Throughout the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, James Weber and Steve Davidson will be recapping the past week’s episode in a give-and-take format. Last week Steve led off. This week its James’ turn:
Well, today we’re looking at the 2nd episode of the new season of Walking Dead. If last week started with flaws in the logic of the show, and fallacies in the group’s methods, I hope this week we can begin with things the show does well. Let’s begin:
Admittedly, compared to last week’s spectacular blast of propane (maybe something else) and flaming zombies, this week was a little slow in the special effects department. However, I will say, this episode featured some of the most disgusting zombies I’ve seen yet. Trapped, water-logged, and starving, these zombies descend upon Rick’s group (+1), as we’ve seen others do. Indeed Rick’s group feels confident they can handle the agressors but of course nothing related to zombies ever goes as planned. Though they survive the encounter, and return home with cans upon cans, it’s likely they will never escape the smell.
Ok, here I think James is allowing his fascination with stinky, water-logged zombies to blind him to one of the stupidest, most idiotic things to happen in TWD for at least two seasons:
…and HERE is a full-sized shot of Glenn holding a bayonet equipped long rifle:
This is probably an M1 Garand: a rifle that is itself over 43 inches in length. The standard bayonet used with this rifle is an additional ten inches in length, making the rifle & bayonet a full 53+ inch, very long, sharp pointy stick. Over four feet of reach.
Those zombies in the basement aren’t going anywhere. Neither is the canned food. I wish to god someone could give me a logical…or even a semi-coherent… reason as to why Rick and friends decide that the best way to handle the zombies is to jump down into the fetid, stinky water and “use the shelves to block them” when the alternative is to play a rewarding game of stab the zombie in the head from above! Zombies hiding elsewhere in the basement? A small bit of noise will draw them out. (Don’t even get me started on the advisability of using a flashlight to peer into all of the dark corners of the basement – I’ll be talking about batteries soon enough!)
Perhaps the second reason I enjoyed this episode is because of the emotion expressed by each of the actors. There’s no doubt about the fact that this show is dark. And each week, we discover a new depravity which plunges us further into the darkness. However, in Strangers (ep. 502) we again get a glimpse of hope. And even though Rick doesn’t buy our preacher’s calling for one second, the remaining characters seem to experience genuine pleasure in a) resting for a moment and b) setting their sites for Washington. Imagine the difficulty, neigh subtlety, of acting this scene. How does an apocalypse survivor act at a party? What do they grab for first, the canned beans? Or the wine? One of our heroes is an alcoholic, and the sheer circumstance of their current existence might drive others to become so. Both the actors and the director have difficult choices to make within this scene and I believe everyone played their part wisely and accurately. Well done again!
Again we question our values
God doesn’t appear to have saved anyone in TWD’s version of the apocalypse. However, in this episode, we’ve come across someone who has been remarkably unaffected by Georgia’s zombie infestation. This man won’t kill, even if the victims are no longer living. Objectively, this might seem like some rather strong conviction, indeed perhaps even a pillar of the divine. However, the audience has twice seen our preacher’s cowardice, once upon the stump and again at the food bank. He’s weak, indecisive, and perhaps worst of all, alone. And so the irony here is that we suspect him right away. He lacks strength and more importantly, confidence and so Rick, our hero, threatens him, occupies his house and will probably steal any vehicles the preacher possesses upon the group’s departure. I’d say, in this world, Rick is being a real gentlemen 😉
Of course, as with any episode of The Walking Dead events are racing at the speed of plot. Our friends from Terminus are out for both revenge and a full stomach (gross!). We may have glimpsed Beth’s kidnappers, we’re heavily suspecting the priest is evil, and once all of these loose ends are tied, we are heading to Washington to undo this whole mess and save the world. Also, somewhere, Morgan Jones is wandering around trying to catch up. What news will he bring? Does he bode ill for our group? We won’t know until we watch more! Oh god the suspense is killing me.
Oh I certainly agree; the show poses some very interesting acting challenges and most, if not all of the actors do a very fine job of rising to these challenges. If not for the acting/characters, I’d have given up on this show a good couple of seasons ago. (In fact, I did actually do that at the beginning of season three – I saw where we were going (keep them on the road, keep them making stupid decisions) – until some neighbors began teasing me with this and that scene of zombie mayhem.
