For those in the audience who hadn't yet picked up on the double-meaning of "The Walking Dead's" title, this week's episode, "Them," spelled it out and underlined it.
You see, the title of the series doesn't just refer to the hordes of undead people shambling about the face of the earth. It also refers to the survivors, giving themselves up for dead each and every day before going about the business of living another day.
Early in the episode, that point is illustrated quite well with a shot of our survivors, forced to trudge down a sweltering highway somewhere in the South, strangely paralleling the groups of undead trudging behind them down that same stretch of road.
Later, Rick actually explains the metaphor to the group, in a story about his grandfather in World War II, acknowledging his own death each morning before heading out to do battle with the Germans.
The group, Rick explains, is just like that. They're the Walking Dead.
Though Darryl didn't agree, it was one of the few extended dialogue scenes in an episode that was long on the walking.
In some ways it's admirable for the most popular scripted show on television right now to rely on the trust and admiration of its audience to put out an episode like this one, in which the action slowed to a crawl, not much of consequence happened and every look was of the long, lingering kind. Short on plot and long on atmosphere, "Them" was very much a transitional episode. A long, agonizing palate cleanser after the one-two punch of Tyreese and Beth's deaths and what is about to come.
So what is to come? Well, the group has a guardian angel it appears, delivering jugs of water to them in the night. Is it Aaron, the well-dressed and disturbingly personable guy who showed up in the episode's final moments? Probably. Is he going to turn out to be some kind of raving sociopath? Based on past experience, that's what we're being led to believe. But the writers of "The Walking Dead" are too smart for that. While Aaron may seem like just another smoothie wearing a mask for his utter depravity, I suspect he may be the real deal. And the portents of this episode, from the life saving tornado to the mysteriously working music box, seem to be sending clues that after a long string of bad luck, things may finally be turning in favor of our heroes.
Of course, next week, everyone could get chomped by zombies. Or lose their limbs. Or something worse. This is "The Walking Dead" after all, and predictability has never been its weakness.