Tue
Nov 9 2010 12:11pm

The Walking Dead S1, E2: “Guts”

The Walking Dead episode 2

Huh. Well. That was...a show. I’m not quite sure what happened in between the bloody (ha ha, pun intended) fantastic pilot and the shrugging meh-ness of the second episode. Maybe Frank Darabont never had time to watch the dailies? I don’t know but I’m not pleased. But before I whinge too much, let’s break it down.

When we last left our whiny heroine and her Creepy Von Doucheington surrogate husband they were stealing kisses in her tent. This time around Shane cranks his assholery up to eleven by stalking her in the woods. Yeah, Lori, he’s a great guy. What a catch. And look, he even knows how to teach your son how to do a pointless knot. Marry him now.

Also hanging around the camp doing, um, campy stuff are high strung mushroom picking teenager Amy, Dale the RV King, Jim the taciturn mechanic, and two unnamed housewives (if you’ve read the comics you can probably guess the name of one of them). None of the campers do much in this episode except get it on and look worryingly at the radio, but at least those scenes were few and far between. They are about as interesting to me as the lightswitch conversation from the previous ep. As in not at all.

On the Atlanta front, Rick, with help from quip-ready Glenn, escapes inevitable death by tank and high tails it back to a boarded up department store. There he meets Andrea, older sister to Amy, and the rest of rainbow connection: Morales, T-Dog, Jacqui, and walking caricature Merle Dixon. And if Jacqui turns out to be a lesbian we’ll have the whole Token Minority collection! Of course the one racist left in the city gets stuck with a feminist, two black people, an Asian man, and a Latino. Good thing we have the last honest cop to suss things out.

And here is where my biggest problem with this episode lies. I don’t care that Dixon wasn’t in the comic; I’m not vehemently canon with this sort of thing. Taking bits and pieces from the comics and shimmying them around is fascinating, like the scene with Glenn and Rick with the zombie body parts. It’s a helluva lot grosser to watch a bunch of people hacking away at a decomposing corpse—and giving the ex-man a eulogy beforehand—than to have two or three panels that cut away the ookiest bits. But what I don’t like is when the new parts are completely unnecessary.

Dixon (Mason-Dixon line...oh you clever writers you, she says sarcastically) served absolutely no function at all except to be an ass. He was a one-note character that I’m sure we’ll see again (at least we better—you don’t waste a great actor like Michael Rooker on a one-time role). It’s one thing to let a jerk like him stay in the camp and it’s a whole ’nother thing to willingly take him out on a life-or-death mission and entrust him with weaponry and the lives of the very people he hates.

Even Shane—who, with his refusal to go help their crew, has now reached epic Ed Hardy proportions—knows better than to send out a guy like Dixon for a job like that. Those of you yelling about lack of character depth were right, but you were wrong about which character that criticism applied to.

The Walking Dead episode 2

Anyhoodle, more words were quipped (by Glenn), words were spoken in a grave and overly moralistic tone (by Rick), words were spoken as if the actors were paid by the decibel (by everyone else), and Mel Gibson was taken down a peg or two (by Dixon). The crew tried to escape by sewer and when that was foiled Rick and Glenn covered themselves in zombie goo—and feet, intestines, and hands—and took a romantic stroll through apocalyptic downtown Atlanta to a nearby construction site.

Glenn got himself the loudest hot rod in town, Rick saved the day, and T-Dog somehow managed to fall in just such a way that a terribly CGI-ed handcuff key could fall down a totally improbably hole in the roof. But at least he also managed to conveniently knock over the tool box in a painfully obvious way. No, I can’t see that coming back to bite him at all.

Final thoughts

  • “If bad ideas were an Olympic event, this would take the gold.”
  • “All I am is a man looking for his wife and son. Anyone gets in the way of that’s gonna lose.”
  • “You’re surrounded by walkers. That’s the bad news.” “Is there any good news?” “No.”
  • “Ain’t that right, sugar tits?”
  • “There’s us, and the dead. We survive this by pulling together, not apart.”
  • Man, I love those opening credits.  They get better each time I see them.
  • These zombies don’t just moan, they roar.
  • We get zombies who can run, use tools, and learn (like the one who figured out how to use the ladder after watching Rick and Glenn). They are evolving.
  • A real leader knows how to delegate duties, and when to let others get a shot at power.
  • Last ep we had the creepy as all get out stairwell and now we have the sewer of doom and death department store (the store that eats!).
  • Oh, ho, writers. I get what you’re doing there with Rick and Andrea and juxtaposing them with Shane and Lori. I don’t appreciate it.
  • Just a personal nit. As a Rat Queen it always irks me when they make rats squeak so loud they’re practically screaming. No rat is that loud when they’re just trundling around. Wouldn’t be very practical for a prey animal to go around shouting at the top of their lungs when they’re trying to be stealthy and all.
  • Yo, Emmys, it’s time for a new category: Best Zombie Shuffle. I nominate every extra on this show. Also, kudos to to the show for giving non-speaking roles actual on-screen credits.
  • Nice little bit there, timing the car alarm to the music.

