walkingdead-ts19

‘The Walking Dead’ 1.06 Recap: Countdown to Zombiegeddon

So much has been happening behind the scenes of ‘The Walking Dead’, the smash hit television series based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book, that it has almost eclipsed what’s been going on in the show (namely a group of survivors, some quite comely, narrowly escaping the undead hordes). It seems that creators Kirkman and Frank Darabont have fired the entire writing staff (save for Kirkman) and are planning to just wing it next season. That sounds crazy. But it’s still not as crazy as the first season finale.

Last week’s episode, directed by the great Ernest Dickerson, injected the series with some (pardon the pun) fresh blood. In the finale, titled ‘TS-19′, we’re back to the uneasy collection of hurt feelings and flesh-craving madmen, but with a few surprises. The episode is set largely inside the high-tech CDC lab that we glimpsed at the end of the prior episode (the one with the ‘Dr. Strangelove’ lighting scheme).

I noted last week that I got a kind of ‘Lost’-ian hatch-type vibe from the scenario. Sure enough, that’s true again this week – complete with a ticking clock that, instead of creating a giant electromagnetic something-or-other, will unleash a small arsenal of missiles to “ignite the air.” Scary!

While the very-literal ticking time bomb stuff happens toward the end of the episode, the first part has more interesting material. Almost all of the main characters get good and stinking drunk, and sometimes make unwanted sexual advances (keep it in your pants, Shane) or open their hearts to complete strangers in white lab coats. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Grimes.)

For the finale to a pretty much stellar first season (which was really more like a miniseries than anything else), this episode (co-written by Darabont) has too many apocalyptic clichés and not enough of that painful, soul-tearing emotional stuff that has made the series so special. Instead, it’s almost all action movie theatrics – running away from the computer-generated fireball and all that.

That said, there are still some interesting twists. After a painful expository video which describes the zombie plague without actually delivering any new information, we’re left with a big question mark of what the doctor (played by Noah Emmerich) finds in the survivors’ blood. If you’ve read the comic book long enough, you know what that probably is. Then again, the show has already veered away from the source material, so that could very well be changed. The ramifications of Shane’s near-rape of Rick’s wife will probably be felt long into the second season, if the series can get its act together long enough to shoot it. Hopefully, that’ll up the emotional pain right out of the gate.

And yes, we did lose another cast member: the unnamed black woman who I thought for a long time was having an affair with the guy from last week’s episode who was turning into a zombie. (While structurally similar to ‘Lost’, the show is not as strong with immediately identifiable characters.)

Before we say adieu to ‘The Walking Dead’ for at least another ten months, let’s talk about the episode’s best scene, which is also its first scene. (Unfortunately, I missed part of it. Thanks a lot, ‘Boardwalk Empire’!) We’re treated to a rare flashback, and it’s maybe the most important moment of the show thus far, at least in terms of defining the characters’ relationships to each other. In it, we see that the plague has broken out while poor Rick Grimes is still hooked up to a dozen wires in his hospital bed that his partner Shane doesn’t know what to do with. In desperation, and in advance of a military unit content to wipe out humans and zombies alike, Shane leaves Rick in his bed, barricading the door. It’s scary and real, and feels jolted with immediacy the way the rest of the episode doesn’t. Here’s hoping for more like that next season.

3 comments

  1. I thought Walking Dead started brilliantly (1st 2 episodes especially), but went downhill and was just treading rather clichéd water by the last episode. Still better than 90% of what else is out at the moment, but that’s more to the shame of the competition than the actual quality of Walking Dead.

    I think Darabont and Kirkman may have been right to fire the other writers…

    Here’s hoping season 2 actually starts to do something interesting with the events and characters. At the moment, it just seemed to keep starting new story threads then completely ignoring their existence, in favour of taking the story, well, nowhere…

  2. Lahrs

    I have enjoyed the series so far, and am looking forward to a longer season two. After watching the finale, I went and read most of the comics, I think I am at issue 60 something out of nearly 80, but now that I have read most of the comic, I think by mid season 2 the two will be barely recognizable to each other save some of the character. I would be surprised if the series becomes as dark as the comic, but I do hope they incorporate some of the nastier elements. This isn’t for violence sake or my desire to see more blood, which as squeamish as I am is the last thing I want, but the comics really settle in on gruesome survival, and if you are talking about a long term zombie apocalypse, that is the angle you really need to hold onto to make the series work.

    I like the cast overall, but the actor playing young Carl needs to be replaced, especially since Carl really dives into deep emotions later in the comic. I can’t expect the two to be parallel, but they do need a new actor. For some reason, his scenes jolt me out of the show.

    I agree Drew, the scene with Shane saving Rick in the hospital was a great scene. They already change what happens to Shane, so the scene would be a great building block to Shane’s development as a character. Since he is one of the very few who gets a picture in the opening credits, I am going to assume he is going to be around for awhile. Furthermore, it was a great scene simply for the fact we finally saw development of what happened when the apolclypse firth started. Seeing innocents gunned down makes me think of absolute panic and ultimate failure of the government and military in containing the uprising.

    I couldn’t help but notice how similar The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later begin, as well as the very ‘Lost’ moment with the hatch/CDC. Suicide is a big theme in the comic, but I was surprised to see it happen in the show.

    With all that said, I am enjoying both the comic and the TV series so far. I think the design of the zombies has been fantastic, which is integral to the success of a zombie series. There has been plenty of tension and now the group is on the run again.

  3. I agree that the finale was just “OK.” I did really like a few things about it, though.

    The flashback not only showed us a glimpse of the spread of the zombie plague. It also showed us that Shane didn’t just abandon Rick. He genuinely tried to save his best friend. This makes me turn around on my previous assumption that he’d been having an affair with Rick’s wife prior to the outbreak.

    I liked that the hand grenade came back around again, and proved useful for something other than maiming some zombies. I was wondering when we’d see that again.

    The scene where the CDC scientist revealed that the patient in the brain scan was his wife was pretty predictable. However, it wasn’t until after the episode ended that I realized that the brain samples he was studying in the previous episode must have also been from his wife. His anger when they were destroyed wasn’t just about setting his researching back. Those samples were the last thing he had of his wife left.

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