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The Walking Dead 1.6 - TS-19

There’s been a lot of discussion about the similarities and differences between Robert Kirkman’s comic and Frank Darabont’s television adaptation, but for the most part, I’ve embraced the changes that have been made. For instance, Kirkman would never insert a flashback into his story, but tonight’s season finale opened with one, going back to the early days of the outbreak when Shane attempted to rescue Rick from the hospital. We all know how that turned out, but I was a little surprised to see the military acting so callously – shooting anyone they came in contact with regardless of whether they were infected or not. To be fair to Shane, he had no shot of getting Rick out of their alive with all those machines, but even though he was kind enough to block the door with a hospital bed to keep the walkers out, that doesn’t make up for his adulterous betrayal.

Back in the present, Dr. Jenner welcomes the survivors into the CDC facility, but on one condition: that everyone submits to a blood test, just to make sure no one’s infected. Once everyone checks out, Jenner takes them on a tour of Zone 5, and before long, the survivors are laughing, drinking wine, and generally just enjoying themselves for the first time in a long while. Jenner isn’t impressed, and neither is Shane, who feels like they should be getting the answers they came for instead of getting wasted. But he doesn’t like what Jenner has to tell him – that most of the scientists left to be with their families when the outbreak hit, and others just committed suicide – and so Shane decides to wash his sorrows with a little booze.

Actually, it was probably more like a lot of booze, or he would have been smart enough to walk away after discovering Lori perusing the building’s makeshift library all alone. At first, it seemed like he was just trying to apologize for the way he’s been acting lately, but the more that Lori pushed him away, the more aggressive Shane became. He swears that he didn’t lie about Rick being dead and couldn’t do anything to save him (which is true), but forcing yourself on someone isn’t exactly the way to their heart, and Lori let him know it by scratching his neck. He definitely looked sorry about it the next day after he sobered up, but the damage was already done. Plus, it’s not like his feelings have changed any, and you can bet that Shane is going to become more of a liability the longer he’s around. Just wait until Dale tells Rick about what he saw in the woods.

Most of the survivors were nursing a hangover the next morning, but they still wanted some answers, so Jenner decided to show them what he’s been working on. TS-19 is a test subject who was bitten and then agreed to let the scientists record the infection process to better help their understanding of the virus. Oh yeah, and it just so happens to be Jenner’s wife. He’s still mostly in the dark on what the virus even is, but he does know that resurrection times vary (as quick as three minutes or as long as eight hours), and though it restarts the brain stem, the brain itself remains inactive. Apparently, the French were the closest to figuring out the cause, but they ran out of time when they started losing power in their area.

For the time being, Zone 5 is still up and running, but as Dale is keen to point out, there’s a clock on the wall of the control station that’s counting down, and he wants to know what happens when it reaches zero. As Jenner explains, that’s when the basement generators run out of fuel, thereby activating a facility-wide decontamination which, as we've already witnessed, means the place will go up in flames. The survivors aren’t happy about this new development, and even less so when Jenner decides to lock everyone inside. In fact, even if they wanted to leave, they’d still have to find a way out the building, which has been automatically locked down.

That doesn’t stop Shane and Daryl from hacking away at the metal doors with a couple of fire axes, but as Jenner quite matter-of-factly points out, they were designed to withstand a rocket launcher. I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny, but the way that Noah Emmerich delivered the line made me laugh anyway. As we saw at the end of last week’s episode, Jenner is more than prepared to die, but the rest of the group has different feelings on the matter, and after they beg him to give them a chance, he finally opens the door with four minutes remaining. Rick thanks him for the help, but all Jenner can say is, “The day will come when you won’t be,” before whispering something into his ear. So what did he say? You’ve got me, but from the expression on Rick’s face, it couldn’t have been good. (: Now that I've had more time to think about it, Jenner probably told him that Lori was pregnant. I can't believe that it didn't even cross my mind yesterday, but it would certainly be keeping in line with the comic.)

