“Them” – The Walking Dead Shows How to Grieve
This is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead. – Rick Grimes.
Never has the writing in The Walking Dead been so on-the-nose than in last night’s episode, “Them”. Truthfully, the show needs that kind of writing every now and then. Especially when it takes a break from the zombie action to remind us that this is primarily a show about death. It is a show that needs to have their characters ask one underlying question: “Is it worth it to keep fighting?”
That question will arise again and again as each of our characters accustom themselves to the idea of moving on without their loved ones. Rick and Carl experienced this with Lori, Carol experienced it with her daughter, and in “Them,” the trio of Daryl, Maggie, and Sasha grieve the losses of Beth and Tyreese.
The trio’s theme of dealing with death is accompanied by the group’s overall survival goal for the week: get food and water. They are in dire circumstances, all walking down the road as if they were zombies themselves. Rick reminds Daryl that they are three weeks out of Atlanta, which is really just him telling the audience that they are three weeks out of Atlanta, because I’m sure Daryl knows that.
This kind of explicit dialogue runs through the episode as various characters come in to try and get our trio past their mourning stage.
We’ll start with Sasha. Her method of dealing with Tyreese’s death is reckless: she wants to be killing zombies, she wants to get her anger out. When Michonne tells her that Tyreese was angry after his loss as well, Sasha says “We are not the same.” Michonne comes back with “But it’s still the same. It just is.”
Sasha’s recklessness proves to be a hassle for the group in one of the more unique zombie sequences the show has pulled off. I found it clever and amusing that the characters trick the zombies into falling off a small ledge away from them. Of course, this couldn’t last and Sasha comes in to stab a zombie, getting the rest of them into a frenzy.
Michonne scolds Sasha, pushing her to the ground and saying “I told you to stop.” Sasha is not pleased, of course, and walks away. Later, with no hesitation she kills the vicious dogs that come upon the group after Eugene actually states “I truly don’t know if things can get worse,” followed by, I’m not joking, Rosa saying: “They can.” Cue dogs.
This isn’t the only convenient timing that occurs in the episode. After being mysteriously left a cache of water bottles accompanied by a note saying “from a friend,” our characters are saved from having to possibly drink poison by a miracle thunderstorm. The show is explicit in contrasting the two storylines: although the majority of the group is excited that it rained, we cut to Daryl, Maggie, and Sasha, who are not having any of it. They aren’t in a position to appreciate the water, so we need to watch them get there. The thunderstorm proves to be an issue as the group quickly realizes they need to find shelter.
Fortunately, Daryl’s method of dealing with his grief is going out on solo adventures to prove he can make it alone, where he can smoke a cigarette and stumble upon the perfect barn for them. Earlier, Carol tells him: “you’re not dead. You have to let yourself feel it.” He does exactly that while smoking his cigarette, burning the end into his hand. Again, this is very on-the-nose but it feels like something we need to watch as Daryl deals with Beth’s death.
They enter the barn and Maggie kills a zombie, one who seemingly had a gun to be able to kill herself. Carol comes up behind her and says “Some people can’t give up.” And just to make sure we know who she’s talking about, she finishes with: “Like us.” She’s not the first to try to help Maggie. Earlier, Carl gives her a broken music box. Later, Glenn coaxes her into talking, and she tells him that she never thought Beth was alive and that she doesn’t know if she wants to fight anymore. Again, this is the theme that all of Daryl, Maggie, and Sasha deal with.
This all comes to a head near the end of the episode. Daryl walks away from Rick calling them the walking dead, claiming “we ain’t them” as he goes. He comes to the front of the barn, where he sees dozens of zombies making their way in. He quickly slams the doors shut, but there’s no way he can withstand the force of them all.
Cut to Maggie looking up and rushing over to help. Then, of course, cut to Sasha looking up and rushing over to help. The entire group follows, even Carl, leaving Judith behind on the floor, reminding me that I’m always worried about the baby whenever she’s shown on-screen.
We get back to them as they wake up in the morning, safe and sound. Maggie and Daryl bond for a moment over Beth’s death, saying she was tough even though she didn’t know she was. After, Maggie and Sasha head outside to see that the storm miraculously killed all the walkers. They head out to see the sun rising over a field. Sasha finally opens up to Maggie, saying that she feels the same way that Noah does: she doesn’t know if she can make it. Maggie tells her they both will make it.
In typical Walking Dead fashion, the episode ends just as a new face makes an appearance: Aaron, the “friend” that left them the water. He says “I have good news,” wants to speak to Rick, and seems to know just a bit too much about the group. The music box begins as the episode ends mostly to remind us that this episode was very, very on-the-nose.
- Father Gabriel lets go of his past and maybe even his religion by throwing out his clerical collar.
- Abraham has no problems drinking alcohol even though it’ll affect him negatively.
- What did we think of the zombie woman in the trunk? Tied up in the early stages of the apocalypse, thinking they could save her? Or a kidnap victim that died in the trunk? These are the kinds of interesting side-things that I like to see on The Walking Dead.
- Other coincidental timing: when the group has their first zombie sequence that Sasha botches, Daryl shows up just in time from one of his solo adventures to save Rick.
- The little conversation they have in the barn is a nice touch as our characters open up to each other about their thoughts on the state of the world. As Rick says, they need to keep getting up and going to war. It’s very true.
- Did anyone else see the ridiculous zombie punctured way too high up a tree? What a crazy tornado.
- Welcome Ross Marquand! The Internet tells me he is going to be a series regular and is our first openly gay character, which will probably become a plot point though it really shouldn’t be.