A Double Barrelled Shotgun of Walking Dead

THE WALKING DEAD: S1E2: “Guts”

THE WALKING DEAD: S1E3: “Tell it to the Frogs”

Hello. I’ve been remiss in my Walking Dead recap duties because zombies ate my brain. My apologies; I got most of it back.

Here’s how a zombie might respond if you asked him his opinion of episodes 2 and 3:

Q: “So, shambling braineater, what did you think about episode 2 of The Walking Dead?”

Z: “Uuuurrrrrrrghhhhhhh…..”

Q: “I’m sorry. Your bottom jaw appears to have fallen off. Anyway, what did you think about episode 3?”

Z: “BRAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIINNS!!!” /lunges at hapless questioneer in an attempt to consume brain matter.

Let me translate. Epsiode 2, not so great, episode 3, much better. There was nothing especially bad in episode 2, but it really lacked the minimalist brilliance of the first episode. Not a surprise, really, considering Rick runs across a group of survivors. It seemed like a lot of people to introduce all at once, though it makes sense to do so if your first season only has six episodes, but still it felt a little jarring. The character of Merle was kind of disappointing and cardboard cutout-like; of course the redneck hick is an angry, unstable, violent, unrepentant racist! But if he were so unstable to stand on the roof of the department store and shoot at zombies, thereby attracting all the shamblers in a four block radius to converge on the building, how exactly are we supposed to believe that he’s lived this long taking risks like that? Anyway, the rest of the episode is pretty standard. Rick and another survivor smear themselves with the guts of a dead man so they can sneak out of the store and grab a few abandoned vehicles for a quick transport out of danger (though they have to wind up running from a pack of zombies when a freak, 2 minute rainstorm washes away their viscera-disguise; can you say contrived?). Rick saves the day and gets everyone out safely, except Merle who’s left on the roof of the department store, handcuffed to a metal pipe. There was one part where Rick puts an axe through a zombie’s head, which was pretty cool.

I found episode 3 to be generally better and more interesting. It opens with a scene of Merle on the department store roof, screaming and pleading to Jesus to save him as zombies try to batter down the roof-access door and eat him alive. Despite Merle’s rather wooden and one-dimensional characterization from the last episode, it’s a really effective and horrifying scene. Meanwhile, Rick and the survivors return to the camp, where Rick is reunited with his wife and son Carl, in a scene that is really well done and surprisingly touching. We learn that Shane, Rick’s old partner and apparent leader of the survivors, told Rick’s wife that Rick was dead. Shane had been fashioning his own domestic paradise, acting as pseudo husband to Mrs. Grimes, and surrogate father to young Carl, but now that the real thing is back, he’s going to be pushed aside, and we can tell this will make for big problems in the future. Indeed, Shane loses control of himself near the end of the episode and beats one wife-beating survivor to a pulp; sure, the jerk deserved it for whacking his wife around, but the excessiveness of it shows that Shane can’t control himself. Contrast this to Rick, who is always the model of restraint (unless he’s putting an axe through a zombie’s head). The episode ends with Rick and a handful of other survivors (including Merle’s longbow wielding brother) returning to Atlanta, ostensibly to save Merle, but also to retrieve Rick’s bag of guns and short wave radio. They make it to the roof of the store where they left Merle, and all they find is a bloody hacksaw, and a severed human hand. What a wonderfully brutal, horrific way to end the episode.

I’m looking forward to Sunday. Only 3 episodes left.

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