The Walking Dead Review: “The Distance” (Season 5, Episode 11)

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What ultimately saves Rick, though, is the group’s realization that they are hanging on by a thread and that there is a need to at least investigate any and all possible salvation. As much as that’s appealing, the survivors have learned well not to look a gift horse in the mouth, because that’s the best way to get bitten in the face. Would it be delinquent not to look at Aaron’s offer with eyes open? Yes, but would it be irresponsible to not investigate every option? Of course, and that was one of the most fascinating things about “The Distance”: how do you negotiate trust in a world where there’s no such thing?

This is where the episode kind of stumbled a bit in the writing. Aaron is very assured in his story, to the point that it makes Rick look downright monstrous in his treatment of him. But then Aaron offers his apple sauce to Rick for the hungry Judith, but Rick’s not going to give his baby something that the guy offering it won’t eat. Aaron, of course, has a childhood aversion to apple sauce because his mom was such a bully with it and made him eat it. Really? That’s convenient. We want to believe Aaron, we want to believe that there are still good people in the world, and the group is due to meet people who are good-natured for a change, but the show tripped in the way it tried to shade Aaron’s offer.

The action of the night involved buckets of blood painting one of Aaron’s cars red as the survivors take a wrong road to Alexandria that features bumper-to-bumper zombie traffic. We’re reminded once again that good car maintenance in the apocalypse includes making sure that zombie parts don’t clog up your engine, and we’re also reminded that no one is safe in the world of The Walking Dead. Glen was nearly zombie chow, and given the loss of both Beth and Tyreese, there was legitimate fear for a minute, even if it turned out to be unfounded. Still, it would have been a bold move for the show to off one of its founding cast members.

Eventually, Aaron wins over the group and the audience, but just because the messenger is in earnest, it doesn’t mean that the it’s smooth sailing now that our heroes are in Alexandria. Carol acknowledges to Rick that even though he was wrong about Aaron, he was still right to be as cautious as humanly possible. Given the brutality though of his caution, it may be interesting to see in the next phase of the show just how difficult it may be for Rick especially to adjust the safety, if it exists, offered by the Alexandria community. A dictatorship is fine so long as you’re the dictator, but will Rick be able to cope being the velvet glove rather than the iron fist?

One can appreciate that there’s no pre-determined endgame to The Walking Dead. There’s no cure to the zombie plague, and there’s no big hero or plan coming out of the skies to rescue our heroes. A fleeting glimpse of Washington D.C. this week doesn’t disprove Eugene’s theory of its safety, but it doesn’t suggest he was right, either. Perhaps the reason why we felt the doubt in Aaron so strained is because we’re sick of doubt. After five years, it’s time to believe in goodness again, and the scary part of that is the genuine worry that these people just can’t easily fit in with what’s good again.