Packed with zombie action right from the get-go, this week’s episode of The Walking Dead will hopefully silence those naysayers who bitched about how the show has been too slow this season. But true to form, we still got our fair share of thought-provoking dialogue. Has The Walking Dead finally found its sweet spot that marries both character development and heart-pumping action?
Let’s break it down after the jump:
The cold open is anything but, jumping right into what will later be the climax of the entire episode: Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Jon Bernthal) bloodied up and being respectively chased by a pack of hungry walkers. Tied-up Randall (Michael Zegen) is also in the mix, desperately crawling to reach a stray knife to free himself before the walkers start to notice him as well. Despite my gripes that we need the slow burn to really appreciate these action scenes, the opening still proves pretty damn effective.
But true to form, we still got plenty of exposition before revisiting what I’ve heard The Walking Dead crew refer to as the “zombie waterfall”.
First off, the inevitable confrontation scene between Rick and Shane in an oh-so-symbolic junction on the road, 18 miles out. They’re driving a blindfolded and tied-up Randall out to the middle of nowhere to leave him to fend for himself.
Their confrontation wasn’t nearly as explosive as I thought it would be especially after Rick’s ending stare at the close of last week’s episode. He was filled with enough seething rage I thought for sure we’d get some pretty explicit displays of rampant testosterone. Instead, we got what I liken to a kid being scolded by his dad after being caught stealing candy. Shane was literally cowering as Rick lectured him between right and wrong, threatening to expel him from the group if he continues on his alpha-male path. Shane’s only real bite back was telling Rick that he can’t continue to be the good guy and expect to live. So why didn’t Shane put up more of a fight? As unsatisfying as it was, I appreciated that this scene didn’t take the completely predictable route. There is a history between these two and that hasn’t been completely lost. In a world where it needs to be black and white, we still see shades of grey and it’s important that we do. It gives depth; makes us care a little bit more about these characters and really want to understand what they’re going through. It also provides a much deeper context and meaning when we do get to those action packed scenes later on.
I’ve also got to mention some of the interesting camera work/editing going on in this scene. The extreme close-ups were illustrative of the suppression and struggle that was clearly evident in both parties. This is great television my friends.
The blatant symbolism continued where we saw the women-folk relegated to the kitchen and the bedroom back at the farm bitching to one another. A not-so-subtle juxtaposition of action vs. inaction and the carved out gender roles that we’ve normalized in society. If we make the argument that our media perpetuates certain stereotypes, what’s to be said when we follow these behaviour patterns when those representations are no longer around? Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Andrea’s (Laurie Holden) confrontation gives us a small introduction into this very interesting discussion. Lori berates Andrea for being selfish because she didn’t do laundry duty. Andrea bites back telling Lori she should be pretty frickin’ grateful that she’s adding to her family while everyone else continues to count their losses. She points out that Lori’s got a husband and son back from the dead, baby on the way and even a boyfriend. Ouch. Andrea sure knows how to take the claws out when needed. But as annoyed as I’ve been with Andrea, she’s got a point. Lori is getting increasingly annoying and sanctimonious. I’m fine that she wants to stand by her man, but she sure as hell has no right to be calling other people selfish.
Also turns out that Beth (Emily Kinney) has snapped out of her state of shock and is talking and moving again. But she wants out – much like Andrea did, and doesn’t see the point in waiting for her face to be chomped off by walkers. She tries to kill herself, but doesn’t slit her wrists deep enough, which apparently is indicative of her will to live. I was mostly disappointed to see Beth up and about. I had hoped that the zombie virus had gone airborne and she was in the process of being walker-fied after coming so close to her zombie mother outside the barn. I guess our team has got enough working against them.
Back to Shane and Rick: they manage to find an abandoned school to drop Randall off at, who continues to plead for his life. Amidst his begging we find out he went to school with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and therefore knows the location of the farm. After all that work! Shane of course, knows that Randall’s got to die if it means preserving the safety of the group, but Rick needs to sleep on it. Really Rick? Shane doesn’t want to listen and tries to shoot Randall in the head anyway. This causes a cathartic fight between Rick and Shane which ends up with Shane throwing a huge wrench at Rick (Yup. As I said, symbolic subtlety was not the strong suit in this eppy) and bringing on the waterfall of zombies. (Shout out to the great shot of Shane’s reflection in the glass right before a zombie is super-imposed. Again, dripping with overt symbolism, but it works)
Shane ends up trapped in a school bus, with walkers desperately clawing at the door, while Randall manages to free himself and meets up with Rick. He encourages Rick to leave Shane behind so they can get the hell out of there. And it initially appears that Rick will do it but, after we see him contemplating the two dead zombies in police uniforms, we know he’s going to come back. And of course he does, saving Shane while Randall drives the getaway car. Considering the scene we had before, it’s an interesting move to what it might mean to Shane’s character development. The lone walker stumbling around in the empty field, which we see twice, further illustrates the struggle going on in Shane’s head. Is this the fate he wants to succumb to? What does he have to do to avoid this? I couldn’t help but think of Randall’s prophetic line when he was begging for his life – “One man can’t make alone.”
Some other considerations:
- As was pointed out in last night’s installment of Talking Dead – could Shane indeed be infected? He killed a zombie with his knife and used the same knife to cut his hand. I was also thinking about the amount of zombie blood spatter on Rick. There’s no way that zombie blood didn’t get inhaled!
- Maybe the airborne zombie virus theory isn’t completely quashed, especially after Rick and Shane take the time to talk about how the zombie police guys don’t appear to have any scratches or bites on them. Hmmm.
- Randall has to die. The way he killed that walker shows he’s got some issues and that’s gotta be very harmful to the rest of the group. I hope Rick’s little “time out” makes him realize this.
So what did you think Dead fans? What are your theories about the zombie virus? Do you think Randall’s group is going to factor more importantly later in the game? Do you think Rick really has what it takes to survive in the world and be leader? How did you feel about the very blatant gender separation and subsequent dialogues that took place? Let us know in the comments section!