The Walking Dead: "Them" (Season 5, Episode 10)

Flabbergasted

"Okay, I get it. Your life sucks. Now entertain me, dammit." That's a tacky thought, but I can't deny it passed through my mind while watching this tired filler episode. We're in the doldrums, folks, and boy do they grate.

Think about it. We skipped over the entire road trip from Atlanta to Richmond, which surely had some interesting moments, just to watch everyone stumble around for an hour on a few miles of road outside Richmond. And that just to demonstrate that, yes, life in the zombie Apocalypse still sucks. Not exactly a news flash at the five year point on this show. Don't get me wrong, either. I like character bits as much as the next person. I actually liked all that stuff on the road to Terminus last season. But a hackneyed montage of "woe is me" moments setting up a false dawn that veers straight into self parody isn't what I'm looking for.

You know we're in dramatic trouble from the get go. We watch Maggie sit staring blankly at a forlorn world as a Walker shambles up behind her. Once he's stuck in the bushes, she gets up, turns around very slowly and stabs him in the head. Then she sits and stares forlornly some more.

Darryl painstakingly digs in the mud until he finds a worm. He eats it.

Sasha stares at some dead frogs.

The first moment of self parody? That would be when Maggie asks Sasha "How much longer?" You took the words right out of my mouth, dear.

The car is out of gas. So out on foot we go. Carl decides to pick up a broken music box to cheer Maggie up. As if anyone would want to lug around a reasonably large and useless music box. That this obvious bit of claptrap becomes a silly metaphor for hope is about as lame as it gets.

Our tired, shambling crew has a shambling collection of Walkers on their tail. That's another slide into self parody since our characters are no more interesting than Walkers at the moment. Think the tortoise and the hare without the hare. Interminable wood shots follow, interspersed with whispered pseudo profundities between characters that wouldn't have passed muster in Season 1, let alone now. Finally, and I do mean finally, Rick decides to face off against the shambling Walkers behind them on good ground. That would be a bridge where they can just step out of the Walkers way and let them fall off. You heard me. It might be logical, but it's deadly dull on a boring episode already at the halfway mark. Fortunately Sasha is so pissed and grief-stricken over Tyreese's death that she blows the plan and starts stabbing Walkers. Almost thirty seconds of action follow. Thank you, Sasha.

Nothing much happens from that point until wild dogs threaten the gang for four seconds until  Sasha shoots them. We watch everyone cook and eat dog. I would imagine PETA is pissed.

Darryl burns himself with a cigarette.

Father Gabriel tosses his collar into the fire.

Sasha scowls.

Rick looks pensive.

Eventually it rains. Thank God. The rain is the best performer on the show tonight, bold and vigorous in its stylings with just the right hint of method acting. I see a future for this young performer if, heaven forbid, we have many more episodes like this.

Everyone goes to a barn. Rick tells campfire tales. He finally says "We are the Walking Dead." It's a shame a nice line like that is wasted on an episode like this.

Darryl walks around in the barn as the rain whips up harder. It's starting to loosen the chain holding the barn door closed; when Darryl goes to shut it, he sees a bunch of Walkers. So our hopeless and depressed gang demonstrate yet again the unflinching commitment to life lurking just beneath all this banality by racing up to hold the door closed with their bodies. It might have been interesting to see how they got out of that, so of course we don't.

Seriously. We don't see that sequence end. We just see everyone asleep next morning. And wouldn't you know it, Darryl fixed that damn music box while everyone else slept. Nothing but some grit in the gears. Kind of like this episode.

Sasha and Maggie go outside to see Walkers crushed and impaled by trees that fell over on them. They marvel that the barn wasn't destroyed as well. Wait for it...

There must be hope.

I could really go for a big pack of feral dogs about now. Then Sasha has the audacity to ask "Why are we here?" Now's not the time for philosophical musings, lady. You're here because fifteen or so million viewers tune in every week hoping for something better than this.

Maggie tries to lift Sasha's spirit with the music box. It makes a snapping sound and doesn't work. Then some guy named Aaron shows up to say he's a friend and has good news. Against a dew dappled sky, that ****ing music box suddenly starts to play.

Gag me. There's never a pack of feral dogs around when you really need one.

Not that I'm immune to hope. I'm earnestly hoping for a better episode next week.

     

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