Halfway into it’s unreasonably short first season, The Walking Dead is now 3 for 3, and on it’s way to being the best series of 2010. Last night’s episode “Tell It to the Frogs” delivered a solid hour of quality tv. We got some insight into how the survivor camp works and a little more insight into what lead to the strain on Lori and Rick’s marriage. This series is getting very good at revealing their characters traits through story and action, characters dont have Grey’s Anatomy’s style monologues (well… Merle), we learn who they are by the way they handle even the most menial tasks.
We started this week with Merle Dixon, still handcuffed to the roof. He was alone, scared and dehydrated. Lamenting his life, praying, as the Geeks tried to push through the chained door, using his belt to try and reach the tools (revealed to be Dale’s tools) that got knocked over in the previous episode. Now, when the tool box got knocked over last week, my first thought was; “He’s gonna SAW off his hand, SAW STYLE”, but this week it didnt even occur to me that he could reach it or that… well, we’ll get to there…
Back in the Hills, Shane was ejoying a nice family moment with his surrogate family. It was cut short when the alarm from Glenn’s stolen car came into earshot. They were back. Glenn pulled up to a non to plussed Shane and disabled the alarm (they neednt worry, the sound bounced off the hills, Geeks can’t pinpoint it.) Now that Glenn was back the white truck was not far behind. We knew what was coming, those of us invested in the characters and their fates had time to emotionally prepare.
The white truck was like the dove Noah sent from the ark to find land, and it returned with a whole lot more than an olive branch. While Amy was reunited with Andrea, and Morales with his family, Lori lead Carl away. It wasn’t until Glenn attributed their escape to the “new guy” and told Shane; “he’s a cop, like you” that people took notice of Rick. First Shane, in utter disbelief; like he saw a ghost and then Carl and Lori. It was reunion time.
Families reunited is a television staple, and the Walking Dead get a 9 out of 10, only losing a point for the ridiculously out of place Atl-rock theme that played over the reunion. It felt like a CW series episode ending montage song. But asides from the distracting music, it was a great scene. I give so much credit to Lincoln and Callies. When Rick first lays his eyes on his wife and child, that first second, a wave hits him. You can see it. For a moment he’s not sure if he even believes what he’s seeing, like they’re a cruel mirage. But then as the reality sets in, as his son runs to his arms, he loses it… and I’m not embaressed to say I did too. (Well a little embaressed…)
Callies’ Lori is so hard to read; which has been a real treat so far. She has a Jennifer Tilly poker face. But last night when she saw Rick, she cracked. She tried to look happy, for Carl, for Rick, but all I saw was a confused woman trying to hide her guilt.
With everyone reunited, the gang gathered around the fire to summarize the Atlanta expedition. Rick thanked Shane for saving his family, Shane looked as if he had been gutted by Mother Teresa. We also got to meet some more of the Survivors, like family Ed, Carol and Sophia. We were introduced to them as Ed was breaking a rule (fire stays only embers – dont matter how cold it is), and Shane got up to deal with it. I can understand Shane, his entire existence has been threatened by the appearance of Rick, who I feel has more of an antagonistic relationship with Shane; almost Salieri-esque. Rick can do what Shane does, but in a more suave, Raylan Givens sorta way. Shane feeling his dominance threatened showed Rick and the other people who’s boss and what kind of boss he is. He threatened Ed in front of his family before kindly apologizing to his wife and daughter. And the log left the fire, and Shane’s manhood was intact… for now.
The Grimes family retired to their tent. Lincoln and Callies’ chemisty was a little weak in my opinion, but maybe it was meant to be. They didnt recount how they got there, they didn’t dwell on what had happened. It was all future. My only problem with this scene was that Rick kinda showed himself not to be the greatest detective. When he and Lori were getting ready to have sex, he asked her about Carl. “He won’t wake up” she responded. If I were Rick, my first question would have been; “Umm.. How do you know?” Oops. Lori let it slip she knows Carl will sleep through post-apocalypse reunion sex, and Rick didnt realize a thing. As they made love we cut to Shane sitting guard in the rain, watching their tent. The sky doing all his crying for him.
Rick couldn’t enjoy the reunion fully. Now that he knew his family’s safe, he can focus on the asshole racist redneck he left chained to the roof in the ATL. At the fire he was warned of Merle’s crazy brother, Daryl currently on a fishing trip. We met Daryl (Norman Reedus) the next day when the camp mobilized to kill a Walker that had wandered into the forest for some venison (decapitation doesnt kill, must penetrate brain). Now I’ve enjoyed Reedus in about everything he’s done. He’s amazing the Boondock Saints and even in the terrible and little seen Gossip. Here he’s cast perfectly. He has the right combination of redneck crazy and seething antihero. Daryl was not too please his brother was left to dehydrate to death on the roof of a building. But you could see a part of him understood, he knows his brother.
After T-Dog (yup, still feels ridiculous to even type his name) ensured that Merle was alive, Daryl was rearin’ to go. “Just tell me where he is” and then came the moment that was by far the most revealing of Lori and Rick’s marriage, with just three words Lori summed up everything that she hated about Rick. “He’ll show you” Three words delivered cold and emotionless. Lori had been through hell, manipulated, scared and running for her life, she sure thought things might change after the Zombiepocalypse, but somethings (and people) never change.