***SPOILERS***

  • How much you want to bet Dixon is going to end up at the Governor’s?

Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare...

20 comments
dmg
1. dmg
You are too kind, too generous, to this terrible episode. It sucked. (Oh, wrong monster.) I will not belabor all the ways it went wrong; I only will say that episode 2 was bad enough to lose this viewer.

"...could fall down a totally improbably hole."

Funny, but true, story.

Purchased an engagement ring for my now-wife. She had the habit, early-on, of removing it each time she soaped her hands. One time, late one night, she pulled and pulled, and finally it yanked off... and slipped out of her grasp. An audible ploink. And then nothing. We were on our hands and knees for hours (1am to 5am) looking, feeling, touching, removing everything from the closet and running through the folds and pockets of all the clothes... Nothing. That afternoon, I rented a geiger counter. (Platinum setting.) Still nothing. NO WAY that ring could disappear; it had to be there somewhere!

Only one possibility remained: an improbably small opening between the top of the toe-kick and the bottom of the bathroom cabinet. No way it could be there, though; for it to have fallen through that "totally improbably hole" would require a miracle shot. Imagine a basketball shot that creased the net... but from the court outside the building and a mile away. That kind of improbable.

Guess where the ring was? :-)
Sterling Anderson
2. sterling
The number of characters in this series is a bit concerning to me. I'm hoping they are adding to the number from the comic books just to make sure they have enough zombie food for later episodes.
The apparent intelligence of the zombies is kind of annoying too. Even in the first episode you had Morgan's wife coming back to the house, walking up to the door and trying the doorknob.
Alex Brown
3. AlexBrown
dmg @1: It still isn't enough for me to leave. Every show has less than stellar episodes and given the high quality of the premiere this is probably just a glitch in the machinery. I didn't think it completely sucked as an ep, but I also didn't think it lived up to its potential either.
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
sterling @2:
***SPOILERS!!!***

I have a feeling it's because they don't want to kill off every character except Rick like they do in the comics. They want to keep a few around so in order to do that you have to kill off the extras.
nicole rich
5. nrich
***********spoilers!!!!*****************


the way I figure it, they have to have one bad guy that gets his come-upens by the end of the season. Since Ed Hardy is obviously not going to be killed off like he was in the comic, I expect it will wind up being Racist White Guy. That's when we will find out that everyone who dies comes back and Rick will get to say "WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD" (dundun Dun!) and go back and shoot zombified Racist White Guy as he is crawling out of his grave. Either that or Racist White Guy will become a zombie and lead a super zombie rebellion against the campers since these are "super FUCKING smart" zombies.
Alex Brown
6. AlexBrown
Nicole @5: They are eerily intelligent for brain-dead zombies.

Also, I am going to form a band just so I can name it Super Zombie Rebellion.
dmg
7. ZetaStriker
I'm not sure I agree that the episode was that bad. . . but Merle's part in it certainly was. Glenn's introduction was great; I loved the little touches like his rant about not letting everyone follow him into a narrow tunnel. Andrea underperformed though, and the new characters were all unobtrusive at best. New characters, taken on their own, were not a bad idea, but throwing this many into the mix just hurts the character development for everyone else, in my mind.

There are two things I can say in defense of "Guts", however. One is that this was billed as the "action" episode; it seems to have been structured to be a tense, seat-of-your-pants experience without the introspective moments we saw with Morgan in "Days Gone Bye". It's basically structued as a hook to draw in the other sort of zombie fan, that's only interested in the tension and horror aspects.

The other is that the payoff in the next episode looks to be huge. We get the Lori/Carl/Rick reunion, we get the inroduction of Merle's brother, who seems better developed, and we should hopefully return to a rhythm of frantic survival and character development. From the episode preview and teaser scene released so far, I'm expecting episode 3 to handily eclipse episode 1 in terms of quality, and anyone giving up because of a single episode that seems to be outside the series norm may be missing out due to a hasty decision.
nicole rich
8. nrich
^ I for one am pleased to see Norman Reedus doing something other than poor quality sequels to Boondock Saints, although he will still always have a dreamy Irish accent that super imposses itself over the horrible southern drawl they have him sporting for this show....
dmg
9. dmg
A handy litmus test:

Replace the sci-fi wrappings and place the show (or book or movie etc) into a different universe. Could Rick and Glenn instead don Nazi garb and attempt to sneak past enemy lines? Or dress as Orcs on their way to Mt Doom? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, is the story this time around of the timeless variety? Do its characters have their own arc, make their decisions organically, whether smart or stupid?

