TV Talk: THE WALKING DEAD Episode 1.6 – TS-19 (Meredith’s Thoughts)

The season has ended, the CDC is ‘sploded, the survivors are saddened and Meredith’s confounded. Join the conversation in the comments!

What are the moments of greatness? The episode opens on a critical flashback to Shane at the hospital, trying to rescue a comatose Rick. You guys, Shane really tries. He’s griefstricken when he rather unreasonably believes Rick’s dead, and he still takes the time while being chased by walkers to bar the entrance to Rick’s room in order that Rick’s body should remain untouched. Considering the fact that Glenn’s done nothing in the past three episodes but get a hangover, I found my Team Whatever sensibilities genuinely affected. At first. Devin, your Team Shane loyalties are unyielding indeed if they can withstand his TOTAL RAPINESS. I feel like television is always trying to get us to feel sympathetic to characters who attempt rape but are ultimately unsuccessful at it, as if the only thing that sucks about actual rapists is how effective they are. These inept rapists like Chuck Bass and Shane are okay though, right guys? Shane can’t do anything right, including hear a fucking heartbeat in someone’s chest, and I’m pretty sure I hate him now. I liked Shane better when I thought he made a difficult choice to tell Lori that Rick had died in order to save her and Carl, rather than actually believing Rick’s dead just because Shane’s stupid and always wrong.

Not that I claim to be Team Rick in any form, because Devin’s spot on: Rick loses his shit far too easily this week. Literally everything has gone Rick’s way and he’s already hopeless and desolate? Andrea’s truly earned the right to give up, and she does so with style. Once again, Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn carry the episode with the only performances that really matter. (Although I’ve had a suspicion all season that Chandler Riggs will show some serious chops if Carl ever gets a real storyline.) Dale’s chronic optimism is finally shaken in the face of losing the only person that has meant anything to him since his wife died, and in the face of his disheartenment, Andrea finally makes the choice to live in a world without her sister.  If the rest of the characters had been given dilemmas as authentic as that  this week, their survival may have had some resonance for the audience. Maybe.

Devin brings up an interesting point in saying that these characters have survived zombie apocalypse for a full month and still none of them is hardened (Merle and Daryl aside, naturally). How have these guys survived so long, seriously? I mean, relative to the millions, potentially billions of people who have fallen prey to the walkers, why are these characters still alive? In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun and Ed are uniquely suited to survive zombie attack due to their affinity for violent video games and cricket. In Zombieland, Columbus has survived for so long due to his innate cautiousness and compulsively thorough tendencies.  In Dawn of the Dead, Peter’s a member of the christing SWAT team, so his durability is totally plausible. Aside from Glenn and the Dixon brothers, we’ve yet to learn of any special qualities or skills that makes the characters of The Walking Dead any more apt to endure zombie apocalypse than the rest of us, and yet they’re still trucking along after dozens of idiotic decisions and dropped precautions. Rick and Shane are small town cops and they act like it; don’t tell me that qualifies them.

The one thing I loved about the finale is that it ends on such an utterly hopeless note. The survivors get back into their cars and drive off because that’s the only thing they can do, but where are they driving? They have no plan, no prospects, no faith that an answer lies at the end of their road. They have no road at all. They’re simply moving on because staying is not an option. That’s some bleak shit, and it’s about time for this show to get truly bleak.

So what needs to happen in Season Two for The Walking Dead to become the show that the pilot promises (other than hiring a talented writing staff)? I do believe Darabont has no intention of dropping the storylines for Merle and Morgan and Duane, and I look forward to seeing  their return. I want to know what happened to the helicopter Rick sees in the pilot; where is that headed? What does it portend? I want to see these characters grow some guts and earn the right to still be alive when so many are dead. I also want to see more storylines lifted from the comics (helloooo, Michonne). I know, we were all so excited that Darabont was willing to depart from written canon for the show,  but so far the only storylines that have had any weight are the ones that have roots in the books. Although gimmicky, Jenner’s whisper to Rick gives me hope that the CDC plot was not a useless one-off: what did Rick learn from Jenner? I have two theories from the comics of game-changing information that he may have received, but considering that the whisper comes immediately after Jenner tells Rick that one day he may not be grateful that he survived the explosion, I have a feeling I know which theory is right.

I’d give the season a B, with the hopes that the show can pull out a solid A upon its return. The quality was uneven and the pace frustratingly inconsistent, but six episodes don’t allow a lot of time for a show to become firmly established. I’ve found the cinematography and gore flawless, the casting and performances generally strong. With new writers and a ten-month hiatus to sit in the corner and think about what they’ve done wrong, Darabont and Co. could come back with a bang.  Henri, what are your final thoughts?

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