“The Distance” – The Walking Dead Offers a Glimpse of Hope

“Even though you were wrong, you’re still right.” – Carol Peletier

An unusually-structured episode of The Walking Dead proves that the show can still provide thrills while offering glimpses of hope.

After a string of episodes featuring other characters, our centerpiece in “The Distance” is Rick Grimes, hero and leader, as he tries to make the difficult decision of whether or not to trust Aaron. This stranger entered the fray last week with open hands, telling Maggie and Sasha that he has good news, albeit somewhat ominously.

Is it a trap? The question comes up again and again throughout the episode. From the opening scene punch to the untrusted applesauce to the flare rising in the night sky, we’re asking ourselves: Can this stranger be trusted? Is he lying? Is Rick right, despite everyone wanting to trust Aaron?

Although these questions run high through the episode, I felt safe knowing that this could not simply be another trap. It would be too familiar after Woodbury and Terminus. However, there must be something going on. This is The Walking Dead, after all. When Michonne asks why there isn’t a picture of Aaron’s people, I immediately felt that sense of dread that I imagine the writers hoped to inspire. It wasn’t that you thought this might be a trap, but rather that something would definitely be off when they arrive at Alexandria.

No, it was not  trap. Or so it still doesn’t seem to be. However, it does seem it was a sort of test for Rick and Michonne, to see what sides of the coin they might land on. Where Michonne used to be well-guarded and uneasy, she is now more optimistic and trustworthy. Rick has instead taken her place, and it is evident that Michonne sees herself in him. She reminds him that they let her into their group. It seems that she sees a bit of herself in Aaron, too.

There were two things that stuck out to me in this episode. Firstly, the zombie action that sat right in the middle of the episode was a rather perfect sequence. Plowing through the hoard, guts and blood everywhere, struggles in the forest, all accompanied by the regularly-excellent soundtrack. A Walking Dead zombie set-piece that I will not be soon forgetting, compared to say, the laughable firetruck incident earlier in the season. Particular high grades go to the overhead shot of the car mowing down the zombies.

The second thing that stuck out to me was that this episode was finally offering some glimpses of hope. I don’t think we’ve truly felt this since the group felt comfortable playing house in the prison. Sure, Terminus seemed like a safe haven for them, but I think we were all well aware that it was not going to end well. Instead, Alexandria offers the sounds of children and laughter. It also has a much less ominous name, which definitely plays into our perception of what it may be.

Next week, we get to find out what troubles lay ahead for our travelers. Nothing can be perfect on The Walking Dead, and we can be certain that two things will come back in play: the lack of people in the pictures Aaron provided, and the Chekhov’s gun that Rick placed in a blender. As Aaron mentioned, people are the most valuable resource, so I guess the question is: How empty is Alexandria?

Final thoughts:

  • We’re also introduced to Eric, Aaron’s boyfriend or husband. Does it feel a bit shoehorned in? Yes in some ways, no in others. We’ll have to see how it plays out.
  • Abraham and Rosita seem to be getting back to better terms. There was a nice moment between them as they saw the Washington Monument in the distance.
  • “This barn smells like horseshit.” Daryl’s few words this episode are excellent.
  • Although the flare that Rick shot into the walker’s head felt like a bit of a showoff moment, I thought it was cool enough to be warranted.
  • As much as I never liked Dale, I did like the throwback when Glenn knew where the battery was in the RV.
  • The closeup of Rick’s eyes as he hears the children is perfect and the look Michonne gives him is even better. Danai Gurira is a treasure.
  • Rick and Daryl’s secret whistle made me giddy.

Episode Grade: B+

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