The following review contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 5 Episode “Them”
A Tour de Sadness
We all knew the group would be devastated by the events that took place at Grady Memorial Hospital, we saw glimpses of it in the season 5B premiere “What Happened and What’s Going On”. We also knew the events of the premiere would take the group to even lower depths. We expected to see a broken down and defeated group moving forward but I don’t think anyone expected the dull and depressing crawl down 60 miles of interstate who cares that made up the entirety of “Them”. We probably should have expected it though.
We mentioned in our review last week how the creators seem to hate mixing in multiple concepts in single episodes, they often times take a one track approach. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, most of the time it’s a mixed bag. “Them” is, unfortunately, one of those times where it just simply doesn’t work. All the little moments with Maggie, Sasha, and Daryl, even Gabriel could have been mixed in with last week’s episode. Versions of these moments could have happened while they waited on Rick and Co. to check out Noah’s community. A fusion of the first two 5B episodes could have been great but instead the reality we got was much less interesting and much more frustrating.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The quickest way I could sum up what happened Sunday night is as follows:
- Everyone is depressed and sad, they walk a few miles.
- Everyone is still depressed and sad, although a new layer of anger is introduced. They walk a few more miles.
- Hope you didn’t forget that everyone is still angry, depressed, and sad. If you did forget, well, that’s all still happening.
- So on and so on and so on.
But surely there was some depth here, surely I’m being a jerk. The dialogue is what drives an episode like this! How much good dialogue did we get during the trek? None. No good dialogue. The writing was poor and director Julius Ramsay was given barely anything to work with, although he also directed the disappointing season 4 episode “Still” so maybe two makes a trend here. Either way, “Them” was almost a self deprecating joke played by the creators, a joke that was made at the expense of the fans. It sometimes gets annoying to hear how boring and slow The Walking Dead is. Sometimes it really is, other times (such as the 5B premiere episode) there’s a lot more than meets the eye that might go over people’s heads. This episode however, presents a feast for the Debbie downers.
I won’t go too much into detail to avoid spoilers for the books and (potentially) future episodes but I was almost certain that a critical moment from the books was going to come into play. While there were two adapted moments (more on that later), the big one I was waiting for never came and it was almost as if they were adding insult to injury. That moment would have worked, it would have been fitting, it would have been a great cap to this power hour of depression and self loathing. But it never came.
What we got instead was a cheesy and blunt blow to the head in the form of the group all coming together to hold the barn doors shut from a rather large group of walkers who wanted shelter from the raging storm. Well, isn’t that cute. Also, a bit insulting as a followup to the deep and thought provoking episode we got last week.
The One-Two Closer
While “Them” mostly was a let down, there were two great moments that lessened the blow. The first, Rick finally said it. The line all comic fans were waiting for. While it was in a much different situation compared to the comics, Rick finally said “We are the walking dead”. Honestly, I like how the show did it better and the whole speech by Rick was great, easily one of my favorite moments of his in the show so far.
The other moment was at the very end. Almost as if the creators knew people would hate this episode and wanted to throw them a bone, they introduced a big time player from the comics: Aaron. His appearance means many things, the Alexandria Safe Zone being on our doorsteps the biggest of them but it may even suggest that the show is closer to the megaton home run hitter Negan than we previously thought. I won’t get ahead of myself, however. His appearance to me was like the storm to most of the group, just a flat out joyous break from the too somber mood. It was as if he descended from the heavens when we needed him most, engulfed in a beam of light as an angelic choir sung of his arrival to defeat this sorry episode, giving us hope for next week and the rest of season 5B.
“Them” Final Takeaways
I quite liked the group of walkers slowly trailing behind the main group as they lurched forward in similar fashion and their effort to dispose of the threat was pretty intense. Sasha’s uncontrolled anger lead to some close calls and I even felt worried when Rick was nearly bit. That feeling kind of surprised me afterwards.
- The dog tease in the previews was kept in the back of my mind with hopes of it being able to inject some life into the episode. Surely they belonged to the wolves and the new villains were coming! I felt pretty dumb when the obvious happened, which is Sasha simply shooting them. I’m all for being realistic about things and how the group would approach various threats but this episode needed to dial back the reality a bit.
- Maggie is cruel when she hits rock bottom and her tongue bites harder than any walker Gabriel has faced so far. His poor attempts at helping Maggie were hard to watch but the two seemed to have a moment later in the episode when Gabriel burned his collar. This could be an interesting relationship moving forward.
While not the worst episode of the series, “Them” really exemplified all the problems you could have with the show. It was slow and relatively uneventful until the last 10 minutes, time and time again the show just seems to slam on the breaks plot wise. While last week’s episode was good, the lack of plot development was a big problem and for the very next episode to follow the same approach is an even bigger problem. Episodes focused on character development need well written and interesting dialogue and “Them” just didn’t have it outside of Rick. Shoddy writing is another issue that isn’t new to The Walking Dead but it was at one of its lowest points on Sunday night. Despite all that, Rick said the thing and Aaron was introduced which surely means the plot is going to shift back into gear and get moving again.
It’s been a long wait but, just as the music box suggested, brighter days may just be right around the corner.
What did you think of “Them” and are we being too hard on it? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to rate the episode!
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