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In Which We Learned the CDC Blew the Fuel Money on Booze – The Walking Dead “TS 19″
“The Walking Dead” went out with a bang, but also a bit of a whimper. It wasn’t a surprise that the entire episode took place in the CDC. Considering the ominous video diary, we all knew something dubious would happen. It’s one guy who didn’t want to let in Rick & Company, and who was planning to put a shotgun in his mouth. So what’s the best that can happen here?
That the group got a hot shower, I guess. Rick and Lori got some alone time. And they all got really wasted before learning the rest of the globe had been wiped out by the zombie apocalypse. (Why did the CDC have so much booze around? It’s a miracle they didn’t let Ebola out during a Christmas party!) Admittedly, that was a pretty useful bit of information. Otherwise, this episode felt yet like another reason to stall the group, and to invent some kind of cut off point.
What exactly was Dr. Jenner’s motivation? Why did he let them all in, get them comfortable, and then lock them up to die? The least the writers could have done was let him quote the Hippocratic oath, or tell them he wined and dined them to give them a final good day. Something. Instead, we got a demented mad scientist type who locked them in and let them out without much explanation. Sure, there was a lot of grand talk about how important it was to hope and survive, but I would have preferred to see this on the open road. Or in their initial camp. I know viewers were getting restless without some kind of Major Explanation and World Building, but this felt like a real waste of an hour.
In fact, I’d say “TS 19″ had it all backwards. Instead of showing me (instead of telling me with louder and louder voices) that these characters wanted to survive, it decided to zoom back and give an origin story for the hospital’s blood-splatters. “Days Gone Bye” was the show’s one shining moment, and I just didn’t need to see it from Shane’s point of view. I liked imagining the hospital carnage for myself. But no. Now, someone out there is going to say that we needed to know whether Shane really believed Rick to be dead or not – again, something better to be inferred – but it was a waste of time and a lousy cold open. Call me lame, but I preferred the comic’s explanation of “We thought you’d been evacuated!” over Shane being unable or unwilling to hear a heartbeat. And the show seems determined to make Shane out to be a good guy (half-lying to Lori so he can get her to safety) and before making him a near-rapist. I like my characters with shades of gray. I don’t like my characters with shades of stupid, especially if I have to endure them going on and on about how they were really sure Rick was dead. You’re right, Lori, it seems silly now that he’d just drop dead like that but at the time it was plausible and oh, whatever. This is just to get my rape on.
I have to say that it’s the one moment I actually liked and sympathized with Lori. As if a zombie apocalypse isn’t bad enough, your husband’s best friend tries to rape you, and you can’t tell your husband about it. You just have to sit there and stay quiet. It took six episodes, but I finally can say I get her a little bit. But I still think she’s been written really poorly. I’m especially troubled about what I think Dr. Jenner whispered in Rick’s ear. Those who read the comics know what it might be; those who know their medical workups might be able to guess. If it is, it’s robbed Lori of a powerful moment and realization and I find that incredibly disturbing. Why is this show about the men having all the information?
Once again, Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey DeMunn proved themselves to be top notch performers, selling every line (no matter how stilted) and emotional beat. Again, I think one of the biggest flaws of the show is the “show, not tell” and it’s painfully obvious in the character relationships. I would have liked to have seen the relationship between Dale, Andrea, and Amy. I don’t want to be told “I really care about you!” However, in one moment of DeMunn plunking himself in that chair, eyes wet with tears, I was convinced I’d actually seen six episodes of character development. If you doubt that a good actor can sell anything, just watch that moment again and again.
But don’t watch the subsequent explosion. Bad CGI, and for a show that spent crucial minutes of a finale pinning down zombie science (and that’s ok to a point), it totally ignored the laws of an explosion. Dale and Andrea would have been dead from shrapnel, and I’m not sure the Winnebago could have protected its inhabitants. We were told it was second only to a nuke, but no one even ruptured an eardrum.
After much screaming, weeping, and banging – and the use of one MacGuffin of a hand grenade – our characters are out in the zombie wilds again. We won’t see them again for a year. The ratings were a success (proving comics can be successfully adapted for a mainstream television audience) but will audiences be hooked enough to come back next October? After only six episodes? We’ll see. I’ll be back, but it’s going to be with really tempered expectations. I thought the combination of Frank Darabont and Robert Kirkman was a perfect blend of maker and material, but the show didn’t have the emotion and resonance I hoped for. I sincerely hope it was uncertainty and growing pains that encouraged the show to hold back, and that it comes racing back in October with all the drama, characterization, and horror I believe it’s capable of.