Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Walking Dead" recap: Smear campaign

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

Though I watched tonight's episode of "Walking Dead" (aptly titled "Guts") on a preview disc a few weeks ago, I wanted to watch the final air version, mainly out of curiosity. I was wondering if the series had done any surgery to this week's most gruesome scene, in which zombie apocalypse survivor Rick Grimes  (Andrew Lincoln) and fellow survivors hack up an undead "walker" and smear themselves in his entrails to make themselves smell enough like zombies to blend in with the creepy creatures. With its intestine necklaces and loving closeups of zombie innards, the scene struck me as a smidge too graphic for a basic cable show. Yes, I am aware that AMC is the same network that showed a man getting his foot obliterated with a riding mower on "Mad Men." But the smearing scene left that bloody moment in the dust, so I wondered if it would be toned down for the final air version.
Admittedly, I don't remember exactly how the original version of the "Walking Dead" scene played out, but the gory stuff I remember from my first viewing of this moment -- the hacking open of poor Wayne Dunlap; the draping of Wayne's intestines on Rick and his new buddy Glenn (Steven Yeun); Rick's pragmatic declaration that they needed "more guts"  -- was still there. It all prompted the exact same response I had watching the moment the first time around: disgust, mixed with morbid fascination.
It's possible something was cut from the scene, but I can't say the shock value of the moment was significantly diluted. That's good, because the rest of "Guts" was kind of standard horror/thriller stuff. Rick meets up with a group of racially diverse fellow survivalists, whose numbers include a sad-eyed blonde (Laurie Holden, who admittedly plays these roles quite well), an angry redneck (Michael Rooker) and various other types. They, of course, are trapped in a department store. They, of course, start to turn on each other when it looks like they won't be able to find a way out. And, of course, thunder rumbles in the distance, indicating both the literal and figurative storm headed their way.
We've seen it all before but, as with the thriller stuff in the "Walking Dead" pilot, it's well done. The scene where gut-smeared Rick and Glenn attempt to blend in with the zombie masses is genuinely suspenseful. And, thanks to Holden, the obligatory scene where her tough character bonds with Rick is adequately affecting. I still am a little unclear about why, exactly, Rick's wife is canoodling with his partner so soon after her husband's presumed death. But, otherwise, I'm enjoying "Walking Dead" enough to stick with it. I don't know if these recaps will be a regular thing -- it all depends on how much feedback I get.
So what do you think of "The Walking Dead"?


Bill Scurry said...

Were it not for sumbitch roles like this, I think we all know that Michael Rooker would instead have been mowing lawns years ago. He owns this class of bit part, and casting agents know it well.

I can't say I love this show, and I don't know what's going to make this series last in the long run, but last night's ep was fun and gory. But, like you said, it's nothing that hasn't been seen in other horror movies before. Also, the pretending-to-be-dead bit was lifted from Edgar Wright's "Shawn of the Dead," almost wholesale.

I hope there are some curveballs down the road that keep this from being just a gory soap opera.

IScreen said...

Yes, but the "Shaun" bit didn't feature Simon Pegg and co. wearing jewelry made of human body parts. So "Walking Dead" gets points for pushing the gore envelope.
Yeah, Rooker is fresh off a role as a menacing kidnapper on "Burn Notice." The man oozes barely repressed rage. Were he actually your lawn mower, you'd worry daily about him snapping and coming after you with some hedge clippers.