This episode failed on every single count. (Including many not mentioned above.) For example, one galling moment is the character who just happened to know about sewers under new buildings... Paint yourself into a corner, and enter teleplay writers, stage right.

ZetaStriker is correct; one episode is not enough to hang the show. And you are correct; it is too early in the show's season to execute it with such finality. So I will grant it one more chance. But this the moment for the show to shine; if its second episode could be this humdrum, this banal, this early on -- well, I guess they shot their wad of imagination straight off.

Better yet, give me characters I care about. And so far, admittedly in only two episodes, the show's creative team has not. I care -- well, wonder -- more about how long that crew of Michael Jackson wanna-bes can shuffle about before they exhaust themselves. fright requires more than zombies meandering haplessly about. Oh, and eating a bunch of offal.
dmg
10. dmg
Oops, sorry about all the typos. A call interrupted, which means I forgot to proof.
dmg
11. StephenB
As a long time TWD comic reading I also thought it was an ok episode. I am still game for more.

Liked: the nice way they sort of wrapped different bits of the comic together in new ways. Hey if it was 100% of the comic only then readers like me would have nothing to look forward to.

Liked: Andrew Lincoln as Rick, he's got some skillz he does at this acting thing.

Liked: Know that Chase is going to get his, in the end. Muhahaha.

Disliked: Glen's character would have never brought 5-6 people into the city to forage. Especially THAT group of mamby pamby misfits.

Disliked: The white racist jerk was indeed a useless character who served no purpose at all. Surely no one could survive that right? I (do not) look forward to his inevitable return.

Disliked: The hyper intelligent zombies that use tools (bricks to smash windows) and climb ladders. This is 100% different than the comics. Tool using zombies makes a very different story line.
Alex Brown
12. AlexBrown
Just a general reminder that if you're going to mention stuff that hasn't happened yet to preface it with a giant SPOILERS note to keep the virgins safe.
Alex Brown
13. AlexBrown
ZetaStriker @7: You hit the nail on the head as to why the ep felt lackluster to me, besides all the Dixon stuff. While the comic (and even the first ep) aren't exactly tredding on fresh ground, there were enough novel takes and intriguing characters to make it worth indulging. But this ep was EXACTLY like every other zombie movie ever made. It could've been Dawn of the Dead 15. You can still have action without simply cutting and pasting Romero.

Nicole @8: According to imdb he was also in the Hawaii Five-o pilot. So there's that.

dmg @9: I still don't think it was a waste of an ep, but I can see your point. I think the stuff with Glenn and Rick worked wonderfully, but it was pointless to have such a large group rummaging around town. It looked like half the campsite was in that department store, which is really terrible leadership on Shane's part and really idiotic on Glenn's part. I get why they needed to do it - you can't have a whole ep of just Rick and Glenn trying to escape and if you want to counter the pilot's drama-heavy plot with some fun-filled action you need a big enough crew to establish tension and suspense - but they didn't make it work.

For a show that's supposed to be survival horror they're leaning too much on the survival part. I didn't feel like any of them were really in danger and no one died. It's pretty much a done deal that Dixon will have to come back given Rooker's involvement. All of which made the episode feel less frightening and more like The Great Escape. And while he is growing on me (probably doesn't help that I rewatched Love Actually last night) he is no Steve McQueen.

StephenB @11: Well, you can't really sustain a full series with zombies you could walk up to and tip over with your finger. They have to be a few steps up to make it suspenseful and actually frightening. They have to become a worthy foe and something really fear. That being said, if they start having babies and developing culture then I'm going to be pissed.
dmg
14. TheAdlerian
Alex,

A applaud your "guts" for taking this view of the show.

Thus far, I see this show, amazingly, as being aimed at kids in spite of its being a form of pornography. It's like a cartoon glorifying everything grotesque.
Alex Brown
15. AlexBrown
TheAdlerian @14: I'm not sure I understand why you're calling the show "pornography"? Do you mean that it's obscene? Because if that's the case I'm actually going to have to take offense at claiming porno is obscene. That's a little too Judge Wellford for my taste. Also, mmm...porn...

And I'm not sure I see the point in making the complaint that the show is grotesque given that you can't really do a show about zombies without violence. Is it that you don't like the idea of violence in/as entertainment? I'm pretty certain that the show isn't aimed at "kids" but at the 18-30 demographic, especially given its mature rating and 10pm timeslot on a channel that has absolutely no children's programming whatsoever.

