Dec 6 2010 12:11pm

The Walking Dead S1, E6: “TS-19”

The Walking Dead episode TS-19

Well, mes petits frères, our half-dessicated corpses have shambled to the end of the line. This has been a season of ups and downs and a whole lot of meh in between. The show ran through characters, story lines, and plot contrivances like there was no tomorrow, and the season finale was no exception.

Hearkening back to the season premiere, the cold open once again stars Shane and Rick and a bunch of gun-toting asshats with no regard for life or human decency. We’re deep in flashback territory here and we finally get to see just what exactly happened in that hospital before Rick woke up. Shane had a truly horrible decision to make. He’s too terrified to unplug Rick for fear of unintentionally killing him, but when the power goes out that’s just what happens. Or so he thinks.

Wracked with guilt and fear it’s no wonder he couldn’t find a heartbeat. He did the best he could for Rick, and for Lori. He knew full well she wouldn’t leave if she knew Rick might still be alive. Lori and Carl would be shacked up with Morgan and Duane right now, if they managed to survive that long. It was a lie, but a necessary one. Another line crossed, another gray area blurring the boundaries between black and white, right and wrong, ethical and immoral.

Back in the present day, everything in the CDC is unicorns and kittens. The adults get plastered, the kids play checkers, and everyone enjoys a hot shower and their first night of peace in months. Shane gets shitfaced in the shower and while under that weird state of illogical logic all drunks suffer from decides to explain his atrocious actions to Lori in the crassest and most pathetic way possible. And then he tries to stick his hands up Lori’s pjs. She strikes back and Shane has to wear her marks for everyone to see. I’m assuming next season Rick will actually become an attentive husband and realize something shady is going down between his wife and his best friend. Or he could continue to be a blind sad bastard, whatever’s easiest.

Then things really head south. The survivors start asking questions and Noah Emmerich, now named Dr. Edwin Jenner (har har, I see what you did there) takes a page from Lost and answers only every third question and does so in such a way that he actually creates more questions than he answers. It’s terribly frustrating and is why I never watched Lost in the first place. I don’t always have to know everything but you don’t have to be obnoxious about it.

Emmerich is such a great actor that even his irritating vagueness feels calming. He shows the campers an MRI of a person dying of a zombie bite. It’s a lovely little scene that explains the outbreak without  explaining anything at all. There isn’t anything left of the former person at all. The survivors already knew that, but to be shown it is a whole new level of hell, especially for Andrea. And Jenner; turns out the person on the video, Test Subject 19, was his wife. He watched her die, watched her turn, then shot her in the head, and now that video is all he has left of her. He has to watch her be killed twice over and over again. It’s no wonder he’s ready to die.

But he isn’t just suicidal, he’s an angel of death. Dale finally brings up the countdown clock that’s been looming ominously in the background all episode. Turns out that’s when the power goes out, and when that happens the whole building gets decontaminated, which means vaporization. Jenner thinks he’s doing them all a favor by letting them die quickly and painlessly, but most of the rest of them aren’t ready to fold. It takes a lot of screaming and crying, but he eventually lets them out of the lockdown. Jenner whispers sweet nothings into Rick’s ear and everyone else but Jacqui leaves. Andrea almost stays but Dale talks her out of it in a scene that could’ve gone on longer. And how much must it have sucked for Jacqui to sit there listening to Dale begging Andrea to come with them. She’s been with them just as long, but no one gives a shit about her. With friends like those who needs zombies?

The men do some more pointless throwing of large objects against unbreakable objects before Carol remembers she found a grenade in Rick’s laundry a few weeks back and for some reason decided the best place to keep it was in her purse, you know, for emergencies. Chicks, man, they keep everything in their purses.

The Walking Dead episode TS-19A few days ago word came down the pike that show runner Frank Darabont fired his entire writing staff. Supposedly he was Sulkly McGee about four of the six scripts (i.e.: the four that weren’t written by Robert Kirkman or longtime producer Glen Mazzara) not being up to the standards of Shawshank Redemption. So, under the mantra of “What works for Torchwood works for me!” he lit the writers room on fire and is running everything. Supposedly. This could be good in that the show might finally figure out how to smooth out the highs and lows into one complex and complementary whole. Guys like Aaron Sorkin, David Milch, and Matthew Weiner maintain strict control over their scripts and they’ve produced some of the best television of the last decade. Or it could be disastrous if Darabont’s vision is lacking. But right now it’s just so hard to tell.

It’s the same problem with the season as a whole. With only six episodes it’s almost impossible to judge the season. And choosing this episode as the season finale didn’t help much. This is the sort of episode a show picks for the midseason break, not for a season finale. It was tragic and hopeful and sad and sweet and everything else we’ve already seen. There was no oomph, no emotional kick, no devastating action. Sorry, kids, Buffy’s not jumping off the platform, instead she’s going to just call it a night and go home.

Individually the episodes are easy to nit pick and analyze, but combining them into one big picture leaves me with...I don’t really know. I can’t really decide how I feel about this season. Overall I know I enjoyed myself, and I don’t regret the time I’ve spent with Rick and co., but I also feel incomplete, like there’s still too much left untold. Will this storytelling problem be fixed by next season’s shakeup? Hopefully. Then again it could be the start of something awful. Maybe I’ll take a page from Rick’s book and try to look on the sunny side.