Not everyone is going, either. Jacqui has decided to stay behind to avoid suffering a similar fate as Amy and Jim (to which I say “Good riddance”), and a defeated Andrea wants to stick around too until Dale changes her mind by essentially guilting her into leaving. For a second there, though, it actually looked like Dale had given in as well, and if nothing else, that little moment should serve as the catalyst for their eventual relationship, since it’s been written on the walls for weeks now. And while that’s going on, the others are desperately trying to break one of the windows upstairs to no avail. Fortunately, Carol just happens to have the grenade that Rick picked up in Atlanta in her bag, and after the blast shatters the glass, everyone makes it to their respective vehicles just as the CDC explodes.

It was a great bookend to the season, with the survivors driving off to whatever other dangers may be awaiting them, but Season Two simply can’t come soon enough. The bad news, of course, is that it looks like we’ll have to wait until late 2011 at the earliest, so in the meantime, you might consider picking up some of the graphic novels and enjoying the story that way. At the very least, you might get an idea of what happened to Merle, as there’s been a lot of online speculation that he’ll become a pivotal character in the series. The idea is simply too good to ignore, but whatever Darabont and co. decides, you can be sure that I’ll be along for the ride.

The Walking Dead 1.5 - Wildfire

The Walking Dead 1.4 - Vatos

Just like in the pages of Robert Kirkman’s comic, tonight’s episode (which he also wrote) picked up right where the last one left off, with Daryl not taking the discovery of Merle’s chopped-off hand particularly well. Fortunately, it appears that Merle is doing just fine on his own, as a trail of blood down the opposite staircase leads Rick and Co. to find evidence that Merle has not only taken out a few zombies, but also cauterized his stump on a hot plate before getting the hell out of Dodge. Worried about his safety all alone in the city, Daryl wants to go chasing after him, but Rick warns to keep a cool head and suggests they retrieve the guns first.

But instead of bum-rushing the bag as a group, Glenn volunteers to go alone because he can do it quickly and stealthily. Better yet, he’s even devised a fail-safe plan for protection involving the other three guys that leads Daryl to ask in disbelief, “Hey kid, what’d you do before this?” “I delivered pizzas.” Unfortunately, not even the best-laid plans always go as intended, and when Daryl gets distracted by some Mexican kid and is promptly attacked by his friends, Glenn comes running back down the alley straight into all the trouble. Daryl manages to shoot one of the Mexicans in the back of the leg, but not before they can grab Glenn and drive away.

Of course, they also left the kid behind, and although he isn’t very cooperative at first, Daryl’s threats to cut off his feet seemed to do the trick. (If only he knew that Daryl was bluffing with his own brother’s hand.) Nevertheless, he takes them to the kidnappers’ hideout, which is run by a guy named Guillermo, who tells Rick that he wants the kid the guns in trade for Glenn. The odds were certainly stacked against him, but good old Rick just waltzed right into their little fort and stuck a gun in Guillermo’s face, as if to say, “You want a fight? Let’s go.” Luckily, none of that was necessary, as it turns out Guillermo wasn’t such a bad guy after all, but just a custodian trying to protect the retirement where he used to work. After seeing all the sick, elderly people depending on Guillermo's care, Rick leaves him a few of the guns and heads back with the others to the van, only to discover that someone (presumably Merle) has taken off with it.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, as Andrea and Amy reminiscence about their days fishing with their father, Jim is going a little crazy digging graves in the hot Atlanta heat. When the others start to get worried about him, Shane steps in and ties him to a tree, even though Jim wasn’t really getting in anyone’s way. Granted, he was going to pass out eventually from heat exhaustion, but if the guy wants to cope with the loss of his family by digging graves, then let him dig graves. Plus, he was doing it because of a dream he had, though he can’t remember what it was about.

We didn’t have to wait long for the answer, however, as the camp was soon attacked by a large group of zombies. Ed was the first to go, and there were plenty of red shirts thrown in as additional fodder, but the big death of the night was obviously Amy – although, even those that haven’t read the comic had to see that one coming after Andrea’s chat with Dale about the birthday gift. Still, it was a great (and even somewhat emotional) scene between the two actresses – particularly Laurie Holden, who hasn’t had very much to do yet this season. Now that she’s free of her sister (I know that sounds horrible, but trust me, it’s for the best), her character can finally start evolving into the Andrea everyone loves from the comics.

