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  • The Walking Dead "The Distance" Review (Season 5.11)

    By Mike
    Published in 

    The following review contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 5 Episode "The Distance"

    The Walking Dead Cuts To The Chase

    “The Distance” was the first gem of season 5B. “What Happened and What’s Going On” was a solid episode but it was too much of a mixed bag in the grand scheme of things. A bit slow, no plot development, few characters getting screen time, and the dialogue was at both ends of the spectrum. It just didn’t seem to be quite there although it did have a lot of promise. This week’s episode nailed it across the board, improving on every flaw the first two episodes had. The directing, writing, and acting were all on point and most importantly, the pacing was perfect.

    Pacing is an odd topic of discussion with this show. I've noticed a lot of the hardcore fans mock people who complain about pacing as if it's some vague meaningless thing. There's always so much more to the episode in the minds of these fans but in reality that is what pacing is, everything. It's not a simple matter of slow vs fast, it's a matter of what is happening and is it appropriate for the flow of events. "Them" had pacing issues because the dialogue was weak, it wasn't engaging and it didn't make us care. The drawn out scenes of characters walking, burning themselves with cigarettes, pushing each other away emotionally, it was all over done and blunt. We got the point before the episode even began but still had an hour of tv with no real plot development to sit through.

    Contrast this to "The Distance". It took one full length episode with Aaron to get the group to the Alexandria Safe Zone. I'm sure I wasn't alone in expecting it to take three episodes of traveling but they took advantage of a new character and made him crucial to huge plot movement. Well written dialogue turned moments that are sometimes dull and tedious into tense and even comical moments tying everything together. The chaotic drive through a walker flood and subsequent scares for Rick and company provided genuine concern and a cloud of uneasiness that made it hard to see what could happen next. Pick any emotion and this episode had something to at least tease it.


    Rick vs. Aaron

    After last week’s dreadful dialogue, it seemed as though the writers put everything they had into Rick and Aaron’s tug-o-war in "The Distance". On one side we have the paranoid Rick, clearly weighing all of his past against this new stranger who had to be a threat. The other corner, championed by Aaron, represented logic and hope. Two things that the group was struggling to keep alive, Rick especially, and it’s important to remember this.



    [caption id=attachment_1601" align="alignleft" width="300]Aaron is reunited with Eric after a big time scare in the Walking Dead episode While expected, it's still disappointing that there was a bit of an outrage over showing a gay kiss on the show. That attempted rape of Carl was an awesome and totally ok scene though right![/caption]

    Although Rick took a dangerous route to finding his answers, risking the well being of his people, it’s hard to blame him for being cautious. After everything he had been through, how could he possibly trust Aaron? Nothing made the pressure he faced more apparent than his moments with Michonne who seemed desperate to trust Aaron and find that fading hope once again, even if Rick had her thinking it wasn’t logical.

    Rick wasn't making this decision for him, he was making it for his family. A family that is not limited to just Carl and Judith. Anything could happen to Rick, that didn’t matter, but if something had happened to even one of his people it could be the moment that makes everything fall apart. Rick seemed to put the weight of the world on his shoulders and he was handling it the best he could, he had self confidence, this moment was very real and sincere. The writing and acting for this scene was fantastic.

    It wasn't the highlight of the night for me though, that came at the end of the hour when the group approached the walls at Alexandria. Earlier in the episode, Rick had referenced past locations and one defining feature they had in common; silence. You wouldn't hear a sound approaching places like Terminus. Cue the close up of Rick's eyes. The look of paranoia, fear, and stress. As soon as he heard children playing from within the walls, all of it vanishes. One smooth transition back to hope and joy, back to the Rick we know and love. If he was starting to go the route of the Governor or Shane, he came back in that one moment.


    Not Quite Flawless

    I’ll be honest, I think I need to nit pick a little here to point out some of the not so great moments with this episode but they are worth noting at the very least. I’m a big fan of Glenn but his tough guy act just felt off. The writing was fine as he was given some good lines to deliver, there just seemed to be something amiss. He’s not cut out to be a Rick type character, it even seems odd when he steps to Rick to confront him or play devil’s advocate. I hope Alexandria lets him get back to his comfort zone. His scene with Abraham where he points out the emergency battery was a nice nod to his days learning from Dale and ultimately saved us from three episodes of walking to the safe zone. That bit of relief is a dark horse candidate for best moment of the night, it kept the hope alive that the show was in fact gathering steam. 

    There were a couple of cliches to point out. It'd be impossible to count how many times various characters were put in a spot of peril only to be saved just in time. Glenn in particular has been getting a lot of these lately, which not only worries me a bit as a Glenn fan, but also makes me wonder if they are building to something or just using these moments as crutches to inject some flavor every once in a while. It's becoming a dull taste, however.

    While I mentioned the nod to Glenn learning how to fix the RV from Dale, I'm not even sure if that was the intention with the break down scene. It was a nice bit of humor with the optimistic Abraham getting immediately shut down but I don't think that moment was completely necessary. It did send me into fits of panic as I quickly pictured the torture of the inevitable "travel to Alexandria" arc but Glenn saved us all from that. Really, this moment was just cruel.


    The Distance Final Takeaways

    • Let me just mention again how amazing the night time thrill ride was. Director Larysa Kondracki has one heck of a great moment to mark her debut episode, hopefully just one of many. The views switching from outside the vehicle to inside as the windshield slowly became consumed with walker guts were nerve wracking and the sudden pause to show the flare going off in the distance left me feeling completely frantic. So much was going on and it was just a great and fun scene. I could go on and on but I'll contain myself.

      [caption id=attachment_1602" align="alignright" width="300]Rick kills a walker with a flare in the Walking Dead episode Well, it WAS a waste of a flare but....that flare kill![/caption]


      Well, just let me sneak in one more thing: that flare kill!

    • I'm a sucker for new characters from the comics making their way onto the small screen. Eric was bound to come but it was hard to predict when these things will happen with the pacing of the show being as inconsistent as it is. I was glad to see him show up in this episode, it just made the hour even better. It was also a nice touch to have Rick observe Aaron and Eric together, seeing those two reunited seemed to ease his trust issues with the stranger he had been verbally sparring with.
    • Speaking of Aaron, Ross Marquand seems to be a great casting choice so far. Time will tell if he and Jordan Woods Robinson (as Eric) make great additions to the cast.
    • While brief, Abraham and Rosita had some nice subtle character development. Outside of one episode, it seems like all Rosita gets is subtle. There were still a couple nice moments I really liked, Abraham being concerned that Rosita thought he might hurt her and Rosita trying to help bring the relationship back to comfortable levels later on.


    While I might be over reacting a bit because of last week’s disappointment, I truly feel “The Distance” was one of the best efforts in season 5. Every facet of this episode was well done with only minor flaws that are easy to look past. Every chunk of the emotional scale was poked at and the plot took a big step forward. The leap from Aaron to arriving at the walls of Alexandria was a quick one but far from uneventful and forgettable. Another new character was introduced and many possibilities are on the table now that we know there won’t be a lot of traveling the rest of season 5B. Here’s to hoping this is just the first momentous step in an exciting run to the finale.

    What were your thoughts on "The Distance"? Was it a season saver after last week or are we overrating it? Be sure to rate the episode and let us know how you feel in the comments below!


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