Final thoughts

  • “Why are you here? What do you want?” “A chance.” “That’s asking an awful lot these days.”
  • “Welcome to Zone 5.”
  • “It’s over, there’s nothing left. Don’t you see that?”
  • “We always think there’s gonna be more time...and then it runs out.”
  • “This is our extiction event.”
  • “I’m grateful. The day will come when you won’t be.”
  • Looks like Shane isn’t an asshole 24/7. Seems like he can have moments of humanity. Too bad he’s also kinda stupid. Make that really stupid. Nope, wait a minute. It took a good 10 minutes but here comes the douche patrol.
  • Hello, my name is Shane. I have a stupidly ugly tattoo on my chest and I like to get drunk in the shower.
  • Oh good. The Killing. Because there just aren’t enough detective shows on TV.
  • If I have to hear that blasted Quiznos commercial one more fucking time I am going to start a killing spree to rival Ed Gein.
  • Boys, boys, boys. If those doors can withstand 6000 degree fires then your measly little pickaxes aren’t going to mount much of an offense.
  • Men have way too much testosterone. It makes me tired just watching them.
  • Daryl really is the only one with hope. Him and Merle, the Dixon brothers. They are the only ones who think outside the box. Single-minded purpose but one that’s always geared toward survival.
  • AMC, you and I need to have a talk about the difference between good CGI and bad CGI.
  • Blowing up half the neighborhood isn’t the best containment system, CDC.
  • What do you think Jenner whispered to Rick and how long will it take them to finally getting around to tellling us?
  • If you’re going to do spoilers, either for the comic or for clips/previews/pirated copies of future eps make sure to give hefty spoiler warnings.
  • See you next season!

Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by profession, Rob Gordon and Randal by paycheck, novelist by moonlight, 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...

Ty Margheim
1. alSeen
I have to say that the Jenner storyline surprised me. After seeing his samples destroyed, I thought for sure he was going to force them to become test subjects so he would have fresh samples to examine.
Kai Charles
2. Kai Charles
Good points :) I read the comic so I'm loving seeing the themes from the book played out on the screen, but some of that translated to a slower pace than traditional tv shows. They are going to have to find a good balance
Kai Charles
3. Ben Cochran
--SPOILER (maybe) BELOW --

I'm assuming he told Rick about how his wife is all preggers and stuff. And then Rick did math in his head.
David Siegel
4. bigscary
I'm sure the secret is that further infection is not required for resurrection.
Alex Brown
5. AlexBrown
alseen @4: Same here. I know I sound like a broken record but if they had a longer season I'm sure we would've had more time with Jenner. I just don't understand why you'd show the contamination going through his gloves unless you planned to do something with it. It's Chekov's ring. Frankly, much of this season has been Chekov's ring but only the grenade followed through.

Kai @2: It's strange that a 6-ep season can feel both rushed and slow at the same time, and not entirely in a good way. Personally I like the quiet, slow, reflective parts more than the frenetic action. The show/comic has always been more about those quiet moments of impending terror and doom than zombies, but on TV juxtaposing those two paces feels jarring and unbalanced. I'm hoping Darabont's vision for the show is strong enough that next season he can even things out.

Ben @3: I am stealing your SPOILERS system :)
I have a feeling that story line will get held until toward the end of season 2, or maybe even season 3. We haven't even gotten to Carl killing Shane yet and Rick still hasn't figured anything out with Shane. A lot of things have to happen before we get to babytown.

bigscary @4: Now that would be an interesting development!
Kai Charles
6. sofrina
a number of disturbing issues in a very tense episode. but first jacqui: actually t-dog was extremely upset that she wanted to stay. he tried to drag her out, but the others dragged him out instead. that's one person who cared about her.

it's kind of inexplicable the way these people handled things. he says that gate is not gonna open again and they don't even ask, "what? tonight or ever?" they generally agree not to grill him the first night. like they couldn't get drunk and ask questions at the same time. if anything they should have been desperate for information. instead of answering their question the guy gives a long rhapsodic account of the how the disease works. thanks for the love letter to test subject 19, but that is not what they asked. they learn they have 59 minutes to decontamination (which can only mean fire or gas) and they blow 29 searching for empty fuel drums? he told you there were no more! the second he said that, they should have grabbed their stuff and jumped on the elevator. then he, not so slyly, locks them in the command center and the women sit down and cry while the men go bonkers trying to break the door or the doctor. really? your only child is sitting there, moments from death and you cry?, seems like a time for all hands on deck.

everyone should have been searching for a vent, a duct,a fire exit - any way out of that room. heck there are two kids, perfect for finding hidden panels and stuff. they're halfway to the floor already. and most offensive, no one consulted the computer. what could it have hurt to ask the computer to open the damn door? and no one thought of it.

i really hope these characters rethink allowing rick to lead at this point. he tried to reason with the guy. sure it worked, but i think letting daryl bury that axe in one of jenner's knees would have moved things along a bit quicker. jenner would be the one person in the room who did not have a quick and painless death. it was a bit surprising that all 5 vehicles waited for the two stragglers. at least daryl should have been tearing out of there. one those stragglers left his brother chained on a roof.

it is good that next season will be twice as long. that show "survivors" on bbc-america was six episodes per season, but at least they were aired back-to-back here so it left off after a satisfying stretch.
John Skotnik
7. ShooneSprings
@Ben 3 - That is my guess as well, and certainly works well with the "grateful" comment.

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