So5xE11: “The Distance”
We have come across all types in the Walking Dead universe, from cannibals to crazies, but no one as clean and downright suspicious as Aaron. The Tribe is weary and in desperate need of redemption from the foot travel lifestyle they’ve been leading since the prison was overrun. Starvation, dehydration, shelter and safety are basic needs that they struggle to meet, and what Aaron represents (peace, comfort, friendship) feels foreign and difficult to comprehend for Tribe members. Trust and hope are hard emotions to wield in a post-apocalyptic society in which individuals are often out only for themselves. For the Tribe, decisions have to be made and barriers must be broken in order for everyone to survive.
Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…
Although Tribe members are fighters, they are also isolated and weaker than they’ve ever been. Without a homebase, they have been forced to wander aimlessly across the Georgia woods, scavenging and working together to survive. With the addition of Aaron to this equation, the tension and fear of the living are amplified. Rick and the Tribe have not encountered very many decent people and, therefore, everything about Aaron screams suspicion. The road so far has been littered with liars, murderers, thieves and death. Giving up the fight seems almost impossible. As Michonne admits to Rick, that fight has kept the Tribe fed, warm and alive, but there needs to be a time to let down defenses and allow others in. For Rick, who has given everything to keep the Tribe safe, this task is hardest of all.
It seems as if Aaron has come to the Tribe at one of their darkest moments. The factions have gathered together after the prison and Terminus troubles and yet they can find no peace. The group is wandering and has been for enough time that they have not only become efficient and deadly but also isolated and anti-social. Rick is suspicious of Aaron from the beginning. So much so, in fact, he has nothing in him that is willing to believe what Aaron says; that there is a community of people who want to help the Tribe. As the Ricktator of the group, he also knows that if he makes the wrong call, the Tribe could be irreparably damaged.
While Rick is the leader, he is not infallible. Michonne and Maggie want to believe that there are good people in their post-apocalyptic world and, after Glenn and Daryl add their voices to chorus, Rick concedes to make the trip with Aaron to his camp. This is not to say he trusts Aaron, regardless of the water he left them, food he offers to Judith or the pictures he shows of his home in Alexandria. Even when the cars are where Aaron promised they would be, Rick is willing to put his family in danger in order to avoid the traps they may be walking into at Alexandria. He has not forgotten Woodbury or Terminus and what the Tribe lost the moment they stood outside the gates of those communities, but he also knows that, at some point, he must give in to hope or else it will be lost.
The tension comes from the perfect paranoia seeping through the Tribe, as they attempt to dissertain Aaron’s motives. If Aaron is telling the truth, the Tribe have unnecessarily taken the difficult route to Alexandria and put themselves in danger. If he is not telling the truth, they are walking into a trap. It is in this difficult mindset that Glenn, Maggie and Rick slip back into disbelief as they ask Aaron Rick’s 3 questions and come to the decision that the camp is a trap. Their car is lost, they are separated from the rest of the group and are once again on foot, fighting against the hoards of walkers, terrified that they truly have no place to go. It isn’t until they are reunited with their group, and meet Eric, Aaron’s companion, that Rick begins to soften.
The reunion between Aaron and Eric is touching and human, a pure moment of weakness and submission to the situation, which leaves both men open to the mercy of the Tribe. Even so, Rick tries to remain in control, telling Aaron he has to sleep separate from the Tribe before they move out to Alexandria, to which Aaron vehemently refuses. It is then that the group actively speaks up, vouching for the two men and their plan. The Tribe is tired and they desire the hope that lies just outside of their grasp so damn much. It isn’t until Rick is right outside the gates, listening for the sounds of children playing and not the same silence that greeted the group when they first arrived at Woodbury or Terminus, that he allows himself to feel hope. Still, Carol states the truth eloquently when she tells Rick:
“You know you were wrong, but you’re still right.”
Anything could lie on the other side of those gates, and the Tribe must continue to be vigilant. Yet, I have a small sprig of hope that Alexandria will be a safe haven for a strong group of people who have worked incredibly hard to survive the past few years and deserve a home in which they can feel safe.
xoxo The Collectiva Diva