Before I move on to lament the lack of batteries once again, I want to turn my and your attention to the groups’ selective use of tactical sensibility; well, to be fair, it’s not the groups’ selectivity, it’s the show writer’s selectivity…or perhaps laziness, or, to put a brighter face on it, perhaps the writer’s are just so enamored of the zombie fight scenes that they just can’t be bothered to give due attention to the other parts of the show.
In previous seasons we’ve seen Rick and his cohorts employ some pretty sound tactical concepts – ambush, flanking maneuvers, setting up a base of fire and the like. But this past episode –
Here we are walking away from the cannibal’s abattoir (having decided, foolishly, not to kill all of the cannibals – a decision that comes back to haunt them finger-lickety-split) and once again the group (read “Rick”) is suborned away from his now natural instinct to think of the group first in order to rescue a pastor in the woods; once rescued and subjected to the three questions (which he flunks completely) they all follow the pastor back to his church, where he has somehow survived…seemingly alone.
How many ex-military people are in the group? At least one- Sarge – Abraham Ford. I suspect, from the patches on his jacket, that Bob has prior military experience as well; perhaps Rick does too (many police officers do) – but one is more than enough that someone should already have anticipated what the Pastor jokingly says to the group as he is leading them to the church…”I could be leading you into an ambush”.
Yep, that’s right. Everyone is walking down the road in a nice little clump – no one on point, no one out at the flanks, no one on rear guard. They’d be easy pickings for just two people with AR15s and boy, what an ending if someone decided to dig a tiger pit in the middle of the road. (Pointy sticks AND zombies!)
This certainly qualifies as “stupid”; it’s even highlighted when Daryl is almost shot by everyone when he appears out of the undergrowth having slipped off to hunt some squirrel (and to check for tracks/sign as he – and we – believe that someone is following them). Not only did he reappear at the front of the group without previously announcing himself, he also slipped off without anyone knowing where he went. Do I need to point out that he could easily have been walking flank guard while also hunting squirrels?
And it’s not as if the group has not previously demonstrated some discipline, a willingness to follow orders when called for, a willingness to do pretty much whatever is needed in order to ensure their survival. Hey, I get that they don’t do a lot of these common sense things in service of the show – but it would be so much better if they DID do the sensible, intelligent things and STILL ran into trouble.
How many more freakin black holes are the survivors going to walk into before someone – anyone – says “hey, maybe shining a little light in there might make it safer to investigate?” to which someone else (take your pick, I’ll go with Carl) says “how we do dat? How make light in dark?” to which someone else (maybe Sasha) says “well, in the olden days they used to have these things called torches; they took a stick, wrapped some oil-soaked rags around one end, set it on fire and then held it up in the air – by the non-burny part of the stick – and the fire made light” and then someone else, probably Rick, says “Torches? We used to call our flashlights torches – why don’t we find some flashlights, what you can hold from either end without getting burnded” and finally, someone else, probably Daryl, says “don’t flashlights need – batteries?”
Actually, I’m not being fair to Carl – he’s smarter than that.
Later on in the episode, Carol finds a battery charger (working!) in the trunk of an abandoned car. She and Daryl leave it for future backup (instead of like, maybe, using the charger to get the car going again and driving it to the church for…backup. But no – the mysterious white cross car (the same one involved – maybe- with the disappearance of Beth) will be driving by later in the episode and they’ll need the car where it is so they can give chase – so, once again, a mild stupidity in furtherance of a plot point that could have been written differently to avoid the stupid.
You all do know that batteries can be wired up both in series and in parallel (one increases amps, the other voltage), rendering even weak battery cells usable, right? You all do know that just about every channel changer in the country runs on AAA batteries; smoke detectors on 9 volts and that just about every kind of store in the country has a rack of them? (I did a short & quick survey of my small home town: the gas stations have batteries, the dollar stores have batteries, the convenience store has batteries, the general store has batteries, the auto parts store has batteries, the hardware store has batteries – need I go on?)
If there’s one thing I know for sure about human beings, it is that they are comfort-seeking creatures. We like things warm, and dry and well-lit. We’ve advanced from the caves to cloud-topping skyscrapers in just a few millennium in pursuit of those creature comforts. It remains totally beyond me as to why Rick’s group has chosen to forego the use of those tiny, powerful, all-purpose cylindrical power supplies. Until I remember how much more difficult it would be to write scary scenes without darkness.
Well I think that’s all I have. As last week’s column was the season (and column) opener, I thought it was good that it was so long. I thought this one might benefit from being a little shorter. See you next week!