“We ain’t them,” says Daryl (Norman Reedus), disgusted that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) could compare them to the zombies that have plagued this new world. But watching Episode 10 of Season 5, you could be forgiven for blurring the lines.
The survivors are on still on the road to Washington and we focus on how three characters in particular deal with the recent losses they’ve suffered. The group are exhausted, low on food and supplies. They ignore the group of zombies that are following them, because it’d be a waste of energy that they need, if they’re going to make it to their destination.
As they walk down the road, filthy and unkempt, it’s almost impossible to tell which are the living and which are the dead, a point emphasised throughout. Two shots focus on withered zombies as they almost beg for death, while we are reminded that the fact the survivors are able to fight – and, indeed, have the ability to end it all for themselves – is now one of the only things that seems to separate them.
The pace slows and the group begin to shuffle, gasping for water. Just when it looks like all hope is lost and it’s another day gone without any food, they find a meal, but it’s unconventional and further enforces the point of how far they’ve fallen from humanity. When looking quizzically at the food in front of him, Noah is told the zombie mantra: “Don’t think, just eat.”
The blatant symbolism continues when it begins to rain. The group revel in the break from the heat and smiles return to their faces, their torment literally being washed away. But then the rain turns into a storm and once the group think they’ve found shelter, they’re hit again in a downpour of the undead. The two groups clubbed together either side of a barn door, the dead trying to get the living, the living trying not to become the dead; never before has the show been so obvious and almost lazy with its storytelling. Even that is practically prefaced in the script.
“How much longer we got?” Maggie (Lauren Cohan) asks. When she’s told the distance from the capitol, she retorts: “I wasn’t talking about that.” How long do any of our survivors have? Episode 10 is another where the group slowly plod along, kill some zombies and head off again. It’s happened too often and now it’s beginning to feel repetitive. While this might be the very nature of the series, before it was able to capture horror and suspense. In this episode, all that has gone.
We don’t even get much in the way of character development, although we do see grief handled in different ways by those still in mourning. There is nothing ground breaking here – one retreats inwardly, the other unleashing her inner fury on a horde. – as the episode is far too focused on making sure we’re aware that the line between alive and dead is very thin, all the while hoping that a cliff-hanger ending will be enough to make us forget that nothing else has happened.
One could argue that sums up the whole of Seasion 5: as we still reel from its blistering opening, this run has yet to find any definitive core, instead meandering along slowly. Perhaps this episode needs to be viewed in its simplest form and this is the calm before the storm, the group being pushed to the very limits of survival as they battle the drought. “This is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead,” says Rick. “We ain’t them,” says Daryl.
Well, you nearly are.
The Walking Dead: Season 5 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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