It’s no secret that I thought this season kind of sucked. I had such high hopes for the show going into it, which was probably a mistake, but the trailer had such promise! I didn’t expect the show to veer so wildly away from the comic series, which I love. That was a disappointment.
But that’s not what was wrong with the show. I felt that the characters were underdeveloped, and when they were given some background it was always so generic and one-dimensional. The conflict feels forced rather than originating in any real problems, which is ridiculous – if you can’t produce an engaging plot in the midst of the goddang zombie apocalypse, then just give up.
All in all, the show was weak and grew weaker with each episode, finally going out with a whimper. I don’t dislike the show because it doesn’t live up to the comic book, but the fact that it besmirches its name by association adds insult to injury.
See you next season, Walking Dead. I hope the writers and producers go to the equivalent of TV fat camp and that the show comes back superfine after our time apart. But I won’t hold my breath.
Exciting news for Frank Darabont et al.
The American Film Institute announced on Monday their selections for the “Top Ten Most Outstanding Motion Pictures and Television Programs of the Year,” and The Walking Dead made it onto the list of the latter.
It’s also up for a Golden Globe for TV drama, as announced yesterday.
Looks like I’m in the minority in finding this season unsatisfactory.
The title of this post may not be entirely accurate – can the undead “die”? – but in any case some awesome fan compiled every zombie slaying from season one of The Walking Dead into one mega-gory supercut. Enjoy!:
(Thanks to ComicVine for the link!)
We’re finally at the end of what has thus far been a disappointing season. Will it wrap up with a bang? Or continue its seemingly interminable downward spiral?
The episode opens with a flashback to the hospital evacuation that left Rick behind. Shane attempts to get him out while evading both the trigger-happy military personnel and the zombies who are busting in. Rick’s machine goes dark and he appears to be dead, so Shane leaves him behind, barricading the door to Rick’s room behind him.
After the credits we’re back where the last episode ended. The mysterious scientist welcomes the campers into the CDC by demanding a blood test. He leads them to Zone 5 where they become acquainted with Vi, the HAL of the CDC. After everyone is established as non-infected, they sit down to a convivial meal of booze.
Shane kills the mood by inquiring why their host, who has introduced himself as Edward Jenner, is the only one left. He explains that those who didn’t leave killed themselves, and he just kept working. That’s what most science-minded folk do in the midst of a mass suicide. It happened at Jonestown, too.
After dinner everyone takes a shower in a surprisingly unerotic montage. Dale hears Andrea vomiting and goes to comfort her. Again.
The booze continues to flow. Rick chats with Jenner in Zone 5 while Lori browses books in the rec room. Shane creeps up and they have the same conversation they always do where she says he lied about Rick being dead, he says he honestly believed it and just wanted to save her. Then he tries to force himself on her but she scratches him good.
The next morning everyone nurses a hangover. Dale digs for more information about what Jenner knows so he takes them into Zone 5 to show them a video of an MRI brain scan. This video shows the brain of an infected volunteer (Test Subject 19, or TS-19 – this episode’s title! Look at that!) as it deteriorates and reanimates.
Jenner can’t explain why this happens, and everyone is crushed to learn that there is no cure or even understanding of the disease in sight. Dale asks again about the clock that has been counting down, which is now at 59 minutes. Jenner explains that when it runs down a “facility-wide decontamination will occur.” I’m so glad this show isn’t resorting to a tired trope to “raise the stakes,” as a screenwriting instructor might say.
So the men run and check out the generators, which leads nowhere, and eventually everyone returns to Zone 5 where Jenner locks them in with 28 minutes to go on the clock.
Jenner finally reveals that the CDC is equipped with a self-destruct mechanism that “sets the air on fire” in order to destroy all organisms and prevent any of the nasty biological crap they work on from contaminating the public. Long story short, they’re all gonna die. They talk and talk, and Jenner tells them that TS-19 was his wife who begged him to continue research until the power grid failed. Rick begs him to let them go, to give them the choice to try to survive. With four minutes left, he finally opens the doors, because Rick made such a compelling argument. NOT. Anyway, as Rick goes Jenner whispers something we can’t hear in his ear. It’s weird.
So the campers hustle to beat their doomsday clock – except for Jacqui, who wants to die and get it over with. Why? Maybe we’d know if there was any sort of exposition of her character, but there wasn’t, so we don’t care. Andrea wants to stay too, but Dale convinces her to soldier onward. Because they have a deep relationship? Okay.
The main doors to the CDC are on auto lockdown, and the crew can’t smash the windows. But Carol happens to have a
deus ex machina hand grenade, so: problem solved. They bust out the window and make it into the stranded vehicles just as everything goes kabloomers.
And the caravan continues along its merry way. What wacky hijinks will our intrepid team get into next season?
