This review contains spoilers
How are you supposed to trust an outsider when everybody else you have ever met seems to have wanted to kill you? This question is central to the plot of ‘The Distance’, as Aaron tries to convince the group to go with him to Alexandria. Rick’s priority is, as it always has been, the safety of the people he cares about, and therefore it is no wonder that he is suspicious of him. However, what threatens the group more – trusting this potentially dangerous stranger or passing up on the chance of sanctuary? After all, the group is still feeling the effects of having only recently escaped from the cannibals at Terminus who had promised them “sanctuary for all”, so there’s bound to be doubt in some of their minds. Throughout the course of the episode, Rick struggles with his group’s ever-growing desire to believe that Aaron is legitimate, and his natural instinct to protect them from anything that could pose an immediate threat to their safety.
Line of the Week: “The fight’s over, you’ve got to let it go. I know it’s hard after its kept you warm, fed, alive. But the fight, it turns on you – you’ve got to let it go.” – Michonne
This is part of the reason why the closing scene of this episode is so satisfying. Upon their arrival at the gates of Alexandria, there is this fantastic moment where the camera closes in on Rick, allowing us to witness his reaction purely from his facial expression. Earlier on in the episode he had been taking with Michonne about how from outside both Woodbury and Terminus you couldn’t hear any sound and how from this alone he has to assess whether or not the place is safe for his family to enter. Clearly, it is a massive risk for the leader of a group to take them into a society when the only thing he knows of it is the sounds that he can hear at the gates. Therefore, when he begins to hear the sound of children playing coming from inside Alexandria, the close-up on his eyes allows us to directly witness him lowering his guard slightly to the group of people that he’s spent the entire episode resisting, and the belief that they will be different than those he met at Terminus begins to sink in. In that moment, he accepts that Alexandria has the potential to be a very positive thing for the future of the people he cares about. That is why it is such a moving moment when he takes Judith out of the car, looks at her and then whispers to her “here we go”. Finally, his baby girl might actually be safe for one of the first times in her life.
There is such a strong sense of hope in the last few scenes that the group had been completely devoid of in the past few episodes. When Abraham sees Washington on the horizon you cannot help but smile! Although Eugene had lied about the cure, getting to Washington had literally saved his life and given him a purpose for such a long time. His interaction with Rosita at this point was rather touching, since they have gone through so much together and now their horrendous journey could potentially be over. After all of his despair following Eugene’s reveal, to hear Abraham say “we can make it” was such an uplifting moment.
It very much feels like ‘The Distance’ is an episode that has rounded off so many aspects of the group’s journey. They have made it to Washington, they now have a permanent place to live and they do not have to scavenge for supplies anymore. With five more episodes left in the season it is very likely that a new threat is on the horizon. Will there be trouble with the group joining Alexandria? Or will another antagonist appear? Perhaps Negan?!