“The Distance” was a unique episode of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead episode 511, “The Distance”, sees the group yet again invited to join a community. However, Rick is this time understandably reluctant to join. Wouldn’t you be after facing off with bandits, wannabe-dictators, and even cannibals? There’s an interesting question in this scenario: How many times can things go horribly wrong before you never trust people again? The visitor, Aaron, is tied to a wooden column in the barn and also distrusted because he had a flare gun, suggesting he might have signaled others in his group.
While Aaron seems like a nice guy, so do plenty of people who might mean others harm. Other than the walker herd they slam through to find Aaron’s haven called Alexandria, most of the tension here involves these trust issues. Let’s look at some quotes from “The Distance” and see how they emphasize their unique situation. In many ways, this episode of The Walking Dead is centered around these key statements.
1. “Even though you were wrong, you were still right.”
— Carol Peletier
Toward the end of the episode, Carol sums up how many people would feel in her place. Keep in mind, Carol herself had been wrong in the past on more than one occasion. Notably, most of us thought she was wrong to murder Karen and David in season 4. Carol is capable of understanding moral ambiguity, and quite often almost seems to thrive on it. While this may seem like a condemnation of her character, we see that she always has some motive for her decisions. She no doubt feels the same way about Rick.
2. Just because we’re good people doesn’t mean we won’t kill you.
By this point in The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes has frequently been in “no more Mr. Nice Guy” mode. Who can blame him? Being betrayed by friends (like Shane), facing dictators (the Governor) and cannibals (Terminus) would make you reluctant to trust. In fact, this attitude mirrors the mindsets of people who’ve “been through it” around the world. In fact, it might be true that Rick finally gives in due to desperation and being jaded. It seems like he doesn’t want to trust again, knowing the devastation it might bring. So, by the end of the episode, he’s taking another leap of faith by accepting Alexandria as a new home.
3. If it’s someone like us, we should be afraid of them.
— Glenn Rhee
Glenn has often acted as a minor moral compass for the group, though he’s not quite as bold as Dale Horvath or Hershel. This may be partly why Glenn says this. At the same time, it almost sounds like a bragging point, too. Certainly, Glenn knows the survivors are a tough bunch, having been through Hell and back and steadily taking notes.
4. [Talking to Rick] So we’re clear, that look was not a “Let’s attack that man look.” It was a “He seems like an okay guy to me” look.
Michonne seems like a pretty good judge of people. She distrusted the Governor very early on in The Walking Dead, back when Andrea frustratingly fawned for him. Still, the group wouldn’t exist had they all distrusted each other. Michonne was herself once and outsider. It’s likely that, if the character was real, Michonne would be nervous about Rick becoming too much like his enemies. In fact, he pretty much has crossed that line in the past.
5. [When Rick approaches him to make him taste the applesauce first] You think I’m trying to poison your baby daughter? I’m tied up and you’ve already expressed the willingness to stab me in the head. How would cruelly killing your daughter in front of you in any way help the situation?
Aaron has made clear that he’s offering the group a lifeline. Although he understands Rick’s distrust and realizes he’s in danger, he does his best to plead for sanity and fair treatment. Still, it is understandable why Rick would make him eat the applesauce first. Though a dramatic moment, there is a slight tinge of humor to it, too. How far will he have to go to earn the group’s trust? Aaron does just that eventually, but the paranoia — even if warranted — would seem like a potentially dangerous barrier
6. Well, it’s hard to trust anyone who smiles after being punched in the face.
— Rick Grimes
Possibly the best quote in the episode, it likely mirrors what some in The Walking Dead audience are thinking. It also has the light tinge of humor that so often finds its way into the characters’ dialogue (though it’s usually an underappreciated aspect of the show). In truth, Aaron actually does come across as shifty, as is true of many people who seem “too nice.” While this is obviously an aspect of the series, it’s also sometimes true of people in the real world. Every single day, people place trust in people, and how they know it’s “the right ones”? A good chunk of the time, we don’t, and probably never will. More simply, someone who smiles even after getting punched seems potentially dangerous.
“The Distance” was another turning point for The Walking Dead, and likely an episode that both won and lost fans for the series. Still, Aaron did promise something different for our usual gang of survivors, as there was an actual glimmer of hope. Yes, the series is a bit like Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown sometimes. However, this episode hinted at a tone shift, at least for a little while.
What are your thoughts on The Walking Dead and “The Distance”? Let us know in the comments!