Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Distance,” wasn’t a particularly eventful episode. It wasn’t a bad episode, either. But it was a momentous one for one reason: It featured two men (new characters Aaron and Eric) kissing. Maybe it shouldn’t have felt as momentous as it did. Men kissing on television is not uncommon these days, and this is cable, where men kissing shouldn’t feel like a big deal at all.
On the other hand, The Walking Dead is the biggest show on television, and this is a genre show about zombies, where a gay kiss may not be something you’d expect to see. The irony here is that, given the show’s subject material, it should insulate them from criticism from protest groups. I mean, how can the One Million Moms or the American Family Association or the Family Research Council take The Walking Dead to task for featuring two men kissing when it hasn’t objected to scenes of violence, cannibalism, decapitations and rape? Imagine Robert Kirkman’s response: “You mean to tell me that you’ve got no problem with exploding heads or cannibals sawing up human bodies for dinner, but you’re going to object to two characters kissing? Because they are men? Even though they love each other? Where the hell are your priorities?! And you’d BETTER not get up in arms about the fact that your children might be exposed to this because your children SHOULD NOT BE WATCHING THE WALKING DEAD. And if they are, seeing two men kiss is the least of your problems.”
What’s also interesting about the kiss — and the real irony here — is that no one within the camp seemed in the least bit bothered by it. In fact, it endeared them to Aaron and Eric. Think about this: Rick is a Southern cop. There’s like three rednecks on the show, a couple of mullets between them, and there’s a preacher. And they don’t give a rat’s ass that two men are kissing. Is that what it’s going to take for all of America to finally accept men kissing? A zombie apocalypse? At this point, even Merle — were he alive — might have had his heart melted by that kiss. “Awwww, isn’t that sweet. Howsa bout a hug for your old pal, Merle, fellas?”
As for the rest of the episode? It was a transitional episode and an appropriate one to air opposite the Oscar telecast. If you never get around to watching “The Distance,” you won’t have missed much, plot-wise. Rick and his crew began the episode skeptical of Aaron’s motivations, and of Alexandria, even though Aaron showed them pictures.
It looks great! It looks like they have solar power, which means lights and showers and electric razors. But Rick and the gang have been down this road before with Terminus and with Woodbury, so their skepticism is understandable. Eventually, it would take a run-in with zombies, Aaron saving Rick’s life, and to see Aaron and Eric together — and in love — to convince Rick that they might not be bad guys, after all.
Or are they?
Michonne, who is more anxious than anyone at this point to find hope somewhere was also instrumental: An interesting power dynamic has opened up between her and Rick, where Rick will insist upon something, and Michonne will insist on the opposite, and then Rick will acquiesce. “Michonne wants this? Oh, okay then. Maybe I’ll reconsider, but WE’RE STILL DOING IT MY WAY.” Without Tyreese, there’s a moral-center vacuum on the show that I suspect Michonne will fill, which is both good for the series and maybe a little cause for concern for the fate of Michonne. The moral centers on The Walking Dead have a tendency to be done in by their own selflessness.