The season’s penultimate episode picks up the narrative at dawn following the disastrous attack at camp. Rick attempts to reach Morgan on his walkie talkie to warn him about Atlanta. As the campers clean up the carnage and attempt to restore order, Andrea mourns over Amy’s dead body, which has yet to reanimate. A group decides to intervene, but when Rick approaches she draws a gun on him.
So he backs off. Turns out Jim was bitten in the struggle. The group discusses what to do with him; unsurprisingly, Daryl says they should kill him, but Rick suggests traveling to the CDC instead. He emphatically states that they “don’t kill the living.”
Andrea’s still off mourning for Amy. Dale approaches and tries to cheer her up by talking about his dead wife. Andrea puts the necklace that was meant for Amy’s birthday – which is that day – around her neck. Totally normal mourning activity. No saccharine platitudes here!
Carol mourns for Ed another way:
Shane and Rick dig together and argue, with Shane claiming that Rick left the camp vulnerable to the attack by going to Atlanta and Rick defending himself by pointing out that without the guns and ammo that they brought back, they’d have been in even worse shape. Jim grows increasingly delirious in the camper as the fever sets in; the camp buries Amy.
Rick asks Lori if she blames him for being absent during the attack, but she refuses to take the side of Rick or Shane. Shane catches her alone and asks for her aid in dissuading Rick of his CDC scheme, then Shane and Rick head out to the woods to sweep them clear of any walkers. Their argument continues and Rick tosses out “If it was your family you’d feel differently” – probably one of the harshest things he could say to Shane. Shortly thereafter Shane finds himself with Rick in his sights, but Dale comes along and catches him.
Shane must feel bad for considering killing his best friend/partner/cuckoldee, so he stands up for the CDC plan at a camp meeting. The next day everyone gears up to roll out, except the Morales family, who head to Birmingham. Morales family, we hardly knew ye. Seriously though, no character development there at all.
The caravan rolls on, really terrible music plays, the RV breaks down. Jim decides he wants to just lie down and die in the woods, an after some deliberation, everyone is pretty cool with the idea, actually. So that’s what happens.
At the CDC, a lone man records a video log and works in the lab, presumably on zombie brains. The video log is labeled with “Wildfire,” so that must be the source of the episode’s title. Is this a step towards Lost-like conspiracy theory? I sincerely hope not. If this show devolves into a cheap imitation of a successful phenomenon, that will really blow. Anyway, everything goes haywire and his HAL destroys his lab and all samples. Bummer.
The campers arrive at the CDC. Tensions rise as night approaches – they can’t get in, and there are walkers all around.
So they yell at the security cameras for a while, and finally the door opens. And the episode ends.
This episode was a whole lot of boring with a little schmaltz sprinkled in – up until the final three minutes or so. Let’s get into it!
We open with Amy and Andrea floating in a Wenonah canoe, because evidently Dale took the time to load up all his fishing equipment since that’s just what you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Now I know that it’s petty to debate the veracity of certain details but I can tell you that that is not a fiberglass canoe – at least it isn’t aluminum, but it’s still very heavy – and I really doubt that either 1. an old man like Dale could get it up on top of his Winnebago (there’s no way) or 2. he bothered with hitching a trailer to the back of his RV. In any case, this sets up a sappy heart to heart between the sisters in which they discuss how wonderful their father was for teaching them how to fish. Bo-ring.
After the credits we return to the rooftop in Atlanta. Daryl pulls his crossbow on T-Dog and Rick, in turn, puts his gun to Daryl’s head in a classic Mexican standoff. Tensions abate, and Daryl gathers Merle’s hand. They follow the blood trail into an office building and find evidence of Merle cauterizing his wound. Clever girl.
Back at camp, Jim makes everyone uncomfortable by digging a number of graves. Dale talks to him, returning later with a group of the campers. When confronted, Jim calls Shane out for beating Ed to a pulp, so Shane proves that he can resolve problems without resorting to the use of force by tackling and handcuffing him. We get a bit of Jim’s backstory – he lost his wife and kids and feels crushing guilt for surviving.
The Atlanta rescue operation turns its attention to getting the bag of guns. Glenn runs to fetch it under Daryl’s cover, but they are attacked by a group of “thugs” with Spanish accents. This show handles race relations in such a sensitive manner! After an alleyway altercation, the raiders kidnap Glenn, leaving behind their associate, Miguel.
Meanwhile the campers continue their attempts to deprogram Jim by tying him to a tree. He blames sunstroke and explains that his reason for digging was related to a dream he’d had. In Atlanta, Rick, Daryl and T-Dog interrogate their hostage, Miguel. They head over to the compound to see Guillermo, the leader of the rival operation. Another Mexican standoff – this time maybe with real Mexicans! – results, and the trade of Miguel for Glenn doesn’t happen since Guillermo wants the bag of guns, too.
They return again with the guns and the confrontation escalates until a little old lady (an “abuelita,” of course) wanders through. Guess what! These “thugs” aren’t thugs at all, but a group of kind young men working to protect the “old ‘uns” left behind. Guillermo was the custodian at the retirement home that serves as their compound, and Felipe was a nurse! What a subversion of expectation! They had thought that Rick and crew were raiders with ill intentions. How silly!
