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Live in the Moment! And Always Replace the Toilet Paper! – The Walking Dead: Vatos
Now this is “The Walking Dead” as I wanted to see it! Well, mostly. Because the cold open may have been some of the worst writing the show has offered so far. Andrea and Amy fishing was fine, and having a moment to cry over their (possibly) dead parents was actually quite realistic. It reminded me of a moment (and I hate myself for bringing another comic into this discussion) in Y: The Last Man where Yorick and a music loving lady are sitting at the Washington Monument. The woman says “I was just going about my life when I realized that the Rolling Stones are dead.” When faced with horrific situations, we all kind of blunder along until we stop and think, and then it hits us that mom and dead and my dog and Bruce Springsteen were all eaten by zombies and oh my God I’m losing it. So I liked that. From fishing to “Our parents probably died in this.” But everything leading up to that – the clunky way two sisters relate over lures and clubbing fish heads – was awful. No one talks like that. (I actually screamed that at the television and I feel ashamed.) It was – and it pains me to say it – pure Robert Kirkman. Much of his dialogue was a bit stagey in the book, though I can often forgive it because of the nature of the medium. Comics have to dump a lot of info in a few panels, so much of it seems forced. But when people have to speak it? Yikes.
Then again, in Kirkman’s defense, Darabont’s alterations have read far cornier. As the scene played, I actually wondered “Hey, who wrote this bit? It’s bad.”
The introduction of Jim – frantically digging graves – was curious. It felt like a contradiction and a subtle backtrack. Characters who tolerated virulent racists and wife-beaters were suddenly up in arms over a guy acting a bit creepy in the woods. Now we stage an intervention. Really? I get their “live together, die apart” strategy and applaud it, but we were all looking the other way a mere two episodes ago. I’d like to think this is Rick’s early influence, shaming them into looking out a little more for one another. However, Rick wouldn’t leave a guy tied up for hours upon hours even after he’d recovered from heat stroke. What the heck was that, Shane? Again, it took weeks for you to smack Ed and you only got involved because you didn’t appreciate being dumped.
I applaud Jim for his reminding Lori there is actually an apocalypse going on and to keep a close eye on Carl. She looked a little guilty, as if she only just now realized lovenesting with Shane may have caused her son to become undead nibbles.
Rick and Company had an adventure that went from ok, to ludicrous, back to something that felt like pure Kirkman. I liked the way they tracked Merle, though his superhuman abilities are definitely dubious, and it felt a little like a promo for “127 Hours.” It had a nifty “panel-to-screen” feel though, despite that this is a twist invented purely for television.
But then a Latino gang showed up, tried to take their guns, and kidnapped Glenn. The Walking Dead suddenly became some ethnic joke that belonged in “Crank.” I was all fired up to write another rant about stereotypes, weak characters, and silly story additions. Just as this was becoming “Colors” with zombies, the story turned on its head as a shaky little grandma wandered into the tense standoff. It turns out the LA Kings-Except-Its-Atlanta were putting on a deliberate violent front (one relying entirely on their “scary” ethnicity) to protect an old folks home. The gang leader was actually the place’s janitor; his right hand man was a physical therapist. Their killer dogs were the home’s Chihuahuas. They alone had stayed to care for these people after doctors, nurses, and families abandoned them. Was it corny? Sure. But it was effective and charming, and more believable to me than the overt sexism and racism of the previous two episodes. The dichotomy of Darabont and Kirkman is proving to be rather fascinating. Darabont spent two episodes stressing humanity was doomed through the biggest caricatures he could paint. Kirkman immediately suggests there’s good to be found, and it’s often where you will least expect it.
And then he gives us an Andrea who is consumed with looking for wrapping paper. Because naturally, women (and only women) worry about silly things like ribbons and fancy paper in a time of crisis. So close, and yet so far away. Again, this is just something that was better in the comic. Amy, Andrea, and Dale had a cute relationship and a handful of pages painted a better picture of them than a drip looking for a birthday bow.
That fussing (and the reappearance of the mermaid necklace) spelled doom. After a poignant conversation about Time – during which Andrea (so recently consumed with wrapping paper) looked flippant and blank – disaster struck. Even those readers with advanced warning were lulled into a false sense of security, and we all felt a little helpless as half the camp was munched. Including Amy.
Rick came in just in time to save the day and weakly survey the carnage. Oddly, his group proved to be more skilled with guns than Shane who didn’t seem to score a single headshot.
Gravedigger Jim proved to be an oracle, as he numbly looked upon the carnage. He had dreamed it all. That was…weird. I suppose if you’re asking me to believe in zombies, I should be able to believe in psychics, but it seemed out of place, and unnecessary amidst stuff that was scary enough on its own.
The scariest and most upsetting thing of all? (Besides that Jim may have been able to predict the whole thing and save them all?) I suspect that Andrea used the last of the toilet paper to wrap Amy’s necklace. Amy came outside to complain, and she wound up bitten. It was all Andrea’s fault, and would have been avoided had she simply lived each day to its last, and handed Amy the necklace after she came back from Atlanta.
The lesson here is to never, ever use a resource as scarce as toilet paper for wrapping paper. The foolish decisions of a moment can cost you a sister. Heed the words of Dale (and Faulkner) and just live in the moment as if each were your last. All that separates the living from the dead is a single square of double ply paper.