The question on everyone’s mind tonight: What exactly are Aaron’s motives? Looks like we’ll soon find out.
Back at the barn, Maggie and Sasha bring Aaron (Ross Marquand) in at gunpoint; Baby Judith dislikes the stranger right off the bat. Aaron reveals that his job is to convince Rick & Co. to come back with him to his community to “audition” to join them. Armed with only a small revolver, his real ammunition in his pack is a series of photographs showing off his home’s defensive fortifications. Aaron holds his fellows in high esteem and hopes to recruit Rick and the gang as a worthy addition to the community … Rick answers this invitation with a knock-out punch to the jaw.
As they secure Aaron and search through his pack, Rick tells his people to stay on guard and watch for any approaching attackers. Despite his glass jaw, Aaron shows some stones (and some smarts) by avoiding Rick’s direct questions. Rather than answer how many of his people are with him in the woods, he butters up the group some more, telling them that they’re hardened survivors that would be vital to their community. Rick presses him for more and is unconvinced by Aaron’s story. Unfortunately, the rest of the group is tired of wandering; they want to at least verify everything Aaron’s said so far. Abraham, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, and Rosita go to check things out, while Daryl covers the area outside the barn. The rest of the group pairs off to defend the barn. Rick stays with Aaron, who only has an hour to live should the others not return.
On their long walk, Michonne and Glenn are having the same conversation that fans of the show are: Why would Aaron’s crew want to recruit them if they’ve seen some of the awful things they’ve done? As far as Michonne’s concerned, they’ve done a fair share of good as well. Unbeknownst to them, someone is watching from behind a vehicle out in a field. When they happen upon Aaron’s convoy, Rosita and Abraham take out two Walkers (or as Aaron calls them, Roamers) that stumble out of the woods, though Abraham’s a bit unsteady still.
Back at the barn, Aaron tries to offer up some homemade applesauce to quiet Baby Judith, whose cries could call the Roamers at any minute. Wisely, Rick tries to get the man to try it first, but Aaron declines. Soon, they’re rejoined by the rest of his team, who have raided Aaron’s RV of all of its canned goods. Rick’s still not convinced that this camp is the place for them, but Michonne wins him over. Aaron wants to be the big bus driver to get everyone back home, but Rick and Michonne aren’t having it. They sidestep every suggestion that Aaron makes, but is the stranger clever enough to have predicted this? After all, he claims to have done this quite a few times already.
Rich and Michonne have a moment outside the barn where they go back over their first encounters at Woodbury and Terminus. Rick tries to explain that even if this new town looks okay from the outside, he may never be sure enough to commit to bringing his family within its walls no matter how safe they seem to be. (Can you blame him?)
The gang hits the road at night, taking the alternate route north. Rick finds a bunch of license plates in the car’s glove compartment. Aaron, of course, has an answer for that as well; seems he’s collecting all 50 states to put on the wall of his house. Michonne picks up on the fact that none of Aaron’s pictures have any of his people in it. Suspicious once again, she asks him the three questions: How many Walkers have you killed? How many people? Why? Distracted by Aaron’s answers – and the fact that they find a long-range listening device – Glenn doesn’t see a vast horde of Walkers in the road until it’s far too late. He plows through, unable to stop since the RV is following behind them. The windshield runs red with blood and gore, and they stop the car. The RV is nowhere in sight, the car won’t start because it’s jammed with Walker parts, and the Walkers are closing in. A flare goes up near a distant water tower, and Aaron makes a run for it.
Rick, Glenn, and Michonne fight their way through the darkened forest but Glenn soon gets separated (and nearly bitten). He happens upon Aaron being attacked by a Walker and almost leaves the man to his fate, but intervenes at the last second and frees the stranger’s hands. Aaron tries to convince Glenn to stick together, reminding Glenn of his own words that he overheard while spying on them. They both show up just in time to save Rick and Michonne from an encroaching pack of Walkers.
The foursome makes their way north on 16 toward the water tower where they meet up with Daryl and the rest of the gang. Rick & Co. are all present and accounted for, but Aaron’s worried about a man named Eric. Like, really worried, as in “Eric is his boyfriend” kind of worried. Eric, who suffered a broken ankle while trying to escape Roamers, may be the first of the survivors in this show to admit just how often they do stupid things, so I automatically like him. He also shows Aaron a license plate he found for him, which would be great if they hadn’t left Aaron’s collection back in the Walker-covered car in the woods.
Later, Aaron thanks the rest of them for helping to save Eric. He’s starting to win the crew over, but Rick is still concerned for the safety of his people. They’re not at their camp yet, so Rick’s not taking any chances. Glenn talks him down despite his reservations.
The next morning, the RV and another car are back on the road to Alexandria. (Apparently Aaron’s camp has a pretty good surgeon who might be able to help Noah with his gimpy leg.) As the gang rounds a bend on the highway, they see Washington D.C. and its famous monuments not too far off in the distance. While they’re about halfway there, Abraham’s a bit worried about the RV’s battery running out of juice … which is exactly what happens. Good thing Glenn knows a thing or two about living in an RV; he finds the spare battery right where he expects it to be.
In the bright light of day, Michonne’s trying to convince Rick that his fight’s finally over and that it’s okay to let it go. Rick recalls a similar notion told to him by Bob. Though he seems convinced by Michonne’s words, he stops to plant a handgun labeled with a J in a blender in a junkpile by an abandoned house (ya know, just in case). They roll up to the walls of Alexandria … and hear the sound of children playing on the other side. (Weird, since Aaron previously said that the Walkers wouldn’t be able to hear Judith’s cries through their thick steel walls, didn’t he?) Baby Judith now seems to approve of the new digs in a scene which ends a relatively upbeat episode.
The title of tonight’s episode, “The Distance,” conjures up a number of discussions concerning The Walking Dead. The least interesting of these is probably the physical distance the group needs to travel to get to Alexandria, and ultimately to Washington, D.C. More interesting to me is an overall idea of distance, not only the mileage that Rick & Co. have put on their shoes and their tires, but on their souls as well. They’ve lived through Hell and have yet to find a way out of the other side of it. This journey has put a tremendous strain on their humanity, and while they’ve done some terrible things to survive, their actions have (mostly) been necessary evils. Is their arduous trek finally at an end? Only time will tell. (“And they lived happily ever after!” Yeah, I don’t think so.)
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television
(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)
Aaron: “I wish there was another word. Audition makes it sound like we’re some kind of a dance troupe. That’s only on Friday nights.” ::crickets::
Michonne: “Just so we’re clear, that wasn’t a ‘Let’s attack that man’ look…”
Aaron: “Hell of a right cross there, Rick.”
Aaron reminds me of Ben Linus’ introduction from Lost.
Rick: “I don’t trust anybody who smiles after getting punched in the face.”
Aaron: “I hate applesauce.” This guy’s got an answer for everything, doesn’t he?
If you lived through Woodbury and Terminus, how anxious would you be to take Aaron’s word? Now consider that you’re responsible for your family and entire group of co-survivors…
Rick’s flare gun kill might be my favorite of the season. Walk-O-Lantern.
Eric: “Hi! I’m Eric!” Rick: “…Rick.”
Carol: “Even though you were wrong, you’re still right.”