We are on the road to Washington, D.C. in The Walking Dead episode “Them.” After the loss of Beth in “Coda,” it became clear that hopelessness was setting in. Tyreese’s death in “What Happened and What’s Going On” served to reaffirm the everyday violence faced by survivors in The Walking Dead. Rick has agreed that they should go to D.C. to see if it can offer them some respite from their harsh world, and because he realizes the group is falling into despair.
A Difficult Journey
There is very little food and water to be found on the road to Washington. Daryl resorts to eating a worm, and Sasha finds dead frogs in a dried up stream. It’s not clear if this is a result of a drought, the virus impacting the ecosystem, a manmade environmental disaster, or the intentional poisoning of water resources. It’s seems to be a drought, but it’s easy to blame some nefarious force at work.
They run out of gas, so everyone continues on foot. Thirsty, hungry, tired, sad, and despairing, the group struggles down the road. They are still alive, but barely, suffering from the physical and psychological toll. While they are on the road, several conversations occur.
Rick acknowledges Daryl’s loss, and Daryl expresses concern for Judith. Daryl says they need to find food and water, and Rick says that it’s got to rain eventually. Certainly our group could use a change in their fortune, with some rain or some hope.
Father Gabriel tries to talk to Maggie, but she is having none of his counsel. She angrily confronts him about abandoning his parish.
Sasha suggests to Michonne that they can take the dozen walkers straggling behind them, but Michonne tells her it’s not worth the energy. Michonne points out that Sasha is angry, just as Tyreese had been at his own loss, and that it made him stupid. Sasha retorts that they are not the same, but Michonne coolly tells her it is the same.
Carol gives Beth’s knife to Daryl and reminds him of the words he told her: “You’re not dead.” She tells him that though she cannot allow herself to feel, he is different and needs to let himself mourn Beth’s death. It’s hard to know if #caryl shippers will be excited about the intimacy of Carol kissing Daryl on the forehead or disappointed that it seemed a bit maternal.
A large group of walkers come walking towards them. They stand on the side of the road at the start of a bridge, where they can push the walkers off, rather than expend more energy stabbing them. Unfortunately, Sasha goes a little nuts, throwing a wrench in their plans and managing to do more harm to the living people around her than to the walkers. Michonne tells Sasha to stop, but she doesn’t listen. Once the walkers are all dead, Michonne scolds a defiant Sasha. It’s not clear why Michonne is responsible for Sasha, but few in this group could get away with treating Sasha this way without it appearing overly harsh and patronizing.
They see a group of cars ahead. Daryl goes to scout the area from woods. When Maggie checks one of the cars, she finds a walker tied up in the back, so she shuts the trunk and walks away. After she hears the walker pounding on the car, she decides to go back to kill it. The keys are stuck so she can’t reopen the trunk, and Maggie starts to lose it a little. Glenn comes up to help her, the epitome of calm and caring, and takes care of it. Glenn appears to be the most stable force in this group right now. Perhaps he knows he needs to remain strong for his wife.
The group takes a rest, sitting in the shade at the side of the road. Abraham begins to drink some liquor he found. When Tara suggests it will only make his thirst worse, Rosita says, “He knows that.” Eugene comments that things can’t get any worse, to which Rosita responds, “They can.” It’s a terrible world they live in, but it’s somewhat surprising that they never seem to experience relief, gratitude, pride, joy or something positive that they have managed to stay alive when so many are dead. Perhaps it’s Survivor Guilt. Or perhaps its just the sadness the comes with constantly losing people you care about, as it’s the people left behind that must bear the burden of grief and loss. Daryl returns from the woods after only having found corpses.
No Easy Cure for Grief and Despair
Rosita’s warning that things can still get worse appears prophetic when a group of wild dogs appears in the road, snarling. Rick stands with his knife and Daryl starts to go for his bow, but Sasha quickly shoots them with her silencer-enhanced gun. As the group eats the first meal they’ve probably had in a while, Noah sadly gazes at the collar of one of the formerly domestic dogs. Sasha walks over:
Noah: “Your brother. He tried to help me. I don’t know if I’m gonna make it.”
Sasha: “Then you won’t. Don’t think. Just eat.”
It would be extra depressing if Noah is killed within a few episodes of Tyreese being killed while trying to take him home. Let’s hope Noah toughens up. As they eat, Maggie watches Father Gabriel take off his collar and throw it into the fire. It appears Maggie’s shaming had an impact. After their depressing meal, they continue walking down the road.
Maggie tells Glenn that after losing Beth, she doesn’t know if she wants to fight anymore. He responds, “You do. That’s who you are. Maybe it’s a curse nowadays, but I don’t think so. You fought to be here. We have to keep fighting.” Glenn suggests Maggie drink some water, which she does.
Abraham offers his liquor to Sasha and she refuses, telling him it would make things worse. He tells Sasha she’s going to make things worse if she continues as she has been and that she’s with friends, to which she responds, “We’re not friends.”
