The Walking Dead episode 3 review: Tell It To The Frogs

Less action, but no less quality, as The Walking Dead continues to be the highlight of the current TV season...

The review contains spoilers.

3. Tell It To The Frogs

After last week’s narrow escape from the confines of the zombie-overrun department store in the middle of zombie-overrun Atlanta, Rick, Glenn, and the rest of the gang have successfully escapes from danger, minus one crazy drugged-up white supremacist. Of course, nobody would miss that dangerous lunatic, right? Of course not, except for one person. Namely Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Merle’s brother and the group’s most accomplished squirrel hunter.

The introduction of Norman Reedus’s character is a really positive addition to the show. Yes, I know the show is already chock full of survivors and their families, but Reedus’s performance tonight was really a stand-out. It was like a great combination of Andrew Lincoln’s emotional distress in the first episode with Michael Rooker’s unbalanced, dangerous redneck persona from the second episode, but with more justification since, you know, the happy band of survivors left his brother handcuffed on the roof of a building full of hungry geeks.

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Another great addition is Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), one of my favorite characters from the comic books and another voice of reason and sense in an otherwise strange group of random people. It’s great that the core group is starting to flesh out a little bit, and we’re starting to actually get some personalities to people other than Rick and Glenn, even if the show did get another token abusive Southern stereotype.

The part of the show that worried me before it even was cast was the role of Carl Grimes. Any time you’re dealing with kids, you’re looking at trouble. Kids are so tough to cast, and so tough to write, that Carl could have been an anchor around the neck of the whole show (see also John Connor from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

Fortunately, judging from how Chandler Riggs handled his reunion scene and how well he’s handled himself in his limited action so far, my worries seemed unfounded. Of course, there’s a lot more show to go and a lot more will be demanded of Carl in the future, so it remains to be seen if my confidence is misplaced.

However, one thing I’m confident of is in the show’s ability to find good writers and directors and use them on a week-in, week-out basis. Gwyneth Horder-Payton is another accomplished TV director (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy) who has done some very good work in the kind of violent adult dramas that have paved the way for The Walking Dead, and her skilled hand behind the camera shows in this week’s episode, which is a bit smoother than last week’s affair. There’s aren’t as many action sequences as last week. Instead, the tension is more interpersonal, spoken in looks and glances between a jealous Shane and the object of his affections, Lori. (Hopefully the brief, angry discussions between the two characters will snuff all the talk of Lori the slut amongst fans.)

The writing is also an improvement, ranking somewhere between episodes 1 and 2 in terms of quality. This week’s script was the brainchild of Darabont, Jack LoGuidice (Sons of Anarchy), and Charles H. Eglee (Dexter, The Shield, NYPD Blue). It’s a bit more even in terms of quality. Rooker gets some scenery to chew on in an episode-opening rant that firmly established that Merle’s spent too much time out in the sun. Daryl’s given a few great scenes to emote over his missing brother. And the triangle between Rick, Shane, and Lori is shaping up to make for some very good television (when the three are not running for their lives, that is).

For what it’s worth, Rick’s television characterization is pretty much exactly what he’s like in the comic book, which ought to please fans. I also like that Shane is getting to be more than just the good-guy leader or the bad-guy sleaze bag who manipulates Lori. He’s actually getting to be a three-dimensional person, with flaws and weaknesses and strong points, unlike Ed (Adam Minarovich).

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There’s only one problem with The Walking Dead so far. Just when it seems like the show is really starting to get interesting, that’s when it ends! I guess that’s great for keeping the viewers hooked and coming back for more every week, but I’d love it if the show as 90 minutes every week, rather than 60. Granted, there can be too much of a good thing, but it’s pretty rare I groan out loud when a show is over because I want more.

Last week’s episode had more violence and action, yet this week’s episode seemed to be the one that flew by faster, and the pilot was over in no time. That’s a tribute to the quality of this week’s episode, both from a writing standpoint and a general pacing standpoint. Even the scenes around the campfire or washing clothes had a point, and there was something driving them forward that gave the show momentum via forces other than the undead.

Still, I expect next week’s episode to be more action-oriented. That seems to be a pattern the show is falling into early, but it’s a rewarding pattern of character and emotion for those that like drama and blood and guts for those that like horror and violence. Just call it something for everyone!

Read our review of the last episode, Guts, here.

US correspondent Ron Hogan was saddened by the death of Glenn’s Dodge Challenger. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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