Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Walking Dead" recap: Get your guns and grab your hat

Spoilers for this week's episode of "The Walking Dead" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

This week's episode of "The Walking Dead" was, in my opinion, the most emotionally resonant and well laid-out episode to date. We began, not where we left off -- on the roof of the department store in downtown Atlanta with Rick, Glenn, Darryl, T-Dog and Merle's hand -- but back at camp, watching sisters Amy and Andrea fish and reminisce about their dad. It seems an odd, if well-acted and beautifully shot, way to start the episode. It gets odder when we pan from this lovely moment back to camp, where the imploding Jim is furiously digging holes.
At first, it seems there's no connection between the two moments. But it all makes sense by episode's end, following the zombie attack on camp that seemingly kills Amy and leads to yet another bonding moment between the sisters -- Andrea cradling and crying for her dying sister. Once again, we move from them to Jim who suddenly remembers why he wanted to dig all those holes.
Those book-ending scenes give the show's final moments a quiet spookiness and power. In fact, Jim's eerie closing line marked the first time during this series that I squirmed because of something other than gore and violence.
But, of course, a lot of the stuff in between the book-ending scenes was powerful as well. I expected the moments back in Atlanta with Rick and his crew to be a retread of the stuff we saw in "Guts," but it wasn't. First, Darryl, refreshingly, turns out not to be a mini-Merle, but a relatively decent guy. Yeah, he calls Glenn "Chinaman" and questions giving up the guns to save his life. But, unlike his brother, he listens to Rick and sees the reason in his methods. He also respects that Rick is willing to take a risk for Glenn, who saved Rick's life. Plus, Darryl is awesome with that crossbow.
The other X-factor in the Atlanta scenes was the downtown "gang," which turned out to be led by the former janitor of a retirement home and a former nurse. The revelation that these guys weren't cardboard brutes, but decent men protecting the frail elderly was a nice twist that I didn't see coming.
Anyway, here are some more of my thoughts on "Vatos":
* Kudos, once again, to that opening scene with the sisters, particularly the moment when we pulled away from them to reveal they were but a dot in a seemingly massive body of water. It was both beautiful and chilling, foreshadowing how vulnerable the survivalist group really is.
* Kudos as well for making good use of Andrew Rothenberg, who plays Jim. With those beady eyes, he's a creepy-looking dude who's totally believable as the unhinged grieving family man of the opening scene and as the seeming oracle of later scenes. Oh, and if I were Lori, I'd listen to him and keep my eyes on Carl.
* Having said that, Lori seems to have relaxed her "stay away from my kid" rule with Shane. We see him and Carl together several times, leading me to believe that Lori has either randomly changed her mind, or that Carl has snuck off to hang with Shane.
* OK, it's a cheesy cliche that the hero always goes back for his hat. But the fact that it's Glenn -- not Rick -- who retrieves the hat made it kind of funny and touching to me. In a world where so much is missing, maybe Glenn sees the importance of the new sheriff in town being armed with every piece of his uniform.
* So where is Merle? Is he really the one who stole the van? Is he the reason the zombies found the camp? I feel we'll see him again at some point but when?
* And, finally, a gold star to the excellent Laurie Holden, whose emotional breakdown in her final moments of the episode was pretty fantastically heart-breaking.

1 comment:

Bill Scurry said...

It was a bit hack to have the abuela waltz into a garage full of rifle-toting badasses, almost as if they weren't there. Was it dementia? Maybe -- the scene was only going one way before writer/series creator Robert Kirkman wrote that trap door out of the Tarantino-esque Mexican standoff.

I guess I was a bit disappointed by 45 minutes of talking punctuated by three minutes of glorious violence, which makes me a horrible person. I have to imagine that in the Brain-Eating End Times, each waking moment would resemble the abattoir the episode ended with rather than the folksy convos around the fire that preceded it. Or, put another way, maybe I don't care enough about any survivor yet to be vested in their survival.