“How much longer have we got?”
“I wasn’t talking about that.”
And so this joyful exchange between Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) kicks off another mirthful episode of The Walking Dead. Having survived walkers, murderous sociopaths and cannibals (well, some of them), drought is the latest challenge to face the survivors. When Daryl’s eating worms, you know times are tough.
Indeed, the different wavelength the two are on only serves to highlight the gulf in their approaches to dealing with their respective losses. Maggie withdraws inwards, while Sasha lashes out – neither methods are particularly effective, although Sasha does make a successful bid for the Lori Grimes Award For Most Stupid Character by eschewing the energy-conserving ‘step out of the way of the walkers and let them tumble down a hill’ approach (and a surprisingly effective one it is too) in favour of going stab-happy, despite being utterly dehydrated.
Ultimately, ‘Them’ shows everyone dealing with loss in their own way, all the while shrugging off the increasing number of signs that something very bad is on the way. After the torso-less cadavers of the last episode, here we have rabid dogs. It’s all being drip-fed in at a rate that’s slow enough to feel innocuous, but this slow build has us intrigued.
It’s just as well that something does, because if The Walking Dead needs something, it’s direction. We’re ten episodes in, and Season Five is yet to have grasped a definite theme, with the characters just lurching from one crisis to another. There needs to be some payoff.
And by payoff, we don’t mean a strange scene where everyone clubs together to hold the barn door closed while loads of walkers push up against it – besides, we never see how the situation is resolved. Presumable the undead just give up and stagger off to a less determinedly protected barn? Oh wait, they all got subdued in the storm. Silly us.
Saying that, the appearance of a (suspiciously clean-looking) stranger does pose some questions. Hopefully they’ll be answered and we’ll get less episodes like this one.