No one at the camp understood Rick’s decision. Shane asked how he couldrisk his life for a douchebag. “Watch your words” Daryl told him. “No, I did. Douchebag’s what I meant.” Then Rick started throwing excuses for leaving his family around like confetti. First it was the guns and ammo he cleaned out of the police station. The tribe must be running low, but even the mentality concerning Merle seems to be; “he’s not worth one of your lives; even with guns thrown in”. Okay…guns isn’t good enough… ummm…. ummm… Oh yeah I gave a walkie to this guy that saved me and the only other one that can talk to it is in the bag…so I have to get it….I promised. I get the feeling that both the guns and the walkie were excuses, justifications so Rick could feel good about going. Call me selfish, but I dont think any circumstance could have dragged me away from that camp once I was there, especially not Merle. And then Rick pulled the dick move of the night… he asked Carl if he could go. Really? You’re gonna ask a ten year old if the father he thought was dead can leave again to go rescue a racist psychopath. Rick’s selfishness shone here like a lighthouse, his need to be a martyr. Martyrdom is usually clung to by those that NEED its recognition, and that is Rick. Armed with 4 bullets, one per rescuer (T-Dog felt guilty so he joined but Rick recruited Glenn using guilt. Again what a dick.) off they went to rescue Merle, and in doing so Rick was able to demonstrate to the camp what truly sets him apart from Shane.
As they were prepping to go we also got to understand a little more about how the camp works. Rick asked Dale for his bolt cutters, they’d need them to free Merle. Now, maybe I live in a fantasy world, but if I were living in a post-apocalypse tribe, after the fall of the government and the economy, I think I’d share. I wouldn’t ask for an arm, a leg, a car, your firstborn, and whatever else Dale requested. It just seems a little nuts to cling to menial posessions at a time like that.
Lori asked Carl if he was worried; he wasn’t. “Everything that’s happened to him so far… nothing’s killed him yet.” TV children are always so succinct.
The next day we got another glimpse into survivor camp life as the camp went down to the ol’ waterin’ hole. Shane was trying to teach Carl to catch frogs while a group of women (Jacqui, Amy, Andrea and Carol ) did laundry by the shore. Staring at Shane playing around, and Ed sitting on his ass, Jacqui mused over the division of labour in the camp before launching into the typical “roughing it” conversation of what they missed the most. Jacqui = her coffee maker, Amy = texting. Andrea and Carol = Vibrators. It was a rare funny moment, reminding us that even in the face of death, life goes on. The ladies were laughing and bonding, which for some reason really pissed off Ed. He started to hover, much to the ladies’ chagrin.
Meanwhile Lori storms to the hole in a rage to find Carl playing with Shane. She puts a stop to it immediately and sends Carl back to Dale. Lori was pissed. She made it clear, in no uncertain terms that Shane was to stay as far away from her family as possible. It was then that it was revealed that Shane told Lori Rick was dead. He lied, and in doing so set the foundations for their relationship. I think Lori has genuine feelings for Shane, she’s just conflicted becuase she knows those feelings were spun from lies.
Ed kept hovering closer and closer. In the real world Ed might never have come across a woman like Andrea, he’d have remained protected from women with brains. The women had had enough and started to goad Ed who demanded that Carol leave with him, they mobilized in seconds, Andrea right in his face. “Don’t think I won’t knock you on your ass just cause you some college educated coos, alright?” and then he swing his paw and smacked Carol right in the kisser. To the moon Alice went.
Shane feeling alone and rejected had the perfect surrogate for Rick. Ed was at the wrong place at the wrong time, Shane was a timebomb; it could have been anyone. Shane charged and grabbed Ed, threw him on the ground and started punching him in the face. A lot. Ed was just the punching bag Shane needed. Those women really wanted him beat, because they didn’t even try to stop Shane until after he had punched Ed 12 times. TWELVE punches in the face before they spoke up. He must have realyl deserved it. It was another 7 till he actually stopped and looked into Ed’s pathetic bloodied eyes and told him; if he finds another bruise on Ed’s wife or daughter ever “I’ll beat you to death Ed” That was not a threat he meant it. Shane released Ed and backed away still fuming as the scene faded out to Carol’s cries of I’m sorry to her mess of a husband.
We ended last night with the Rescue Squad back in the ATL on the hunt for ammo and Merle. Merle was on tap first, but when the rescue team arrived they found instead; an empty hadcuff and a lone right hand. Even though they had foreshadowed this from the beginning, it still took me by surprise. I half expected him to be there tired and thirsty and half expected him to be dead.
Damn this is good TV. I’m inclined to say I like it more than Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but maybe as a genre fan it’s just so rare for me to see television hande it with care, I looks past it’s flaws I was able to with Lost and Battlestar Galactica.
Well that’s it for this week, like I said earlier the season’s halfway finished. See you back here next week for a recap of “Vatos” (1×04) which is written by the creatorof the comic Robert Kirkman. Here is an EW interview his reaction to last night’s episode. The promo is below!