Glenn tries to get Daryl to take some water, which he refuses. Glenn shares some sage words with Daryl, saying, “We can make it together, but we can only make it together.” Glenn is awesome. Despite Glenn’s words, or perhaps because of them, Daryl goes off into the woods by himself for a bit. Daryl still has the cigarettes he took from Noah in “Consumed.” He sits near a barn and smokes for a bit, then puts the cigarette out on his hand, perhaps so he can feel something. This seems to jumpstart his emotions, creating a cathartic response—he starts to cry.
Someone has left water bottles in the road with a sign that says “from a friend.” They assume it’s a trap. Eugene doesn’t care and grabs a bottle, saying he will do some quality assurance. Before Eugene can drink it, Abraham knocks the water bottle out of his hands. There’s no way Abraham is just going to let Eugene get himself killed after keeping him safe all this time. Just as Rick tells Eugene, “We can’t,” we hear rumbling and then it suddenly starts to rain. Hallelujah! We couldn’t have watched much more of them thirstily dragging themselves down the road. Father Gabriel looks to the sky, yelling, “I’m sorry, My Lord,” presumably for the moment of doubt that led him to burn his collar. As the camera pans to the different characters we see signs of relief and joy on most everyone’s faces—but Daryl, Sasha, and Maggie remain stoic, with their still-raw wounds. They enjoy the rain for a moment, and then scramble to get containers to capture the water. When they realize a huge lightning storm is coming up on them, they head to a barn Daryl found earlier for shelter.
At the barn, they check to make sure it is safe. Maggie finds a walker in a small room and kills it. When Carol comes by, Maggie seems upset:
Maggie: “She had a gun. She could’ve shot herself.”
Carol: “Some people can’t give up. Like us.”
They are certainly a tenacious group, at least most of them.
Carol, Michonne, Rick, Daryl and Glenn are sitting around a fire while the others sleep. Rick looks over to the sleeping Carl and Baby Judith while the people still awake talk about what kind of world they live in now. Michonne seems hopeful that there’s something better out there for them, while Rick and Glenn appear resigned to life as they know it. Rick tells a story his grandfather told him about being trapped behind enemy lines in WWII:
“Every day he woke up, he told himself, ‘Rest in peace. Now get up and go to war!’ And then after a few years of pretending he was dead, he made it out alive. And that’s the trick of it, I think. We do what we need to do, and then we get to live. But no matter what we find in D.C., I know we’ll be okay, because this is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead.”
This monologue reflects the worldview that Rick has shared previously as the underlying context is similar to his “You are not safe” talk to Carl in “Strangers.” Daryl’s angrily responds to Rick’s story, “We ain’t them.” Rick agrees with him, but Daryl repeats himself and walks away. After letting himself feel the loss of Beth earlier, Daryl’s pain is like an exposed nerve.
During the night a huge group of walkers is heading straight for the barn doors in the midst of the terrible storm. This seems strange, as its not clear why the walkers would be drawn to the quiet sleepers in the barn. Daryl is the first to see them and tries to hold the door. He is joined by Maggie, then Sasha and the others. Eventually, Carl has to set Baby Judith down in the mud to go and help hold the door. It’s like your worst nightmare come true.
The next morning they have survived together, just as Glenn had said. Despite questions about whether they can go on, when push came to shove, everyone fought hard to stay alive. Maggie wakes to see Rick sleeping with Baby Judith in his arms. Judith seems to be the best baby ever. She hardly cries even when they are short of food and water. Maggie comes over to tell Daryl that it’s okay to rest now. He tells Maggie that Beth was tough. He has fixed the music box that Carl found earlier, which he hands to Maggie. It appears that Maggie and Daryl may be starting to heal.
Maggie takes Sasha outside, where dead and trapped walkers are scattered amongst fallen trees. The strange weather seems to have destroyed the forest outside their door, along with all the walkers, without touching the barn. Sasha says the storm it should have torn them apart, to which Maggie responds, “It didn’t.” They watch the sunrise. When Sasha tells her that she doesn’t know if she can carry on, Maggie tells her, “You’re gonna make it. The both of us, we will. That’s the hard part.” Having both lost a sibling, Maggie and Sasha have each other to hold on to. Maggie opens the music box and winds it, but the music doesn’t play.
Suddenly they hear a voice nearby and an unknown man, looking very clean and healthy, steps into the clearing. As they point their guns at him, he says, “Good morning. My name is Aaron. I know … Stranger Danger. But I’m a friend. I’d like to talk to the person in charge—Rick, right? I have some good news.” Then the music box suddenly starts playing.
The Road Continues
We can’t wait to find out who Aaron is. After all they have experienced, trust and faith are not easy things to come by. Yet, if they are going to join with others in Washington, they are eventually going to have to begin trusting someone. Whether that person is Aaron, we will have to see. We always enjoy Rick Grime’s speeches, delivered by the outstanding Andrew Lincoln. We also saw some strong acting from Lauren Cohen, who plays Maggie. Sasha hasn’t been one of our favorite characters, but actress Sonequa Martin seemed to exude anger through every pore of her body as she mourned the loss of her brother. It was nice to see Sasha get some support from Maggie at the end of the episode as she doesn’t seem strongly connected to anyone else in the group, with both Tyreese and Bob gone. This group does work well together, even if they do have to recommit to living each and every day.