*WARNING: This article contains spoilers*
Many characters in “The Walking Dead” have lost a loved one. Rick lost his wife. Daryl had to put down walker Merle. Maggie and Beth both watched helplessly as their father was beheaded.
In a show that deals with countless traumatic deaths, it’s impossible to avoid character development, and that was what “Them” was primarily about – how do these characters evolve to survive in an increasingly lethal, primitive world?
There is no clear answer as each survivor deals with the deaths of Tyreese and Beth still. With the van out of gas, the entire group must walk another six miles to reach their destination of Washington, D.C. Dehydrated, hungry and exhausted, they decide to ignore the oncoming herd of walkers groaning half a mile behind them.
It’s not rare to see the group struggling, but this was the most wore-down they have ever been as a whole. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) wrestle with their newfound depression in radically different ways. Daryl burns himself with a cigarette to invoke any sort of emotion. Maggie confesses to Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who later burns his clerical collar, that she no longer believes in God despite his offers of consolidation.
Sasha, however, puts the group in peril despite Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) advice to not fall into the same dangerous rage that her deceased brother did after his girlfriend’s murder. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) decides that the horde following them must be eliminated, and hatches a plan to push them off a nearby bridge instead of stabbing all of them to save up their dwindling strength and energy.
The plan goes well as Rick, Michonne, Sasha and Daryl begin to throw walkers off the bridge, but soon Sasha leashes her internal fury on them by piercing a few with her knife. Due to this, the group abandons the plan and annihilates all of them.
The performance by Sonequa Martin-Green was remarkable. Without many words, she portrayed Sasha’s inner turmoil as she grasps with the reality of her brother’s death. Along with Martin-Green, Lauren Cohan and Norman Reedus also illustrated their range of extreme emotions through subtle actions, such as Maggie asking Glenn to dispatch a walker who was tied up and locked in a trunk and Daryl’s cigarette burns.
However, despite the episode’s theme of grief, there were, oddly, hope-inspiring moments. The mystical sunrise after a disastrous storm that mangled up a horde of walkers. Carl’s music box he gave to Maggie finally works at the end of the episode, but not without a million questions arising with the arrival of a strange, clean-shaven face.
A man approaches Maggie and Sasha as they gaze at the sunrise after the storm, introducing himself as Aaron and saying that he’s a friend, referencing the bottles of water from a “friend” found earlier in the episode.
However, what peaks not only Sasha and Maggie’s interest, but the audience’s is his next question of when he can meet their leader, Rick.
As a whole, the episode was quite successful. It was not as nearly as dramatic or incredible as the mid-season premiere, but it achieved it’s goal of exploring an essential question of the series; is a life centered around surviving day by day truly better than death? This was mainly brought up with Rick’s infamous speech from the comics along with the crucial line – “We are the walking dead!” Rick’s speech was his way of stressing the fact that they, as a group, must live with the reality that the walkers now inherit the Earth while humans are the ones who are mindlessly wandering around.
For those who have read the comic series, “The Walking Dead” is headed into a clear direction. However, those who are unfamiliar with the comics are eagerly waiting to understand how Aaron knows of Rick’s group and if he is an immediate threat or, truly, a friend.