Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead "Vatos"

Non Spoiler Review:
A well-paced and plotted episode that follows Rick and his crew attempting to retrieve the bag of guns in Atlanta, juxtaposed with the goings-on in the survival camp. Things are not what they seem with both groups, and a few red herrings lead to another shocking finale.

Walking Dead delivers the unexpected while characters continue to evolve nicely, including Daryl, who could have become the token redneck in Merle's absence. There is particular attention to detail to avoid plotholes—in this case, that the hacksaw was too dull to cut through the handcuffs, leading Merle to cut off his hand.

Spoilers Now!
Finding Merle gone, Rick and company follow the trail of blood into the building where it appears Merle cauterized his wound, then took off to parts unknown in downtown Atlanta. Daryl wants to continue the search, but guns first, and Glen's plan to get the bag sitting in the street earns him some respect from Daryl.

Unfortunately, the plan goes awry when Glen makes his escape with the guns, only to run into some gangstas who kidnap him. Daryl manages to capture one, and keep the guns, but Glen is gone, and they're forced to interrogate the young man to find out where his comrades are.

Daryl shows some responsibility for having let Glen get taken, so he's more than happy to torture the guy if he doesn't lead them to him. Rick's calmer nature prevails and they are taken to a secure, walled building and meet the gang leader, G, who wants all the guns or they'll feed Glen to his dogs. That doesn't suffice for Rick, who says they'll be back (T-Dog has his gun trained on G, so they have a tense standoff).

Rick refuses to even consider abandoning Glen after he saved his life, and everyone else feels the same way. So they return, well-armed, demanding Glen's return. It looks like a major gunfight will prevail until an old woman wanders in. Surprise. This is an old folks home, and gang leader G is a former custodian. They are led to Glen by the old woman where we learn that the abandoned seniors are being looked after by a variety of former employees and stragglers who joined their crew. They've had a tough go, as there are lots of dangerous people in Atlanta, so Rick and G make nice and share the guns, and the boys are off to get back to the van...only it's gone. Merle has apparently taken it, and perhaps is heading to the camp to exact revenge.

Meanwhile, in survivor camp, Jim is acting strange and digging holes (grave size holes), much to the alarm of everyone else, forcing Shane to step in and order him to stop, handcuffing him to a tree until he refocuses. Jim had a dream, but can't really remember the details. He does tell Lori never to let Carl out of her sight (How could she when her eyes are always the size of silver dollars?). Jim only escaped the walkers given they were chowing down on his own family, so he has issues.

Amy and Andrea are fishing in the quarry, discussing the old days with their father and sharing a bonding moment. It's Amy's birthday and Andrea is frantic to find some wrapping paper for the necklace she got her. Dale is only too happy to help out.

The group enjoys a bountiful feast of fish thanks to the sisters, but beat up Ed is just happy to stay in the tent and brood while his wife and daughter join the cookout. Dale amuses the group with some Faulkner quotes and we're left wondering who is on lookout...

...Because someone comes knocking on Ed's tent, and it's not Carol. Ed has a well-deserved death as walkers swarm the tent, but it's Amy, who has wandered to use the bathroom in the RV that gets bitten as the camp is overrun. Mayhem ensues, and a lot of background extras get killed.

Rick and company arrive (running back to camp from the city), and help defend the area, but it' s a bloodbath, and Andrea has a tearful good-bye as her sister dies in her arms. Jim remembers why he was digging the holes.

What Worked:
It was good to see some good human interaction in the Vatos, when so many of the people encountered represent the worst of humanity.  Most of the main players continue to see their characters rounded out. Andrea's interaction with Dale was a nice touch and hints at where the two characters will go. Even Daryl is showing a sense of honor that his brother lacks. Rick's idealism and sense of duty provides leadership for his small crew, while Shane's more heavy-handed approach creates animosity and fear in the camp. 

The expectations that Merle was returning to camp for some payback played well into the twist that it was the undead who were the greater threat. The invasion was short and horrifying, killing many without warning, and instilling in us that death is forever just around the corner for anyone.

What Didn't Work:
What happened to their lookout and all the little security measures they had going on at the periphery of camp? If next week they explain this, as they did with the dull hacksaw, then it's just a minor quibble.

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