It might have seemed a little unrealistic that Andrea could just stand heaped over Amy’s body wailing without so much as a zombie bumping in to her, but I have to imagine that Shane’s shotgun was drawing a majority of the attention. His heroics weren’t quite enough, though, and the survivors were almost forced to retreat before Rick and the rest of the guys rushed in with guns blazing. Of course, now that the campsite has been compromised, they’ll have no other choice but to go on the move, and that’s sure to create some tension within the group. I say, bring it on.

The Walking Dead 1.3 - Tell It to the Frogs

The Walking Dead 1.2 - Guts

In case you were wondering whether Lori and Shane were having any regrets about their secret relationship, well, you pretty much got your answer at the top of tonight’s episode. We still don’t know whether the romance is new (like in the comics) or if it’s been going on for some time, but one thing is certain: they don’t seem too conflicted now that they think Rick is dead. Granted, Lori did look a little remorseful when Shane unbuttoned her shirt to reveal her wedding ring hanging from a necklace, but the ease in which she just tossed it aside definitely didn’t help her case. In any event, you can bet that both of them will be feeling pretty shitty about themselves when Rick comes waltzing into camp next week.

For the time being, though, he just needs to stay alive – something that’s easier said than done considering we last left him surrounded by hundreds of zombies. The voice over the radio tells him that his best bet is to make a run for it while the horde is preoccupied with their latest meal, but not before grabbing a grenade that he discovers on the dead soldier. (I can’t imagine this won’t come back into play in the future, though I was actually waiting for him to use it all episode.) And after shooting his way to safety, Rick meets Glenn (the voice on the radio) in the alley, and the pair hightails it through one of the buildings to meet up with the rest of Glenn's group.

Though Glenn is the go-to scavenger of the bunch, he’s agreed to bring some of the other people from the survivor camp with him on his latest trip in order to gather more supplies. And they’re not too impressed by Rick’s cowboy heroics, which have attracted every zombie in the area, making it virtually impossible for them to get out alive. Of course, they’re not saints either, and within minutes of arriving, Rick witnesses a power struggle between racist redneck Merle (the great Michael Rooker) and the rest of the group. Luckily for them, Rick steps in to take care of Merle before he can do any more damage to the unfortunately named T-Dog’s face, handcuffing him to a pipe on the roof while they devise a plan for escape.

With no safe way out of the city by road, Rick suggests that they travel underground instead. But when Glenn climbs down to the sub-basement of the building to investigate, he discovers that the sewers are blocked off by a metal grate. So instead, Rick decides to get a little creative. If zombies can only tell the living apart from their scent, then all they need to do is pretend to be dead. It’s a great idea, but one that no one really wants to be a part of – especially when it involves chopping up a dead zombie – and Glenn finally agrees to join Rick in covering himself in rotting blood and guts so that they can walk the streets unnoticed. But as Glenn is all too keen to point out, at least the guy they were chopping up was an organ donor.

Better yet, the plan actually works. That is, until a rain storm washes off their disguise and the zombies start to take notice, forcing Rick and Glenn to make quick use of their weapons. Fortunately, they get to the truck in time, leaving the others to wonder if they’re ever coming back. But Rick knows that he wouldn’t be able to rescue them under the current circumstances, so he jacks a car with an alarm system and has Glenn drive around the city to lure the zombies away from the building. The rest of the group heads down to the loading garage to meet Rick, but T-Dog’s conscience gets the best of him and he goes back to help Merle, only to lose the key down a drainage pipe when he trips and falls. Merle thinks he did it on purpose, but at least T-Dog was kind enough to lock the door on his way out. Plus, there’s no way they’re going to get rid of Rooker that easy, and I’m sure that hacksaw will play a role in his eventual escape.

Overall, another solid episode, and one that delivered a lot more action compared to last week’s premiere. Andrea, Merle and Glenn are all great additions to the cast (particularly the latter, whose portrayal by Steven Yuen will likely transform him into the breakout star of the show), although I can’t really say the same for the other three characters. There’s just not a whole lot of depth to any of them, and they might as well have targets drawn on their backs, because the chances of them surviving the season are slim. After all, what would a zombie story be without a few victims?

The Walking Dead 1.1 - Days Gone Bye

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