Now that’s The Walking Dead I know and love, NOT The Walking Dead that is annoying and I have a love/hate relationship with. If you want to know why Jim and I were so hard on the show last week, it’s because we know it is capable of generating this level of drama and tension, and when it falls short, it is profoundly disappointing.
Tonight we found characters behaving in consistent, believable ways, with clear goals of primary importance, making tough calls and doing what it takes to survive.
As a father of a little boy, a lot of this episode was nightmare fuel for me. Literally, in some cases; I’ve had a few nightmares where my physical strength or stamina is required to save someone I love and I just can’t hang on or run anymore. I thought Andrew Lincoln did a fantastic job of portreying that strain and struggle, and between that and the bookmarking (and incredibly dramatically effective scene of Lori having to break the news that Carl’s daddy had been shot) I don’t think my stomach unclenched from the show opening until the credits ran.
This episode was so good, I’m actually going to have trouble coming up with a survival critique for Friday! Well, let’s not go too crazy. Even in an excellent TWD hour, I can count on the survivors to make two or three idiot mistakes or decisions.
My god, the scene where the doctor dug the slug fragments out of Carl’s belly was harrowing. And then the vet intoning “that’s one of six” just was crushing. I thought the arm amputation from Master and Commander was the high water mark for surgical child squickiness, (setting aside any trash like Hostel or the Saw series, I don’t watch them) but this one left the previous one far out to sea. Just very tough to watch.
I also found myself liking most of the new characters. Even the stereotypical fat redneck hunter that caused the latest disaster in the first place was impossible to hate; he was so contrite and stand up in his willingness to lead the daring (suicidal) night time raid on the FEMA shelter was heroic and noble, and the vet’s patience and understanding with Lori even when she was in full out psycho uber bitch mama bear mode was amazing. Even more amazing when you think about the personal loss he’s suffered in all this.
I also liked T-Dog’s rant against The Man. Even before running a high fever, I think it would be unrealistic for the show to totally ignore the impact of race, especially being the lone black guy in a group of rednecks (especially when you have, as he astutely points out, two good ol’ boy sherriffs and one guy riding a motorcycle with Nazi imagery emblazeoned on the fuel tank in said group of rednecks), and I’m glad to see they are going there and addressing it.
While we’re on the subject, I love how they are continually playing with our expectations verses observed behavior when it comes to Darryl. It might be just because he’s my favorite character, but I love how down to earth, “Zen”, and genuinely caring for the group he is. Contrast him freely giving up his private stash of drugs verses Sawyer’s behavior in the early going of “Lost”. The characters are broadly written similarly as anti-heroes, but clearly Darryl has his heart of gold buried much closer to his surface.
Lori first seeing Carl was another very effective scene. I hope the writers can use this as a springboard to find the emotional centers of these characters, because it’s not like they can keep endangering children each week. And the actual raid of the FEMA shelter setup at the high school was smart and tensely written. I liked their tactics and strategy, and I was mad that the show ended where they did, which is usually a good sign.
I had a few quibbles; I continue to not like Carol, and they seem to make Andrea lose a few IQ points every so often just so she can be endangered by a zombie. I don’t know why they don’t use Carol in that role; althought I guess I don’t buy that Carol would stand up to a zombie assault for even one second, so I guess I answered my own question. Well played, writers. Well played. But aside from these very minor issues, this was a solid episode, one that we can all build on.
So that’s what I thought? How about you? Send us your take via email, Facebook, or Twitter. We’ll read as much as we can on air during our podcast, which records and is released Tuesday evening. Be looking for an article or two from Jim this week, as well as my weekly Survival Review which comes out Friday.