The second episode of The Walking Dead started out with a bang… a doggystyle bang, to be precise. In a move surely intended to let us all know just how envelope pushing the show intends to be, we didn’t start with zombie mayhem but rather a scene leading up to a hot and heavy bit of sexuality between Shane (hero Rick’s former partner) and Lori (hero Rick’s wife, who thinks he’s dead).
Leading up to that bit of butt to balls bumping we met the inhabitants of the camp where Rick will soon be living; this scene was a great example of how the show improves on the comic in major ways. The comic is slow and filled with exposition, while the show used a nice tracking shot to introduce the characters and give us a sense of geography. But you better try and remember all that, because we won’t be back until next week. The bulk of the rest of the episode took place in zombie-infested Atlanta.
I’ll dispense with the recap; this episode was much faster paced than the first and had more action - a few dozen zombies became redead, and there was a really stomach-churning sequence in which our heroes try to reenact the ‘walk like a zombie’ scene from Shaun of the Dead but while covered in zombie guts - but I don’t think it was quite as resonant as the first. Part of the problem is that the secondary characters (Rick met a whole group of scavengers) aren’t as well sketched as in the premiere. Morgan was a real character but this week’s characters felt a little more one dimensional. As did the conflict between guest stars Michael Rooker and IronE Singleton (that first name is not a typo); Rooker’s Dixon is a virulent, borderline cartoonish racist while Singleton plays a black guy with the reductive 1990s rap movie name of T-Dog. Their conflict doesn’t simmer but rather comes to an immediate and over the top head, and Rooker’s rant about niggers certainly feels closer to the clunky writing of the book than the premiere episode (both episodes so far have been written by Frank Darabont).
Thankfully that forced and tired racial divide only makes up a small portion of the episode; far more interesting is the character of Glenn, the Asian kid who helped rescue Rick from the tank. Glenn’s an interesting character because he’s a sneaky, smart guy who would probably be better off on his own than saddled with a whole group to help. All zombie movies are really about human conflict, and I like the idea of the conflict coming not from race or religion or greed or whatever but simply from survival styles - a guy who barrels through a situation is simply not compatible with a Glenn, who sneaks around it.
The show remains remarkably violent, and the scene where Rick and Glenn ‘suit up’ in zombie guts is easily more extreme than anything I can recall having seen on non-premium TV. Technically cable shows can do whatever the hell they like - the FCC has no jurisdiction over non-broadcast television - but most channels have stuck pretty close to broadcast standards. AMC is obviously looking to expand those boundaries, and The Walking Dead seems to have pushed them farther than ever before. But that doesn’t mean this gore has been gratuitous; in fact I’d say that almost every drop of blood has made sense within the boundaries of the show’s narrative.
I thought that Days Gone By, the first episode of the series, was one of the best zombie-related things since Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead, so the second episode really had no hope of matching it. For the most part Guts was great, but I do worry about the triteness of some of the conflict this episode. What did you think, Henri? Did Dixon and T-Dog work for you? And were you surprised when Shane flipped Lori over to get a different angle on the situation?