TV Talk: THE WALKING DEAD Episode 1.5 – Wildfire (Meredith’s Turn)
In that way, I like the slow burn. The PTB obviously knew very early that The Walking Dead would be renewed for a second season, and they’ve established a workable foundation from which a seriously good show could spring, with potential series-long dilemmas to tackle. My problem is that a good show should do that within the pilot, not the entire first season. What has actually happened this season, now that we’re 5/6ths of the way through it? Four things: Rick wakes from a coma, finds his family, the camp is attacked and now they’re at the CDC. Next week’s episode could go a long way toward resolving that problem, but that will probably only annoy me more: a dozen provocative storylines jammed into one hour after several episodes of almost nothing. It’s chaos! The pacing of Wildfire is off in just that way: a lovely, deliberate first half, abruptly interrupted by the crappy 90s video feed and Emmerich’s storyline. It’s messy and ineffective, and hopefully whatever wacky writer decisions Darabont makes next season will resolve the serious pacing problems of the show.
But enough about that. Wildfire has some moments of real gravity that speak to the show’s potential. Laurie Holden (Andrea) and Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale) were flawless this week. I loved the matter-of-fact way Andrea points the gun at Rick and tells him, “I know how the safety works.” With those few words, she’s telling Rick that she cannot be reasoned out of her planned goodbye to her sister, that she is in a rational place and doesn’t want to actually shoot him, but that he shouldn’t assume that she’s an idiot and he can just grab the gun away from her. And the line is a tidy callback to Guts, to boot! The exchange between Andrea and Dale is equally subtle yet weighty, and the way Dale waits to speak up about Jim after Rick rudely cuts him off proves him to be both patient and far ahead of Rick or Shane when it comes to understanding. The issue of what the survivors must do with their dead is beautifully handled, because of course both Henri (Glenn) and Devin (Daryl) are right. Eventually, the characters must learn to dispatch of their deceased loved ones as expeditiously as possible, but as Lori says this week, the survivors “haven’t had one minute to hold on to anything” of themselves as they were before the outbreak. They need a day to mourn, to process, to feel like human beings. After that they’d better start burning corpses left and right and with a quickness, but I’m glad they took that day to say goodbye to their fellow campers. Some with more pick-axeing vehemence than others (Carla, are your ears burning?).
That’s right: Lori actually says something! Her exchanges with both Rick and Shane are actual, real conversations of substance this week. The writers sorta almost maybe gave her something to do! It’s a damn near miracle. The tension between Rick and Shane is boiling prettily, and I believe Shane only caves on the CDC argument because of Lori (and also possibly out of guilt for totally pointing a gun at his buddy’s head). I’m glad he does cave, because the door opening with light tumbling out onto our devastated little team made for one hell of an ending. It would have made for a nice pilot conclusion, frankly.
Last thoughts: Henri, I abso agree with you that the show missed a hell of an opportunity omitting the storyline of Jim’s choice to be a zombie with his zombie family. That’s compelling fiction that even that mushmouthed actor couldn’t screw up. And SRSLY, you guys, where is Merle? And why doesn’t Daryl care anymore? I almost miss our little Yosemite Sam.
You can read more from Meredith at www.dannyisnthere.com .