After a couple month on hiatus, AMC’s The Walking Dead returns for season 2.5 and we couldn’t resist doing a He Said/She Said on the premiere episode.
Let’s bitch it out together:
She Said (TVangie):
Ahhh. I sit back, nicely satisfied by the premiere episode and the first thing that comes to mind is addressing the widely shared opinion that The Walking Dead has been “slow”. I couldn’t disagree more. “Nebraska” serves as yet another example of why the pacing, which may be considered “slow,” is essential to yield maximum tension/satisfaction efficacy. Case in point: the ending bar scene. But before I go too deep into that – let’s just quick summarize to find out how we got here.
When we last left our crew, they had just finished massacring the zombies, including our missing little Sophia (Madison Lintz), who has been hidden in Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) barn as he foolishly waited for a ‘cure’. After (impotently) witnessing the downfall of his entire world, Hershel retreats to “the drink,” presumably to numb the pain. He takes one of the cars (which apparently, are abundant and lying around, full of gas) and heads to local watering hole in town. When his daughter, Beth – aka not-Maggie (Emily Kinney) goes into shock, Hershel’s absence is noticed and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) go into town to collect him.
Once they find him, Hershel finally comes to grips with the reality of his situation – namely, asking the question that we’ve skirted around throughout the entire series thus far: “What’s the point in going on?” He tells Rick and Glenn to leave him alone to drown his sorrows after waxing off depressingly as follows:
Annette had been dead long ago. And I was feeding her rotten corpse. That’s when I knew there was no hope. And when that little girl came out of the barn- the look on your face – I knew you knew it too. Right? There is no hope. And you know it now. Like I do. Dontcha? There is no hope for any of us.
But Rick refuses to let Hershel go. Even with very conflicting feelings about endangering the rest of the team with the search for Sophia, Rick still has their best interests in mind, particularly Baby Grimes. He understands the importance of staying on the farm with its resources and compels Hershel to get off his ass. It’s no longer about the ones lost, but the ones remaining. Rick represents the kind of morality that quickly has been forgotten in this new world. He almost has Herschel ready to go when they’re interrupted by the entrance of two new human visitors. And this is where the episode starts paying off tenfold. The new guys are two survivors from Philly, Dave (Michael Raymond-James) and Tony (Aaron Munoz) and what transpires is a scene that masterfully builds tension to a point where it’s practically unbearable. Within a few minutes, this scene goes from a friendly round of drinks and survival stories to a straight-up gun-slinging, quick shot showdown that ends with Rick’s swift disposal of our newly introduced friends.
It’s immediately conveyed to us that these newbies aren’t ‘the good guys.’ How do we know this? Because of the developments that transpire throughout the entire episode that might be considered “slow”. We need to properly understand Rick’s motivations, and accompany him on his imperfect journey as leader in order to identify the bad guys as quickly as he does. If Rick had lost his morality during this zombie apocalypse (ala Shane) he would not have been able to act as swiftly as he did in killing these two guys. I can see many viewers thinking that Rick’s killing of two humans vs. zombies (and without hesitation) is an indication of his loss of humanity, but I maintain it’s the opposite. He’s protecting his family – and the only way to do that is to kill these guys. Ask yourself – what would Shane (Jon Bernthal) do in a similar situation? I’m inclined to say he would readily invite them to camp as BFFs.
Of course, I have to point out the amazing direction of this scene. Everything worked here – take a moment to consider the perfect pacing of the dialogue (and the dialogue itself!); the posture of the actors – how every movement (or lack thereof) was calculated to precision; the setting of the dark and shadowed bar, with bursts of sunlight peaking through the window cracks- all brilliantly constructed and culminating in a highly effective ending montage. I particularly appreciated the third bullet Rick put in the already-dead Tony’s head. So poignant and telling of things to come. Loved it. Hats off to episode director Clark Johnson. Scenes like this define quality TV.
So cinephilactic, what did you think of the ending scene? Did you think the “slower” moments further enhance the more “action” ones? And what about the rest of the episode? Are you like me and fruitlessly wishing that Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) ate it in that car flip?
He Said (cinephilactic):
It’s interesting that you mention the internal debate we Walking Dead fans have been having with this second season. As I watched the premiere, I had a feeling that the debate would arise anew because it did feel “slow” throughout early scenes, but like you, TVangie, I would side with the purists and say that this was a strength. How can we put a pace on something as primal as grief? If the show had merely glossed over the depths to which Herschel and the other members of his farm had sunk, it would have defeated the poetic nature of his speech about his wife. It’s a necessary evil that television rarely bothers to acknowledge how serious losing a loved one is, and although some will argue that it doesn’t make for interesting television, at its heart The Walking Dead is a show about surviving in a world that has very little to offer except pain, and suffering, and loss.
So long answer short, yes – it worked for me. Like you, the final scene confirms that the show remains essential viewing. As soon as Rick walked into the bar, I immediately got an old Western vibe (from the decor and the establishing shots, which later paid off in the staging of Rick between Tony and Dave with his gun hand ready for the shoot-out). This whole scene is a reminder that as frightening as the show is, the real danger is from humans. It may be a danger to ourselves (as Melissa Suzanne McBride’s Carol demonstrated in her self-destruction in the woods) or it may come from the company we keep. The juxtaposition of the ending is balanced by Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) warning to Lori that Shane is more than a “hot-head”; with more than half of the second season played out, I’m confident that the truth about Shane and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) will soon come out.
The other element that the ending introduced? One of the reasons that Dave and Tony were so eager to see the farm is because they have friends who are nearby that are in rough shape. It’s no coincidence that the episode closes on a montage of scenes that intercut back and forth between the bodies of the the outsiders and the pile of walkers being burned back at the farm. Sure, the third bullet in Tony’s forehead is a reminder that the dead will rise without proper brain damage, but in my mind, it was also a suggestion that the farm is no safe-haven. It is a strategic foothold that our people need to keep from outsiders and that the fight may be coming to them.
As for Lori…it’s a no-brainer that she’s still alive, even if we would like to see her pulped along the roadside. Alas, the baby daddy drama is too juicy for the show to resist and other characters are more expendable. But tell me, TVangie, if you had to pick one or two characters to die before the end of the season, who do you think is most at risk? Perhaps we can start a death watch…
She Said (TVangie):
I think it’s pretty much guaranteed we’re going to have at least one casualty in our main group before the 2.5 season finale. And the way this season is going – this death will be epic in proportions. I’m saying it now: I’m putting my money on Lori. I think the battle between Rick and Shane’s dueling moralities needs more of a push to be really compelling, and the loss of Lori (not from the car crash) is just the game-changer to do it. We can have both Rick and Shane blaming each other for her death and the baby, whom both will think is theirs. This also saves us from any messiness that having a crying baby around would create.
He Said (cinephilactic):
And I will go with Dale, because I think that now that he has shared the news of Shane’s potential involvement in Otis’ death with Lori, they can safety eliminate him without losing that narrative storyline. So when he’s suggesting that Shane will kill again – I think this is unfortunate foreshadowing of his own death.
So viewers, who’s on your death watch? Cast your votes in the comments section below. Remember steer clear from references to the original source material (i.e. the graphic novels) as we want to remain a spoiler free zone!