Today was sort of a Walking Dead mini-marathon for me. My ladyfriend hadn’t seen any of this season yet and, as of this afternoon, I was still behind by a week. So we shotgunned ‘em, front to back: bam, bam, bam. I am enjoying this season of The Walking Dead a lot more than the previous. As always, I appreciate the focus on our characters’ ability to survive. These first couple offerings also do a really nice job of exploring some of the emotional ramifications of surviving in a world that so aggressively wants you dead.
We start with a classic: Shane appears to ready himself for the day. LOST used to deploy these things with particular aplomb, and WD pulls it off magnificently here. The slightly messy chronology, combined with the precedent set by last week’s flashback in the cold open, does even more cloud the meaning behind this dude-gets-ready sequence. Shane’s tale of liberating the medical supplies from the high school is a good one, chock full of action and mainstays of zombie fiction. And that totally engaging fiction plays out much as you might expect it to – with a loss of life. Oh, Otis! We knew ye but a time too brief! But Shane’s unease upon his return betray something a little bit more sinister. I don’t think I’ve seen actually seen that sort of thing in a survival show or movie before. It’s the old joke, isn’t it? If you and your friend are running away from a bear, you needn’t be faster than the bear, you need only be faster than your friend. Shane is a good guy. He cares for his new family, even while he claims he wants to run away. It’s a dark turn for the character, but one I absolutely welcome.
Back at the RV, our jolly band of second-stringers make peace where peaces need be made. And that’s all well and good, I guess. Andrea’s decision to live, is okay but the point that life is worth living is more compellingly spun at the ol’ farmhouse in the form of the medical drama unfolding within. Also, it seems like Daryl gets to hear Andrea’s thoughts on the subject because… well… cause he’s there, I suppose. Daryl’s a survivor – and a damned good one at that – and he doesn’t take much stock in the idea of taking an easy out. In fact, I’m much more moved by his ruminations on how bad they have it. Daryl’s always lived in a cold world that wanted him dead, why’s everyone having such a hard time of it now?
Two more quick points about the RV camp: a) Do I like the actor who plays Dale? I’m generally happy to see him on screen, but I think it might just be because I like the guy. Some of his deliveries tonight seemed weird. I’m just not totally convinced he has chops, but I do like him. Explain that. b) Sophie’s mom did some more crying.
Back at the ranch, Rick spent 95% of this episode being harvested for his sweet, sweet juices. How does anyone find the strength to do anything right after giving blood? Sit down, eat a cookie, read the funnies. Rick summons the energy to argue with his wife about the life of their only son. “Tell me how it would be better” she says, and for a time, Rick has no answer. And it’s an interesting question. As a viewer of the show, I absolutely see how it would be easier for the Grimes family to carry on without Carl. They could move faster, pack leaner and keep a safe emotional distance from everything. What snaps Rick out of this wife-induced funk is Carl’s euphoric memory of the deer. The tiniest little light of hope at the bottom of the box makes it so easy to forget that you just released all the evil into the world.
Actually, T-Dog (I hate typing that) asks a similar question when overcome with blood fever. BLOOD FEVER! What is he doing kicking around with all these good ol’ boys that will probably turn on him when the get the chance? What are they doing? And while T-Dog really just needs some meds, a good night sleep and lots of water, the question still sorta lingers: what’s the point of all this survival?
Which brings us slowly, clumsily to Glen. We really don’t know much about this kid, but we are going to explore the question “is there a god?” with him. I took a pretty strong no-praying-out-loud-on-tv-shows stance after the season premiere, and I think I’m noticing a similar theme emerging here. Unprompted, Glen tries prayer for the first time in his life. But he is interrupted by one of the good doctor’s daughters (names come in time) and they have an all-out, cards on the table conversation about God and faith and why would God let all these people die blah, blah, blah. It’s the one part of this episode that didn’t really hold together for me, and I can’t tell if it’s because I don’t trust sincerity, or because Glen’s just the wrong vehicle for this kind of message.
A similar message, but one I enjoy so much more, comes from the mouth of the doctor himself: the zombie plague is simply another obstacle man needs to conquer. While Rick insists that this is so different from the bubonic plague, the doc knows what he’s talking about. Every couple generations, someone feels as though they are living through the end of the world, but they’ve always been wrong. It manages to address the “what are we doing” question without having to drag God into it. I’m not 100% anti-God in the Walking Dead, I just think Glen’s amateur prayer hour was forced, or at the very least insignificant.
But let’s quick talk about this other set of survivors. They are clearly doing well for themselves. We haven’t spent enough time with them to say for certain, but they do not appear to be experiencing the same existential crisis that our guys are wrestlin’ with. They are safe, they have supplies, they have friends. They’ve carved out a nice little slice of order in the disorder. But naturally, Grimeses et al have marched right in and are subtly reordering everything – even going so far as killing poor Otis. What does that say about our guys? What does it say about the new folk? It’s sociology on a micro scale. And that thrills the hell out of me. If they can spin this thing into a Deadwood with zombies, I say bring it on.