When we last left the survivors of “The Walking Dead“, they’d just discovered the Center for Disease Control, and the extremely shaky Dr. Bruce, er, Edwin Jenner. But, hey, it’s got guns, steel gates, food, and is generally incredibly safe. It seems like an absolutely ideal place in which to wait out a zombie apocalypse, and we all know that’s generally a really bad thing in zombie movies, but how do our heroic, if genre-blind, survivors fare?
- Writers: Adam Fiero and Frank Darabont
- Director: Guy Ferland
- Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Emma Bell, Frances Cobb, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Keith Allen Hayes, Lennie James, Noah Emmerich
The camp relocates to the CDC, and discovers it has all the amenities of home, which they promptly abuse. Shane and Lori have a discussion. Dr. Jenner plays host, and whispers something to Rick. We meet TS-19, and learn a cure isn’t happening any time soon. That grenade Rick found in the first episode finally finds a use.
- A Lack of Shane: Considering what a douche he’s been most of the series, Shane actually becomes incredibly sympathetic. We learn the roots of his excessively pragmatic attitude in the opening scene, where he desperately tries to save Rick while soldiers are shooting zombie and innocent human alike out in the hallway. As the episode unfolds he really looks out for others and really forces us to reevaluate everything he’s done and said over the course of the series, especially since it’s clear he kind of lacks the mental capacity to make the smartest decisions. Then of course he wastes it. Yeah, that won’t be problematic once the survivors get to a quiet place for a fistfight.
- No Wine Before It’s Time: You have to love that the first two things the survivors latch onto, when they discover the amenities of their new digs, are the hot showers and the wine. Both are nice little human moments, and totally believable. If anybody has earned a drink, it’s these people!
- Dr. Jenner To The Front, Please: Noah Emmerich adds some occasionally much-needed acting chops (not to mention even more “Hey, it’s that guy!”) to the cast as the shaky, kinda creepy Dr. Jenner. Although we do find ourselves wondering why the survivors, even in their miserable state, didn’t notice how shaky he actually was.
- May Through December: We wanted more Dale and Andrea, but we’ll take what we can get. Dale convincing her not to kill herself was touching and gave two veteran actors (Jeffrey DeMunn and Laurie Holden) a great emotional moment.
- Chekov’s…er…High Explosive: Man, we were wondering when that grenade was going to see some use. While we’ve had our issues with the show’s writing, it’s nice to see they planned at least that far ahead.
- Loosey Goosey: We’ve complained before about how off the pacing is, but probably the best example so far is this episode, which ends with a bunch of unanswered questions. That helicopter Rick saw in Episode 1…was it visiting the CDC? It seems unlikely, so where was it going? What happened to Morgan? Merle has cut off his hand, stolen a van, and seems to be less than happy…but he’s gone until Season Two since he didn’t show up here. And then, of course, the show throws us yet another one when Dr. Jenner whispers something we can’t hear into Rick’s ear, and his reaction tells us it wasn’t a Dr. Seuss rhyme. Sure, some of this is just planning for season two, but it leaves us with an odd dissatisfied feeling, having so many loose ends. What is this, Lost?
- The Final Countdown: So, in a show that takes the time to cultivate and show close, emotional moments and deep character complexity, we have the entire crew of survivors wander into a building with a mad scientist who seals them into it and has a timer counting down to when the building explodes. Really? That’s the best you could come up with?
- Ahhhh, The Power of Cheese: In general, the show has been defined by wild swings. The character drama is absolutely great, showing intelligence and forethought all throughout. But about half the plots have been total cliche storms. Little wonder Frank Darabont is taking total control of the writers’ room.
- I’m All Right, Jacqui: Quick show of hands: anybody care that Jacqui bought it? No? Not a surprise.
An episode that frustratingly features both this show’s weaknesses and strengths. Not the blow-out season finale we were quite expecting, but it did deliver in some important respects. Still, the second season will hopefully be more consistent; we’ll find out next October.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays, 10pm, on AMC.
So what’d Jenner whisper into Rick’s ear? Let us know in the comments!