A review of “The Walking Dead” episode 3 coming up just as soon as I give you the mean face…
“I felt like I’d been ripped out of my life, put somewhere else.” -Rick
I wasn’t crazy about last week’s episode, as it felt more predictable, somehow less intense than the much quieter pilot, and introduced several new characters who seemed like caricatures added just for the sake of manufactured conflict.
“Tell It to the Frogs” was an improvement. Some of the characterization still feels very two-dimensional, but by spending an episode with very little actual zombie activity, we at least got a lot of time getting to know many of the people at the camp on the outskirts of town. Some will need shading later, but some got it here, and since in “The Walking Dead,” as in many zombie stories, the true enemy is us, it’s important to get to know the living as well as to gawk at the dead.
In particular, three episodes into a six-episode season(*), we finally got to know more about Rick’s wife Lori, and the affair she and Shane have been having since the plague began. It turns out that the relationship has been built on a pretty spectacular lie – that Lori didn’t think she was cheating on the man who was still asleep in the hospital in Kentucky, but that Shane had told her Rick was dead. Whether he did that solely to get some post-apocalyptic sex with the desirable wife of his partner, or whether he just assumed Rick wouldn’t make it and made things sound definitive so Lori wouldn’t beat herself up about him remains to be seen, but it definitely complicates how we view Lori.
(*) For those who missed it, AMC unsurprisingly ordered a second season after the stellar premiere ratings were followed by a very slight drop for episode two – and that second season will have a more traditional 13 episodes. (They only did six this year so they could get it on the air for late fall.) So the pacing might be different. Gale Anne Hurd told me, for instance, that the reason they put so many of the supporting characters into the department store last week, when in the comic Rick and Glenn escape the city on their own, is because they didn’t feel comfortable waiting until the third out of only six episodes to introduce the bulk of their cast.
That sequence where she confronted him at the quarry was the strongest part of the episode for a few reasons. Again, it complicates things. It was a good moment for Sarah Wayne Callies and Jon Bernthal. The quarry itself is a pretty spectacular-looking location, and a credit to the location scout who found it. And the quarry sequence also featured the most interesting glimpse yet of how the world has changed beyond the obvious threat of the zombies, as Andrea, Amy and the other women began lamenting all the gadgets they missed and rightfully grousing about how the new world order had some very very old gender politics, with them handling the heavy domestic load while (only some) of the men played hunter-gatherer.
What we’re seeing – and, of course, what we see in many post-apocalyptic dramas – is that, contrary to some of the platitudes Rick offered last week, the calamity has given license to people’s worst instincts. Sexists have a new reason to justify their sexism, bigots have a new class of people to mistrust (even if they’re undead), abusive husbands have no law-enforcement to fear, and conversely angry ex-deputies have no reason to not savagely beat on those same abusers. There’s no structure and no safety net, save what people choose out of expediency, or save what the strong seize for themselves.
I still think some of the characterizations are quite broad, but overall “Tell It to the Frogs” reassured me that even though I’m not an inherent zombie fan, there’s definitely something here for me to grab onto going forward if they can tell the story well enough.
Some other thoughts:
• And speaking of broad, still not loving either Merle Dixon or his crossbow-wielding brother Darryl, but holy cow was that teaser – with a sunburned, delirious Merle alternately begging Jesus to save him and cursing out Jesus as the zombies banged on the door – great.
• The business with the antiquated CBs that can only communicate with each other seemed a contrivance to make Rick want to go back for the bag o’guns. I get that Rick also feels guilty about Merle – again, he’s been in the zombie world for much less time than everyone else, and it’s easier for him to hold onto his humanity – and that he needs a better story to sell to Lori and the others who hate Merle, but at some point if they want to warn people off of going into the city, wouldn’t it be easier/safer to just put up a bunch of warning signs on all the major freeways?
• I sure hope Darryl cleans his arrow heads in between using them to kill zombies and hunting food that the survivors are going to eat. And given that the zombies are drawn by the sound of gunfire, the crossbow does seem like the ideal weapon to have out there.
Finally, I had to delete a metric ton of comments from last week’s post for violating the No Spoilers rule I have on this blog. So for as long as I’m covering this series, I’m going to reiterate the basic points here at the end of every post:
2)This includes any discussion of the previews for the next episode.
3)This includes any discussion of storylines from the comic that haven’t happened yet in the timeline of the TV show. (And, yes, the show has and will continue to deviate from the comic in some ways, but for the sake of those instances where they’re going to be the same, I don’t want people talking about something from issue 30 when we’re watching episode 3.)
4)This includes anything you’ve seen or read elsewhere about anything that has not happened within the context of the episodes that have already aired.
Anything in violation of any of these points gets deleted. Nice and simple. Talk about what has already happened on the show, no more, no less.
What did everybody else think?