Rarely when watching “The Walking Dead” do we get the chance to see the characters do anything other than shoot guns, decapitate zombies, or bash brains in with pipes. In “Them” several of the actors including Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus, and Sonequa Martin Green give stellar performances, and progress their characters further.
After the death of her father in Season 4, and the death of her sister in the midseason finale, Maggie finally comes to terms with the tragedies. When Father Gabriel attempts to console her with his Christian faith, Maggie not only brushes him off, but also renounces her faith. On three separate occasions in the episode, Maggie is faced with a zombie directly in her face. On the first, the zombie is only trying to bite her.
On the second occasion, a female zombie is bound and gagged in the trunk of a car. This was one of the more powerful scenes in the episode. Upon seeing the zombie in the trunk, Maggie doesn’t know what to do, so she closes the trunk. After mulling it over (and no doubt thinking of her sister who was tied-up and kidnapped) Maggie decides to open the trunk and put the zombie out of its misery. However, the key is jammed, and the trunk won’t open. Glenn ends up assisting her, and offs the zombie. Cohan’s performance is chilling to say the least. In this scene alone she shows regret, anger, and even a bit of helplessness when Glenn has to open the trunk for her. Fans have been waiting for Maggie to react to the events of the siege of the prison, and they certainly got a great episode of her reaction here.
The final zombie Maggie encounters is a skinny female zombie that was secluding herself in a barn. Maggie notices that there was a gun in the room, so the person could have killed herself before turning into a zombie, but chooses to hold on, and take the chance that she will be rescued. This encounter inspires Maggie to hold on, and not give up. These three encounters were examples of exceptional acting by Cohan, and great writing by the crew of “The Walking Dead.”
Norman Reedus steals the show in this episode. After the death of Merle in the third season, I honestly did not think there was going to be anything more to do with Reedus’s character, Daryl. After the events of the siege on the prison, Daryl and Beth had some time together before her death. In the scene where she dies, everyone there is in shock except for Daryl. He reacts by shooting Beth’s killer, and cries.
Daryl’s character forces him to be the constant badass that keeps everyone in line. After losing Beth, Daryl very clearly feels a sense of guilt. Whether it is because he feels guilty for her being kidnapped in the first place or for letting her get shot is unclear, but what is clear is Reedus’s incredible performance in this episode. Constantly Reedus goes off on his own to find water and supplies. When Carol joins him, he constantly asks for her to leave. When Daryl is finally alone, he smokes a cigarette, and extinguishes it on his hand. This scene appears to be an attempt by Daryl to see if he still feels anything, but after burning himself, Daryl breaks down and cries. The scene is very short, but very effective in showing Daryl’s regret, and how much Beth meant to Daryl.
Martin-Green’s character Sasha struggles to find who she needs to be, and where she needs to go after losing her brother Tyreese. Given that Sasha also lost her love interest, Bob, before the mid-season finale, Sasha seems to feel a sense of invincibility. In a scene where she sees a herd of zombies following them, she tries to convince Michonne to have the group take them on. Michonne talks her down saying that it is a risk that doesn’t need to be taken, but Sasha immediately says that she can do it single-handedly. Again Michonne talks her down. When a herd of zombies heads straight towards the group, they act like zombies and bat them away to avoid a fight. However, Sasha, in a fit of rage, pulls her knife and begins the forehead stabbing. In her anger, she gets sloppy and accidentally cuts Abraham, nearly gets others bit, and nearly gets bit herself. Michonne continues to scold Sasha, but the issue appears to be one that will continue throughout the rest of the season.
In a powerful scene toward the end of the episode, the group is taking refuge in a barn to escape a storm outside. Rick stares at Carl who is sleeping while holding onto his sister Judith. Rick gives a monologue that will certainly be played on YouTube about a million times before the next episode. In the monologue, Rick says that the adults of the apocalypse have it harder than the children because they know more about what the world can be and was, making the current status of the world more tragic for them. He goes on to explain the job of the adults to bring the world back to the way it was for the next generation. He emphasizes the need for the group to get to DC to save the world. He ends by saying that the group is “The Walking Dead.” The speech is powerful, but the writers appear to have rushed it. It seems as though the writers wanted a powerful speech to tie all the dramatic scenes in the episode together, but the meaning behind Rick’s world gets really jumbled. The hope seems to be that the audience will get hung up on Rick saying the name of the show, and forget the nonsense he said before.
After Rick’s speech, the group goes to sleep, except for Daryl who keeps constant watch over the group. The storm outside the barn causes the zombies to try and get in. Daryl runs over, and tries to keep the zombies out, by holding the doors closed. The first two people to help him keep the doors closed are Maggie and Sasha. Soon, each member of the group (even Carl) run over to keep the doors closed. Holding back the barn doors taught a lesson to both Daryl and Sasha. Sasha realized that he has a place and worth with the group. Daryl realizes that he can’t do everything by himself. Upon leaving the barn, Maggie sees uprooted trees scattered throughout the area with impaled zombies at the end of the branches. After realizing how it was a miracle they survived, Father Gabriel begins to weep and thank God for their safety as well as apologizing for his earlier sins. Maggie does not break down, but she does appear to realize the need to hold on to some of the faith instilled on her by her father.