‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Wildfire’: Disease control

Senior Television Writer
11.28.10 152 Comments

A review of tonight’s “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I watch the boat…

“We’re at the ragged edge here. We need relief.” -Rick

Interesting. Very, very interesting.

Even more than last week’s episode, “Wildfire” has me thinking I might want to stick with “The Walking Dead” for a good while, in spite of some reservations I’ve expressed in previous reviews. And it was two sequences – one near the beginning, and one near the end – that have me firmly on the hook.

The early one was Andrea’s overnight vigil over her sister’s body. At first, it comes across as mania, or denial, or some other form of overwrought but understandable grief. But then Amy starts to wake up, and it becomes clear that Andrea has simply been waiting for this moment. She wants to see her sister’s body come to life one more time – even if it’s now an unthinking zombie who only resembles Amy physically – and apologize to her and say her goodbyes And for a brief moment, the zombie curse doesn’t seem such a horrible thing. She wanted to say goodbye to Amy, and then she wanted to be sure she was the one to end her suffering once and for all, with the gun Rick taught her to handle back in the second episode. Just a fantastic scene, so well-played by Laurie Holden, written by Glen Mazzara and directed by Ernest Dickerson. This is the kind of moment about the human cost of the apocalypse that should be the show’s bread and butter, and was the strongest of an episode featuring several others, like the long goodbye to Jim by the side of the road.

The late one was the montage of Noah Emmerich as the last surviving CDC scientist, alone in this giant facility, trying and failing to come up with a cure to the plague. Not only was it a very effective sequence on its own merits (I’ve always liked Emmerich, going back to “Beautiful Girls”), but it was the show’s most extreme departure yet from the stories the comic was telling at this point(*). This may not matter to people who didn’t read the comic – and it also may be annoying to people who liked the comic more than I did and would prefer Frank Darabont and company get back to those stories and the characters who have yet to be introduced – but I like the sense that the show is going to keep me on my toes. When I interviewed Darabont at  Comic-Con, he said the plan was to follow the Kirkman path but take detours along the way. This looks like a pretty big detour, but it’s also a logical one. Given that we’re starting out with these people in such close proximity to Atlanta, why wouldn’t they visit the CDC and hope that someone there might have a solution – or, at the very least, might have a more secure facility than their sketchy camp by the quarry?

(*) I have no idea if Kirkman eventually told a story like this after I stopped reading, but please keep in mind the anti-spoiler rules I’m going to list at the bottom of this post, okay?

And beyond those two highlight points, I just liked the sense of desperation everyone has the morning after the zombie attack on the camp. Everyone is filthy and tired and confused and angry, and while I side with Rick over Shane on the field trip issue – without those guns, four extra men wouldn’t have done a lot of good against that many zombies – it’s understandable why everyone would be at odds, and be dealing with their grief in different ways. Glenn cries and insists on separating the human bodies from the zombie ones. Carol takes out her frustration on her dead abusive husband with a pickax. And Shane? Shane’s so pissed off about having Rick back – and about Rick pointing out that Lori and Carl aren’t part of Shane’s family – that he actually ponders a hunting accident of sorts for his old partner, and is only stopped by Dale’s timely arrival. 

Because AMC wanted to get the show on the air around Halloween, this is going to be an extremely brief season by American standards, but it sure feels like it’s going to be a satisfying one.

Finally, for as long as I’m covering this series, I’m going to keep closing each review for this series with the following reminders of how it works here on this blog: 

1)No Spoilers.

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 50 when we’re watching episode 4.) 

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?


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