5
Dec
2010
The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 6
TS-19
Jordan
Last week, Frank Darabont, the man behind bringing The Walking Dead to television, announced that he had fired the entire show's writing staff, and was going to rely more on himself and on Robert Kirkman, the writer of the comic series on which the show is based, to write Season Two. Considering many of the show's flaws this year have been in flat out terrible dialogue (a problem that mostly disappeared in tonight's Darabont penned finale), this shake up could really bring the series to the next level and help it reach its considerable potential. I've said before that I hope the show moves more towards its emotional, insightful side and doesn't give in to fans who just want 45 minutes of zombie-killin' every Sunday night, and I think Darabont (the man behind The Shawshank Redemtpion) could very well take the show in that direction, trying to make it on par with Mad Men and Breaking Bad instead of just on par with any other zombie story out there. All that being said, I must confess that "TS-19" did not deliver, nor did it instill in me the great confidence I hoped it would.

Granted, Darabont fired the entire staff after the season had wrapped, and perhaps only realized the problems with the season as a whole in retrospect, but this still seems like a poorly thought out season finale. Any showrunner worth his salt knows that you end a season with a bang, not a whimper, especially in a show like this that thrives on thrills as much as it does on meditation. The actual end of this episode went off very well, as I'll discuss in a moment, but so much before it didn't work that its impossible to call the episode as a whole a success. The episode opens well, with a flashback that finds Shane rushing through the hospital to find Rick, dodging waves of the undead and a military force that is seemingly slaughtering everyone, infected or not. This scene provides necessary shading to Shane's character, showing him trying to save Rick, and honestly believing him dead before leaving him there, blocking the door with a gurney to at least keep his body intact. Its a fairly noble moment for the character, and a necessary one considering the terible things he will do later in the episode.

Back in the present, the survivors are welcomed into CDC by Dr. Edwin Jenner, who requires a blood test from everyone and clearly knows more than he's letting on. The group is so happy to be inside, however, that the barely notice his secrecy before indulging in booze and food and hot showers. Everyone gets a chance to relax, but the liquor brings out some true colors as well. Rick confesses to Jenner that he's losing hope, and that he thinks everyone he knows will soon be dead. Its a brazenly honest, communicative moment from our taciturn protagonist, who admits his biggest problem is refusing to talk about how he feels to his family. Meanwhile, Shane corners Lori and tries to explain his justifications for leaving Rick. He did the best he could at the time, honestly, and its hard to argue that he wasn't in the moral right at any point before Rick's return, that we know of. Sure, he started banging his best friend's wife pretty quickly after Rick "died (last week we learned the breakout happened around 63 days ago), but he really thought his friend was dead, and he seems to really love Lori. Unfortunately he quickly cedes his moral high ground, giving into his tendency to use violence to force cooperation, and attempting to rape Lori. She quickly fights him off, yet Shane has officially burnt through whatever little goodwill he had left for saving her life.

The next morning, Jenner treats thr group to a lecture on the disease that causes the dead to rise. We learn that the time before they reanimate varies, and that only the motor functions return. We also discover that Jenner does not know what causes the disease, or how to cure it, and that only a few hours remain before the entire center goes up in a firebomb that Jenner wants to incinerate everyone. He is not made out as an evil man; he isn't trying to murder the group in cold blood, he just thinks the situation outside is hopeless, and believes quick, painless death is better than the short, brutal life that awaits them outside. The group immediately starts panicking, with Darly and Shane doing the most damage, but of course Rick wins the day with a plea to the human side of the situation, explaining to Jenner that the situation may seem hopeless, but there is always a chance as long as they are still alive. He persuades most to escape, but Jacqui and Andrea elect to stay behind, that is until Dale threatens to stay with Andrea because he doesn't want to face the world alone. So Dale and Andrea also flee, and Jacqui and Jenner stay behind to be incinerated painlessly while the others forge on.

Rick's speech, and the scene of the group driving away at the end send the themes of the show home nicely, and reminded me of the vast potential this series has to be an excellent examination of the human will to survive and the desire of one man to retain his essential humanity when all else is falling apart around him. It would be easier to stop, to just allow yourself to be painlessly incinerated and to ensure you wouldn't be torn to shreds, but that is surrender. Rick, and the rest of the survivors have kept hope alive, and their struggle to survive is a story that I tihnk can easily be the groundwork for an excellent television series. Unfortunately, most of tonight was taken up with silly plot contrivances, some exceedingly dumb behavior from the characters, and very little plot advancement. All we learned could have been just as easily assumed, and while Shane and Rick both had great moments of emotional honest that shade in their characters a little more fully, these moments pretty much confirmed things we already knew about them. Jacqui's death could not have meant less to me, while the prospect of losing Dale showed me just how much I'd come to care about him over the last few weeks (and just how sad I'll be when this show inevitably kills him. Come on, wise old man who loves everybody? He HAS to die at some point, but I'm glad it isn't yet). I still think its hard to judge The Walking Dead until we see its second season, and I remain excited for the show's potential there, but this finale didn't do much to increase that excitement. Until next season, folks.

Grade: B-

Notes:

-Jenner whispered something in Rick's ear before he left. That certainly leaves me curious...

-Some really stupid moments: "Is that a brain?" i know Carl is a kid, but is he like four? That was insanely stupid. Also, "Is that what happened to Jim?" OF COURSE IT IS. Plus, Daryl going at the metal door with an axe was remarkably cliche and a clear waste of his time and energy.

-"No pain, an end to sorrow, greif, regret, everything."

-Loved the choice of the ending song, Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time." See you guys next season!
Tags: The Walking Dead
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