The review contains spoilers.
I don’t know how you British do it. Six episodes of a show, and that’s it for the season? Why, it just seems like The Walking Dead is just getting started and here I am writing up a recap of the season finale. Fortunately, unlike the UK, we’re already guaranteed a second season of the best (only) zombie horror drama on television, which means that next October I’ll be gearing up for 13 episodes of blood, guts, and brains. I already can’t wait.
This week, the survivors got a respite from the perils of running from zombies in the hills, as well as a respite from ice-cold sponge baths in Dale’s RV. The CDC means electric lights, a whole library of books, and much-needed hot water, as well as a secure place to let the old guard down and tie one on with the gang’s new best friend and savior, Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich).
Of course, there’s only one problem with Jenner, and that’s the fact that the salvation he offers has a limit. It’s not that he’s crazy, but that the CDC building is running out of fuel. Fuel is power, and power is containment. Once the containment is breached, the entire CDC building is going to detonate and, as Dr. Jenner said in “Wildfire,” once those doors are closed, they won’t be opening again Now there’s a countdown, and it’s up to the crew to figure out a way out, one way or another.
Aside from one small technical issue, this was another great episode of The Walking Dead. We finally get a scientific explanation as to why some bodies take longer to come back than others, as well as a general status update on just how fucked the world is in the month after the first zombie starts making meals out of healthy folks. It’s a pretty hopeless situation.
Another well-directed episode this week from TV veteran Guy Ferland, who has done a whole lot of good shows in a whole lot of good series. One of my favorite moments was a little background thing. When the assembled are talking with Dr. Jenner in the control room, Daryl’s continued pounding on the steel, rocket-proof doors with the ax just struck me as both amusing and poignant. It’s little touches like that which make or break a show. In this case, it makes the show.
The writing was also fairly tight this week. At some points things got a little hokey, especially with Dr. Jenner’s exposition, but it didn’t bother me. Frank Darabont did extensive rewrites to all the episodes, apparently, and he got a co-writer credit with Adam Fierro on this week’s episode. Fierro is also one of the show’s producers. If they really do fire all the writing staff (as is being reported), I think between Darabont, Fierro, Kirkman, and the other producers/directors who’ve worked on the show they can pull together a really strong 13-episode story arc for next season. (And if they don’t fire all the writers, that’s even better; why mess with what’s obviously working?)
Of the many cannon fodder characters in the show’s second episode, one of the ones that grew on me with very limited screen time was actually Jeryl Prescott’s Jacqui. Despite never being given a lot to say, she was able to get Jacqui’s personality across in limited screen time as a background character. In a troop of tough survivors, she was the heart, the caretaker, and she got an appropriate send-off this week. Throughout the first six episodes of The Walking Dead, whenever someone has been hurt, Jacqui has been the one tending to them – when T-Dog got beaten by Merle, Jacqui cared for his wounds. When Jim was dying of zombie sickness, Jacqui was his primary caretaker. It’s only fitting that she spent her final moments giving some much-needed comfort to Dr. Jenner as the clock counted down to 0:00:00.
Similarly, one of the characters I felt was slightly underdeveloped in the comic books was Shane, and he’s been in danger of being that guy in the television series as well. I’m not a fan of one-dimensional characters, especially when they’re a focal point for one of the main plot lines on the show, and I like what they did with this episode’s cold opening. We get to see Shane agonize over Rick’s prone body, and we get to see just the loyalty Shane has for his friend, when he’s not banging his closest buddy’s wife and playing daddy to his son, that is. It’s one thing to hear Shane say all this, but to see it acted out on the screen makes it all the more powerful.
Shane has been a great addition to the central cast, which is probably one of the things Kirkman would change in the graphic novel if he got the chance. His presence has added a whole new dynamic to the survivors that was missing from the comic book, and Jon Bernthal has been incredible in his limited screen time. He’s got just enough redeeming qualities to keep him from being completely objectionable, but so many negative qualities that he’s a great sleeper agent of chaos amongst the happy band of survivors—witness tonight’s wonderfully skin-crawling moment with Lori in the game room for starters, and the bubbling undercurrent of tension throughout the camp since Rick returned. He’s both the elephant in the room and the viper in their midst.
There’s also one big remaining cliffhanger (aside from the one about who is going to survive next season). At the end, when Dr. Jenner grabs Rick and French-kisses a secret into his ear… just what is Jenner saying? What does it portend for next season? I guess we’ll find out then, but I can’t help but formulate a few guesses on the subject. After all, Jenner tested everyone’s blood, so there’s any number of ways this can be taken. Is Lori pregnant? Is she immune to the virus? Is the virus man-made and Jenner had to confess it to someone in his final moments? There’s any number of ways they can take this particular moment, and since we’re so far away from the comic script I don’t see how we could get back to it, they could go anywhere with this single moment.
Next Halloween cannot get here fast enough. There’s so much in the graphic novel they can cover, and even if they decide to go in a totally different direction, Darabont, Kirkman, and the rest of the writing staff have proven that they’re more than capable of adding to the already existing universe without losing the potent punch of the source material. I haven’t been this excited about a television show in a long, long time.US correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see that zombies are finally getting their just desserts. Never mind the fact that there have been dozens of zombie movies over the last 5 years; now they’re invading TV, too. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Read our review of episode 5, Wildfire, here.
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