The old adage "If it seems too good to be true, it is" goes double in the world of "The Walking Dead," where initially innocuous people or communities wind up being populated by eye patch-clad maniacs and bloodlusty cannibals. And even when our weary survivors begin a new interaction with caution, things can still go south. That's why I'm not so convinced that Aaron (and later, his boyfriend Eric) is as innocent as he (maybe) seemed by the end of this week's installment, "The Distance." If anything, our group's track record with these types of situations proves that the zombie guts are going to hit the fan at any minute now.
The two communities referenced above, Woodbury and Terminus, are the primary concern for Rick in his initial struggle over whether the group should trust Aaron (Ross Marquand), and the captive doesn't exactly give the sheriff's deputy much reason to change his wary mind. As Rick points out, sane people don't usually smile after getting decked in the mouth. And stubbornly refusing both to eat the applesauce (seriously, dude, that's the oldest "Is it poison?" test in the book) and tell the group exactly where his camp is, after Rick vows to "put a knife in the base of [his] skull" should his promises turn up empty, doesn't exactly scream "trustworthy."
Then again, we as viewers are just as trained as Rick to believe no one, and perhaps Aaron's evasiveness is a front for him being scared that Rick really will make good on that threat. As we see from his freakout after Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) sets off the flare, prompting Aaron to bolt from the car and into the walker-filled woods, when someone he loves is threatened, that tough facade can crack in an instant. His confusion, and seeming offense, when Rick launched into his patented Three Questions (How many walkers have you killed? How many people? Why?) may indeed have been genuine.
But Michonne's query about why Aaron had no photos of people was a valid one, and his response -- your magical camera store, where you somehow were able to develop a bunch of pictures, only suddenly stopped working when you tried to produce a shot of your friends? -- was shaky. Aaron and Eric are going to have to do a lot more to earn the survivors' -- and viewers' -- trust as time goes on. And as we've seen so many times before, it's not only practical, but essential, to keep strangers at arm's length.
"The rules keep changing," Rick tells Michonne as they roll up to Alexandria, before stashing a gun in an old blender outside the gates. The sheriff's deputy may talk a good game, but we'll see how much he believes that -- and if/when he needs that weapon -- in the weeks to come.
- Aaron's opening interaction with the group doesn't do anything to ingratiate him to them. He tries the jokey route when explaining why he needs to "audition" the survivors to join his settlement. "I wish there was some other word," he says apologetically. "'Audition' makes it sound like we're some kind of dance troupe." When that quip is met with stony silence, he continues, smirking, "That's only on Friday nights." When are outsiders going to learn that humor doesn't play well with this crowd? He might as well have followed up with, "And boy, are my arms tired!"
- Rick, keeping it real: "Just because we're good people doesn't mean we won't kill you."
- While deciding whether or not to go with Aaron, Daryl's reasoning seems the most realistic. "This barn smells like horses--t," he says. Good point.
- This week in Great Judith Parenting: Rick attempts to feed her what looks like crushed up acorns; later, we see her rolling around by herself in the backseat of Rick's car. Do they still have CPS is the zombie apocalypse?
- Aaron and Eric call zombies "roamers." Add that one to the seemingly endless list of synonyms. (Will someone, anyone, please just use the Z-word already?)
- The car driving into the horde of zombies, and turning red from all the blood and guts, was a nice, gruesome touch, as was Michonne picking limbs out of the grill and hood in an attempt to free up the engine.
- On the drive to Alexandria, coming up on Washington, D.C., we see that several large landmarks, including the Washington Monument and the Capitol, are still standing. Could the group make it in that city should things turn sour in Alexandria?
- Aaron seemed to have put his high-tech listening equipment to good use, picking up some serious Rick Grimes speechifying skills. He claims people are his camp's greatest resource, and they'll only survive together. Good listener, or good manipulator? Maybe a bit of both.
- Speaking of Aaron's assets, where did they all come from? He has the listening equipment, a camera store on retainer, a flare gun, a seemingly endless supply of applesauce, tons of spare RV batteries, a stash of S'getti Rings. Is Alexandria just that well-stocked, or is there something more sinister about all those items' origins?
- Also striking me as suspicious was Aaron's passing mention of a "gifted surgeon" named Pete. "I've seen him do some amazing things," Aaron says of Pete's prowess. Did anyone else get a sinking feeling at that line? I had visions of Pete making patchwork zombies, or experimenting with various human body parts. Methinks that that name-dropping wasn't a mistake. (And the heavy implication from the midseason premiere that cannibal packs not unlike Gareth's have been roaming throughout Virginia certainly doesn't bode well for the eventual reveal of Pete's special set of skills.)
Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC