Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Them’: Why can’t we be friends?

A quick review of tonight's “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I fix your music box…

“Them” is about 5 or 10 minutes worth of plot and characterization stretched out over a full episode's running time. The idea, I suppose, is to illustrate just how desperate our group has gotten in the absence of food, water and easy transportation to D.C. But it feels like the show could have captured that in a scene or two – the opening sequence of season 3 essentially accomplished the same thing in only a few minutes – or maybe a montage.

Devoting a whole episode to watching everyone be tired and thirsty and full of despair seems a poor allocation of resources. Not only was last week's episode already a slow, contemplative and very grim episode about the absence of hope, but that episode completely skipped over what should have been a huge moment for the series: the departure from Georgia and the journey of several hundred miles to Richmond. In terms of things I would have been interested in seeing at length, I would gladly have taken a full road trip episode over watching the gang shuffle around and look miserable until their potential new “friend” Aaron showed up.

That the creative team wanted to devote a whole episode to the grief that Maggie and Daryl were feeling over Beth(*), and that Sasha was feeling over Tyreese (and Bob) isn't a bad idea. These characters have to matter, and their deaths have to matter, or else you might as well not bother with ongoing characters at all, but simply let Greg Nicotero and his team go crazy with zombie attack sequences. But the way the show chose to dramatize their grief felt mostly inert – even a modified version of Rick's monologue from the comics about humans being the walking dead didn't land – and not a great approach immediately after last week's similarly slow episode.

(*) The episode clumsily tried to excuse Maggie's lack of interest in Beth's well-being from the first half of this season by having her say she just assumed Beth was dead. If that's the case, the show needed to articulate that at least once during those episodes, so that she didn't come off as uncaring, and so the gut punch of finding out that she was alive, and then seeing her dead body hours later, would have resonated as much as intended.

That the group was saved during the storm by an apparent act of God, followed the next morning by the appearance of Aaron (will he have a brother named Moses?) suggests the show might be moving beyond the moping stage. The question is whether the series can break its usual pattern of having Rick's group encounter a bunch of newcomers who seem okay at first, but who quickly turn out to be monsters. We definitely need a change from the current sluggish and depressing pace, but we could also use a deviation from the show's more long-standing tendencies.

We're definitely not off to a great start for this half-season, though.

Before we go to the comments, it's time once again to explain how this blog's No Spoiler rule applies to this show:

1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.

2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Gimple and Kirkman have said in interviews.

3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with “Game of Thrones,” the goal is to treat “The Walking Dead” TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at