Could you possibly clarify your argument?
dmg
16. cranscape
As someone who can pretty much read a block of paragraph in a glance these "spoiler warnings" are a joke. Last review I'll read.
dmg
17. TheAdlerian
Milo,

Look up the definition of "pornography" and you'll find a non-sexual definition there. The word can mean "a lurid display for the purpose of enjoying a lurid display".

On TV you'll find many many expamples of porn on channels like The Weather Channel, TLC, TrueTV (crime channel), and more . The BBC is good for "medical porn" (TLC) and so on. As an example, The Weather Channel shows nonstop disasters caused by weather but does not go into the science of the weather. Many medical shows will be about showing what amounts to "freaks" again without the science, or only a little, and other mudane conditions aren't explored. In short, these shows are for people who want to get thrilled, grossed out, etc and are not about learning.

I could list many subjects in porn which are about watching something weird, think "anal cam", or humiliating happen to a person. The word "obscene" may be loaded (amusing word here) but "lurid" is certainly to the point. Much of porn is about watching something lurid for the point of thrills. Thus, sexual porn is no different than the weather channel programming, in intent.

A program that doesn't have any real story value fits easily into this description. On the flip side, I watch an anime series that had sex, nudity, bloody killings, and it was not porn because the story had a deep message about questioning authority, tradition, and such messages you would not expect from a tale of ancient Japan. Just the opposite, The Walking dead has American cartoon level characters and no theme to the story (that I can see), and so it's a type of murder porn.

In my opinion, basic cable is the new "broadcast TV" since almost no one has broadcast TV, and a show aimed at young men with no educational value filled with bloody sem-murder is the worst kind of porn.
dmg
18. dmg
Excellent, insightful, spot-on comments, TheAdlerian. (I thought to say "dead-on" but...well, you know.) Thank you!
Alex Brown
19. AlexBrown
cranscape @16: I tried to be as warn-y as possible with bold and lots of space, and putting it at the end of the review. Could you suggest a better spoiler warning system?

TheAdlerian @17: I don't find the show lurid, and I think deriding it as lacking "educational value" is a rather odd argument since that really isn't the point of the show. Not every form of entertainment has to be chockablock with philosophical underpinnings. And making that claim, to me, feels too much like Judge Wellford ("I know it when I see it"). I also think your application of "porn" is a bit loose (I'd hardly consider anything you've listed as falling under pornographic). And I will also say that one doesn't usually watch porn simply because it's lurid; that misses the whole point of it. Neither would I call most porn lurid, but now we're tredding on semantics here (is Damien Hirst an artist or a charlatan?, etc.).

But I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one. Thank you for explaining your viewpoint. I genuinely appreciate a solid argument that doesn't resort to trolling.
Daniel Brown
20. I_Slap_Raptors
Coming late to this thread, since I recorded the first two episodes (at UK pace) and have only just watched them...

I have to admit that while a lot of the criticisms levelled at the second episode are valid (action over horror, plot relevant dialogue over character development etc.), I might be one of the few people who finds the idea of semi-intelligent zombies interesting, although I'll also admit I come to the show having never read the comic so have no preconceptions about how "walkers" should behave.

The show has given no hint of the pseudo-science (assuming that's what it is, rather than a supernatural cause) behind the walkers, so the notion that whatever is reanimating them fires more neural pathways than the ones related to motor function and autonomous responses such as sight, hearing and smell is one I think worth pursuing. It's not like there's a law stating that zombies have to be stupid automatons, just an expectation of such. The speed they move at does bother me though, although I'm hoping that's because the quicker ones we've seen so far are still fresh, so haven't decomposed enough to give them the familiar lumbering shuffle.

I can't say that the character of Shane bothers me overmuch, either. The bloke's a dick and I don't like him, but I'm not supposed to like him, so that's fine with me. I know a lot of viewers will complain about characters like him or Dixon, but I honestly believe psychos like Dixon and borderline sociopaths like Shane would stand a better chance than a lot of well adjusted people would of surviving the initial onslaught, in fact characters like Shane are often praised by viewers for being "pragmatic" in zombie films. Dealing with the grind and attrition of long term survival is a different thing altogether though, so there's room for some interesting conflicts in upcoming episodes. His character may be a bit one dimensional so far, but the sad fact is some people are just dicks. I've never seen the point of giving every character multilayered personalities, since not every person has one. With some folks, what you see is what you get. Drama shouldn't be exempt from that.

I reserve the right to change my mind, of course, but a show needs to be far worse than this second episode to make me give up on it as quickly as some of those above me seem willing to. With serial dramas, the nature of the beast is one of peaks and troughs in episode quality. I'm perfectly willing to go with that, so long as the peaks outnumber the troughs.

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