So this crap story line wraps up and the crew heads back to the truck, but it’s gone. Merle must have taken it. So they set off for camp on foot. Back at camp, Andrea searches for gift wrap for Amy’s birthday, Ed’s face looks like a crime scene, Jim has mellowed out enough to be untied, and a fish fry gets underway. Must be a Friday. The tone around the campfire is downright jocular as the campers rib Dale about his watch. However, fun times come to an end as Ed and Amy are both mowed down by zombies, and a full-blown battle results between the campers and an invading horde. Shane gets bitten, but manages to lead the survivors to the RV. The Atlanta expedition makes it back in time to help out. Amy dies and Jim “remembers his dream.” Spooooooky.
The show has been generally going downhill since the debut episode (which was pretty great) and I’m really hoping that the bloodbath at the end of this episode signals a change in tone. That’s one thing that I just don’t think that the show is getting right. The comic series isn’t stylized in the way that, say, Frank Miller’s work is, but I wish this show wasn’t so generic in its cinematography and production design (I should clarify that by “generic” I don’t mean “aligned with a certain genre” but rather “unoriginal”). I’m disappointed because Robert Kirkman, who writes the comic book, is an executive producer – but then, there are seven other people with producer credits. I’ve complained already about how this show tries to add too much “humanity,” which I presume is intended to balance out the darkness of basically everything else going on, but it just ends up being really schmaltzy and uneven in tone. I’m surprised by how unsubtle some of the writing is. We’ll see where the next two episodes go, I suppose.
This episode opens where the previous one left off, with Merle Dixon handcuffed to a pipe on the roof, left behind by the other campers as they high-tailed it out of Atlanta. Delirious, panic sets in as he tries to free himself and escape from the group of zombies straining at the door that T-Dog chained shut. Just before the credits, we see him reach for a hacksaw.
Next we catch up with the survivors en route to camp. Morales tries to make Rick feel better about leaving Merle behind, but cautions him that Darryl, Merle’s brother, is likely to be upset. Back at camp, it becomes clear that Shane has adopted the role of father figure to Carl as the two chat about catching frogs.
The tension has been building to the moment of Rick’s arrival at camp. First Glenn rolls up in the stolen Challenger, then Morales is greeted by his wife and kids, then Amy and Andrea share a tearful reunion. Finally Rick is presented as the new guy in a very tense moment. The look of terror and disbelief on Lori’s face says it all.
Shane acts pleased to see Rick, but is clearly experiencing some inner turmoil. At the campfire that night, Lori explains that she was certain that Rick was dead. The topic of Merle arises and the campers discuss how to break the news to Darryl when he returns from hunting. T-Dog is adamant that Merle is still alive up on the roof.
Post-campfire, Rick and Lori have some time alone. Well, almost – Shane lurks outside like a creeper, watching their tent and presumably wishing he was still banging his comatose partner’s wife. The following morning Rick awakes to find daily camp life in full swing. A scream disrupts the calm as Carl encounters a zombie – the first one that’s made it to the camp – feasting on a deer in the woods.
The dead deer comes courtesy of Daryl, who is now back from his hunting expedition. Explanations about Merle’s whereabouts lead to a physical entanglement. Rick enlists Glenn to accompany him to Atlanta to save Merle, despite Shane’s protests. Rick and Glenn try to spin the mission as an opportunity to bolster their dwindling ammunition supply; Rick also wants the walkie-talkie left behind in his bag so that he can warn Morgan and Duane to avoid Atlanta. In the end, Rick, Glenn, T-Dog and Daryl form the rescue party and head back to the ATL.
Meanwhile, Shane and Carl horse around in the creek trying to catch frogs while Jacqui, Andrea, Amy and Carol do the laundry and reminisce about the good old days when they weren’t fighting off the living dead. Lori sends Carl back to camp and tells Shane that her family is off limits; their conversation reveals that Shane was the one who told her that Rick was dead. She is pissed.
Ed approaches the laundering ladies and apparently Andrea must have taken some women’s studies classes in college or something because she has the nerve to get up in his grill when he expresses displeasure with the quality of her work. Their argument prompts Ed to drag Carol away from the group; when she resists, he slaps her.
Shane, in turn, knocks Ed on his ass and proceeds to pummel him pretty brutally. Either domestic abuse is one of his turn-offs, or dude needs to learn to compartmentalize. In Atlanta, the rescue crew busts onto the rooftop to discover that Merle has left – mostly. All that remains are the hacksaw, bloody handcuffs and a bloodier hand.
So where is Merle? The comic series highlighted again and again the fact that humans were more of a threat to the survivors than zombies. Will Merle become a Governor-like figure? Readers of the series might draw connections between the loss of Merle’s hand and a similar incident in the series. Either way, we can be sure that he’ll be back – and probably not too happy.