THE WALKING DEAD Season 5, Episode 11 'The Distance'

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After last week’s bleakest of bleak Them, it was hoped that The Distance would offer something just a smidge more engaging and, quite frankly, something a bit more interesting. Fortunately for us, we’re in luck.

After appearing in the final few moments of the previous episode, Aaron (Ross Marquand) plays a pivotal part in this outing. Promising our group a safe home at his community, the newcomer’s arrival brings both cynicism and optimism to our familiar group of survivors. Thing is, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his beard are having none of it, with paranoia deeply entwined in the bushy-faced and beaten-down mind of Rick Grimes. In fairness, whilst Rick is starting to often come off as quite the dick by this point of the game, you can see where he’s coming from. The last few times that Rick and Co. have come across new groups of people, they tend to end up in a sticky situation, such as the whole debacle with one-eyed loon The Governor (David Morrissey) or the cannibalistic community of Terminus.

Whilst Rick is cautious, even paranoid, about Aaron’s words, certain members of the group, particularly Michonne (Danai Gurira) aren’t totally in agreement with Rick’s thoughts. This is the same Michonne who has been yearning for more over the last few episodes, wanting a better day-to-day routine than just simply existing. With The Distance, Michonne is seemingly done with pussy-footing around or merely making suggestions, instead stamping down her authority and stepping up to challenge Rick’s presumed leader position in the group.

This latest episode of The Walking Dead is back to focussing its attention on what the show does so well so often: human conflict. Yes, the walkers were pretty cool to see for the first few episodes, but after that it became clear that the real key to the show’s success was the dynamic between the human elements of the series. After all, the mechanics of the human psyche, especially in a world that’s gone to shit and which could easily see everybody being out for themselves, is a far more interesting threat than drones of reanimated corpses. Here we get to see some splintering amongst our core group of characters, with not all of them quite as jaded as Rick Grimes. It certainly makes for interesting viewing to see other characters step in to question Rick’s judgement at times, and it also helps that this element of the episode is used to give Michonne some extra screen time.

As well as the character-driven moments, there’s additionally a few choice action moments throughout The Distance, such as Glenn (Steven Yeun) ploughing a car through a gathering of walkers or the moment that a flare gun lights up a walkers head in a scene reminiscent of the excellent Dredd.

With it revealed that Aaron has indeed being telling the truth to the group with what we’ve seen so far, it remains to be seen just how things play out from here. What would be nice is if some other characters were given just a little more to do. Granted, The Walking Dead does have quite a sizeable ensemble cast, plus it is only three episode into its mid-season return, but we’re pretty sure that Carl (Chandler Riggs) and a few other characters haven’t even muttered a word in those three episodes. Still, this is easily fixable over the next few weeks, particular once the group touches base at this supposedly harmonious new community.

After the drab despair of Them, this was an episode that The Walking Dead needed; one with tension, intrigue and at least a little bit of optimism, no matter how misplaced, as to what lies ahead.


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