Genre: Sci-Fi | Horror | Thriller
Air Date/Time: February 26 at 9/8c
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Writer: Scott M. Gimple and Glen Mazzara
Summary: Based on one of the most successful and popular comic books of all time, written by Robert Kirkman, AMC‘s The Walking Dead captures the ongoing human drama following a zombie apocalypse. The series follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually,Teachers, Strike Back), who are traveling in search of a safe and secure home. However, instead of the zombies, it is the living who remain that truly become the walking dead. Jon Bernthal (The Pacific, The Ghost Writer) plays Shane Walsh, Rick’s sheriff’s department partner before the apocalypse, and Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break), is Rick’s wife, Lori Grimes. Additional cast include: Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey DeMunn, Chandler Riggs, IronE Singleton and Melissa McBride.
Ah, The Walking Dead, you have come back to me, and to all of your patient fans, thank you. With only two episodic exceptions, one of which was last week, The Walking Dead has always been one of my very few A-list shows, and this week’s episode re-establishes itself as rightfully on that list.
This show does its best work, at least this season, when it concentrates on life and death. The survivors-are-the-real-monsters theme is important, but on this show if there is little actual threat, it turns inward and becomes self-absorbed and soapy. I hate soapy. They just haven’t written straight drama very well this season. I agree that the best shows are shows about characters, but since I now only like one of the main characters, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time watching and listening to them devolve; the scripts aren’t up to it. I want to see them DO something.
Yes, there is still some of that soapy whiny stuff this week, but it does not take center stage like it did last week. The soapy farmhouse scenes do work well in one way for me in this episode: they succeed in making me really turn against two main characters that I once admired. In fairness, one farmhouse storyline does bring up a subject that warrants more attention than it has seen in the past.
There are a few more things that I need to call out, just to get the bad aspects out of the way. The lines are a bit better than they have been, but at one point they pull the biggest writing copout of all, the bane of my viewing existence, replacing bad lines with even worse: a very loud song with whiny vocals. It could only be made more horrible if it were played over a montage, from which, thank whomever made the decision, we were spared. Silence would have been so much better, or one of the patented Bear McCreary single hold notes. There was more than one way to feel about that particular scene, but by playing that loud whiny song, we were only allowed one.
And sorry, but I have to call bullsh*t on a new thing we’re told about walkers this week, in a very HEY LOOK AT THIS AND NOTE IT FOR LATER sort of way. It has never come up before and, if true, should have been reflected throughout the series. It is mentioned as if it were common knowledge, but is, as far as I can remember, totally new to us. Sorry, as I said, but you can’t do that to us and not have us call you on it.
Wait, I did say that this was a good episode, right? Enough of the big bads. Overall, this week is more primal, and that they have always done and continue to do well. The action is big and bold, and so is the tension, and it completely carries the episode. There is still character development, but it’s within the action, not instead of the action, and it’s really well done. Fortunately it’s more than the wee bit o’ action we had last week, and it’s brought in throughout the episode, so the air-sucking soapy drama doesn’t get a chance to overwhelm the good will earned by those excellent action scenes.
As I mentioned, two characters become particularly awful this week, at least for me, which is a testament to the skills of the actors. There are a lot of close-ups that show how very committed all of these actors are to their roles, so without spoiling and naming names, I’ll say that everyone in this limited-cast episode does a bang-up job, kudos to both regulars and semi-regulars.
I really appreciate the directing this week as well. In the conversations, the primary shots are over-the-shoulder and handheld, so the viewer is included and drawn in. The action scenes rock, literally and figuratively, with angles that enhance the tension. Okay, I have to say that there is one symbolic visual that is really heavy-handed, but there is also one particular farmhouse scene that opens on preparing a meal, and the first few seconds… well, I’m not a vegetarian, but see if that first shot of cutting up cooked chicken, and particularly the sound of it, doesn’t make you stop and think for a just a moment. All of the sound and special effects are stellar, and the Bear McCreary music is perfect as always.
My favorite scenes and the most well-done elements of this episode can’t be mentioned in detail in an advance review, so the best summary would be to say that the action is top-level and the non-action is less of a focus. Continue to concentrate on the storylines, sacrifice character development without action for character development in action, and everything will be great. Not their best-ever episode, but firmly within the season 1 level of quality.