone with Michonne, Rick explains the reason for his obstinacy: it’s tough to trust someone blindly, especially since he has a family to think about. From Woodbury to Terminus, trusting outsiders has definitely not worked out positively. But he’s willing enough to check out this new community.
As they drive out in separate cars at nighttime (smart move, Rick), Aaron describes life in his community to Michonne (accompanied by Rick and Glenn). He shows her pictures of the place, and it seems like the more Michonne hears about how stable Aaron’s life is, the more turned on she gets.
With no anticipation whatsoever, they run into a huge onslaught of walkers, which quickly turns into slaughter. They become separated from the other car, and are forced to continue driving as walker after walker get plastered all over their car. They finally stop towards the end but are unable to. They spot a flare shine out in the sky a couple of miles away, setting Aaron into a frenzy. Apparently he knows the source.
The four get separated as chaos takes over. Glenn manages to find Aaron and rescues him from a walker, and from there reunite with Rick and Michonne (between this, Rick manages to prove his superior intelligence and shoot a walker in the face with a flare gun. A flare gun).
By some act of miracle, the four reunite with the rest of the gang. And here’s where things get so much more interesting: Aaron finds his partner Eric (rescued by the other team), who turns out to be his romantic partner. Seeing as this is now the second queer relationship in the entire show, I couldn’t be happier; they’re so adorable in their unconditional love for each other and their shared collection of license plates.
Thanks to the group saving Eric’s life, Aaron “owes them a debt” and tells the name of his community: Alexandria.
The next morning, they’re all on the move. You really get a sense of this new, profound camaraderie between the usual gang and the two newcomers, specifically during a conversation between Aaron and Noah (Aaron tells Noah that there’s a surgeon in Alexandria who might be able to help him with his leg). There’s gotta be something special here.
As it turns out, their van has finally exited Georgia and lo and behold, into the realm of Washington DC. You can almost see the tears of joy and happiness swelling out of Abraham as he gazes longingly towards Washington monument.
Their vehicle abruptly and comically runs out of power right at the hinge of this glorious moment. Thankfully, Glenn’s a mechanic: he fixes things. Rick and Michonne have another sensitive moment together (hmmmmmm). Michonne explains to Rick that “this fight is over. You gotta let it go”. But for Rick, it’s a ton easier said than one. When can you fully allow yourself to be vulnerable? To let someone into your life? On the bright side, “the rules keep changing”, and this is the only thing that makes going to Alexandria feel okay.
During their break, Rick wanders off for a couple of minutes, where he approaches a house and scavenges the outside belongings to find a blender. He puts his gun inside (just normal Rick things). I normally would brush this off as Rick being extremely odd as usual, but since it got its own scene it’s gotta be of some merit/significance in the future.
As they pull up to the gates of Alexandria and the sounds of children laughing as they play filter in, we get the most raw and intense change in emotions on Rick’s face, from tension to relief, possibly happiness. Could things actually be okay here? Will Rick finally be able to smile? It seems like anything is possible and hopeful at this point.
Well, I gotta say that this episode delivered. I was thoroughly engaged and totally into the change of pace. We’re completely left in the dark about how Alexandria functions as a society, and that’s a good thing.
In the broader scheme of things, Rick’s development is super important and significant. The fact that he was willing to let down his guard, and not so easily, means something for future Rick. Will he be a changed man in Alexandria? And though I haven’t totally been into the idea of Rick and Michonne, their synchronized thoughts and many alone-time moments make me a little… curious.
As I mentioned before, I am super excited about the introduction of Aaron and Eric. I just really hope this relationship is given the attention it deserves, should the characters become more significant in future episodes. There honestly needs to be more action in this show (and I’m not talkin’ humans-killing-walkers-action).
As an episode on its own, it wasn’t too shabby. But considering where the rest of Season 5 has been taking us, “The Distance” is a HUGE turning point for the group. Let’s hope that we don’t run into a typical Hospital/Woodbury/Terminus situation in Alexandria.