With only five episodes to go before the extended ninety-minute finale, The Walking Dead has got a lot of ground to cover if it means to deliver one last satisfying arc for the season. Not surprisingly, “The Distance” picks up the pace from last week’s meandering “Them”, immediately setting the stage for a new status quo, potential tribe, and couple of allies. I mean “couple” in the biblical sense, of course, not that Aaron and Eric’s sexuality has got anything to do with the plot. I just wanted to see if anyone would object to my calling homosexuality “biblical”.
Perhaps a more contentious expression in regard to this episode would be, “pick up the pace”. After all, “The Distance” devotes its entire runtime to getting our heroes at Alexandria’s gates, an endeavour that would’ve taken the span of a commercial break in previous seasons of The Walking Dead. I’m not complaining, mind you. Given how many times Rick and the gang have been confronted with the prospect of finding a new home, I, for one, appreciate the writers coming up with a fresh angle on familiar tropes.
For instance, “The Distance” sets up the notion that Michonne will be the one to get her hopes up this time around, letting her guard down bit by bit just in time for the other shoe to drop. In light of her usually less than sunny disposition, the katana-wielding badass may seem an odd candidate for this sort of story. It occurs to me, though, she’s the only character on The Walking Dead whose intuition is always rewarded, having acquired her new family by trusting her instincts not just in regard to Rick but also the Governor and Andrea before that. As such, who’s to argue if her gut now says Alexandria’s the place to be?
Having mentioned that, I must confess to leaning more on Rick’s side of the argument in “The Distance”, even though his scheme nearly got everyone killed. In the age of perfect TV super-heroes and know-it-all primetime detectives, I find it refreshing to have our protagonist muck things up with the best laid plans. More and more on The Walking Dead, we’re discovering that what makes Deputy Grimes a great leader isn’t his strategic reasoning but his willingness to hear out his fellow tribesmen and follow their counsel. Lest we forget, the man wanted nothing to do with Alexandria or its shifty representative.
Simply put, Aaron seems too good to be true. His remarkable intelligence and steadiness under pressure could make him an invaluable asset, sure, or possibly one of the most dangerous foes our protagonists have ever faced. Consider the standstill in which he and Rick find themselves in the first half of “The Distance”. His stated reasons for keeping Alexandria’s location secret feel iron clad to me, but they do little to appease our hero’s suspicions of a trap. The Walking Dead has devoted much of this season to exposing different survival skills, and here we have yet another talent that would’ve otherwise slipped my mind: negotiation.
Incidentally, this may be Glenn’s gift as well. Aaron developed his diplomatic proficiency providing aid in impoverished nations (I love that detail), but our favourite Korean pizza boy seems to have been born with the ability to sway people to his line of thinking. In “The Distance”, he convinces Rick to give their new acquaintances a chance by making it a moral imperative. His simple argument, that how we respond to the world matters, encapsulates so much of what I love about The Walking Dead. “Even when you’re wrong, you’re right,” warns Carol. The thing is, had they not kept an open mind, our heroes would have been wrong even if they’d been right.