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Episode Four: Vatos

December 5, 2010

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.

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