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Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5, Episode 10, ‘Them’: Miracle Barn

Review: 'The Walking Dead' Season 5, Episode 10, 'Them': Miracle Barn

Whose Episode Is It?

Everyone’s here, but the character stuff this episode is for
the three characters hit hardest by the recent losses — our resident Mourners in
Chief: Maggie, Daryl, and Sasha.

Achievement in Grossness 

Daryl pulls a zombie’s skullcap off with his bare hands at
one point, but this episode’s mostly dedicated to wallowing in misery.

How Far is Too Far?

Normally this section is for the characters’ actions
becoming questionable in the name of survival, but for this week it’s going to
refer to the show itself. After last
week’s
slow, grim, padded episode, low and behold this week is even
slower, grimmer and more padded. If last week felt like 40 minutes of material
stretched to an hour, this week feels like 20. 

The first half of
“Them” sees the group struggling to find food and water; when they’re
not searching, they’re staring into the distance, looking miserable. Things
pick up a bit as the episode progresses, but the first half is a chore. Even the minor plot details are dark, like a bound and
gagged zombie found in the trunk of a car, or a pack of wild dogs that are
summarily executed by Sasha. Once the dogs are dead, Rick sighs, gets up and we
cut to everyone chowing down on dog meat. Fun! Those who consider “The
Walking Dead” to be little more than misery porn can certainly point to
the first half of this episode as strong evidence for their stance.

A Shred of Humanity

Of course the most miserable Ricketeers are Daryl and
Maggie, still mourning Beth, and Sasha, mourning Tyreese. It’s certainly
necessary for these characters to deal with their grief, but the way the episode
goes about it is extremely perfunctory, and since it’s the focus of the entire
episode, it feels like filling in checkboxes rather than a fully fleshed-out
story. 

Each of these characters is handling their grief in different ways (Sasha is angry,
Daryl is bottling it all up, Maggie is wondering what the point of it all is),
and each of them in turn are given a pep talk by one of the other Ricketeers.
It’s sort of interesting that while Daryl and Maggie get caring responses from
their loved ones (Carol and Glenn, respectively), poor Sasha just gets a
“get over it” lecture from Michonne. It really shows how Sasha has
lost those closest to her, and might grow more alienated from the group.
(Further evidence: when Abraham tells Sasha “You’re with friends,”
she immediately responds with “We’re not friends.”) Not much is made
of it in this episode, but it’s an interesting narrative string to be explored
down the line.

And then our mourners basically clear their emotional
hurdles by preventing a horde of zombies from breaking into the barn where the
team takes shelter. First Daryl, then Maggie, then Sasha all notice what’s
happening and silently pitch in to shore up the doors. None of them call for
the others (I guess because they all knew they were the focus of this episode and
didn’t want anyone else to undermine their catharsis). Everyone else does wind
up pitching in, but the fact that no one takes a second to shout “Hey,
we’re under attack!” strains the bounds of both credulity and basic common
sense. I suppose that those who suffered through Season 2 should know by now that
when barns show up on “The Walking Dead,” poor narrative choices
follow.

This Week In God

Which brings us to the religious streak running through this
episode. It’s little things at first, like Father Gabriel burning his priest’s
collar in the fire and then immediately apologizing when the miraculous
rainstorm starts, or Maggie making note of a Holy Bible next to the lone zombie
in the barn. But then things get particularly crazy when the storm washes the zombies
away. The forest all around the barn seems to have been leveled, trees and all,
but the barn remains unscathed. It’s so unbelievable, it’s funny rather than
miraculous. Sasha points out how unbelievable it is, but that doesn’t make it
less unbelievable. 

You could maybe chalk up all these things to coincidence
rather than a planned religious theme, but then a guy named Aaron shows up and
says he’s got good news, which apparently causes Carl’s broken music box to
magically start playing. It’s as subtle as, well, “The Walking Dead”
usually is. 

It’s interesting, because save for Father Gabriel, religion isn’t
brought up that much on “The Walking Dead,” and it wouldn’t be surprising
if a character turned to religion, considering the extreme circumstances the characters
find themselves in. All the hints this episode might be pointing to something
like that coming down the line, or maybe it was just some hand-waving to clear
out the zombies without a fight. Regardless, hopefully Aaron’s good news is
that something happens next week.

Grade: C

READ MORE: ‘Walking Dead’ Reviews: Season 5, Episode 9, ‘What Happened and What’s Going On’

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