Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Walking Dead Ep 5: Chupacabra

Welcome back to another week of The Walking Dead. I talked to some friends who thought this season was ho-hum (and I will admit, it feels a little more stagnant than last season, where we were all over the place) but this episode had an ending that shocked both my husband and I!

But first, I feel like being nitpicky again. (Tis my nature with this show, it seems!) I was unhappy with the depiction of women in this episode. I didn’t really notice how unhappy I was until the scene where Andrea is standing on top of the RV holding a gun. Dale asks her what’s up with the Annie Oakley look, and she says she got tired of doing laundry and decided to do this for a change. Good for her… except the writers apparently want the women doing laundry or, if they’re Lori and Carol, cooking dinner for the men in the kitchen. Because the moment Andrea needs to step up to the plate, she makes a stupid move to try to impress everyone and almost gets Daryl killed. Moral of the story? Women belong in the kitchen, where they can cook meals (oh, and clean up afterwards… did you notice any men cleaning up? Neither did I…). On top of that, you’ve got Glenn saying to Dale that he thinks all the women are having their periods lately (well, except for the one who’s gotten knocked up, natch) because of how testy they are. Right. Because the men have been models of sensibility and calm. And if that weren’t enough, you’ve got Rick and Shane walking through the woods comparing sexual conquests.

It’s like the script was written by a 16-year-old boy. Who’s never talked to a female. And it’s 1952.

So yeah. I was annoyed. I expect better writing than this. It’s one thing to write this sort of stuff as a commentary, but it was written as if it’s the way things should be. Heaven forbid you put a gun in the hands of a stupid possibly menstruating lady. God knows WHAT she’ll do with that!

Josh: Wow, Nikki. Were you on your period while you were watching this? Because it sort of sounds like oh I can't even keep a straight face, never mind.

The degree to which this week's episode set feminism back was less clear to this male viewer, but I can certainly see your point. The script is credited to David Leslie Johnson, who also wrote screenplays for the movies 'Orphan' and 'Red Riding Hood' in the last couple of years, so maybe he thinks of all women as either sexually warped homicidal dwarves or werewolf bait. At any rate, I am definitely ready for a tough, capable female character on this show. And I promise she's coming. With pets.

In the meantime, we get Andrea swinging like a saloon door (I said 'saloon,' not 'salon,' so stop throwing things at me), Carol fluctuating between quiet misery and quiet judgment, and Lori doing... whatever it is Lori does. Being inspiring? Holding hands? I don't know. (Oh, wait – cooking and laundry! Now I remember.)

Not that anyone but Daryl did much of anything in this episode, anyway. But what Daryl did was electrifying yet again as this continues to be very much his season, to the degree that I am beginning to wonder if the writing staff shouldn't just lump the entirety of the comic's characters and plot lines and go completely off on their own. It seems that those are the only stories that have been getting them excited, anyway, and I can't deny that Daryl Being Daryl and What Shane Did have far and away been the most compelling parts of this season to watch. Everything else is beginning to feel like clumsy padding.

Nikki: Jeez, did you not take your… um… testosterone thing with … the … OK, like seriously why isn’t there an equivalent to “Are you on your period?” that we can use with men? I guess women are just a lot classier than that. Or maybe we’re too busy putting away the laundry. Sigh.

OK, let’s move on to happier topics! Like the arrow in the eye socket or the impaling the zombie skull on the shoreline! Every week there’s a toe-curling moment, and this was it. I looked away as I’ve been doing, it was just SO gross (with sound effects) but I really did like it. The violence in this show is so cartoony that we’re always making gagging noises while laughing our heads off. Daryl, as you say, was the highlight of the episode (aside from the ending). We see Merle appear to him the way Taller Ghost Walt appeared to John Locke when he was at his low point, but where Walt urged Locke to get up, Merle practically kicks his brother off the hill. Despite the whole Andrea snafu, I did like the idea that all of them thought Daryl was a walker when he lurched into the camp. Daryl’s had a vision of Merle telling him that no one thinks he’s much of anything compared to Rick and Shane, and I really liked that scene where Carol came in and told him he was as good as either of them. It was a little pat (how could she have known that he was having a crisis of conscience based on that very thing?) but I liked it anyway.

And I’d completely forgotten that pretty much everyone knew that Lori was with Shane except for Rick, because she was, you know, WITH SHANE before Rick showed up! That was sort of a “whoops” moment. I wonder when THAT little tidbit is finally going to come out into the open?

Josh: I'm also curious as to when (or even if) Shane and Lori's indiscretions will be outed, as well. Then again, Rick is just the kind of reasonable guy to take extenuating circumstances into account and let it go. I think if anyone snaps over this sort-of triangle, it'll likely be Shane, whose “nostalgia is a drug” speech during the conversation with Rick in the woods continued his moral downward trajectory in a big way. Seriously, Shane – referring to the lost little girl as “a cat in a tree” is just the kind of talk that will get you dead on this show, and quick. Remember the last guy who went up against Rick? His dismembered hand is still chillin' on a rooftop back in Atlanta.

We came back to this discussion several times over the course of the episode, trying to determine if the time and effort being expended on the search for Sophia is truly worthwhile. I think the intention was to use that device as a way of explaining to the audience why so much time has been spent on it, perhaps even more so than the obvious highlighting of differences between Rick and Shane. And like Rick, I understand the logic in both sides of the argument.

But aside from the outright heartlessness of it, my biggest issue with Shane's brand of pragmatism is that it refuses to acknowledge the future in favor of miring itself in the present. What I mean is, where do they think they're going? Who or what do they expect to find at Fort Benning? And what's the hurry to get there? The lot of them are frankly screwed, regardless of where they go. That isn't fatalism – it's fact. The world has ended. What's done is done, and nothing will ever be remotely the same, right up until there's nothing left to “be” at all any more. And let's face it: if you can't make long-term survivors of the children, then what's the point in trying?

Even a loner like Daryl recognizes it, although I am starting to wonder how much of his dedication to the search is attributable to his own abandonment as a child. I loved pretty much everything about his story again this week, including the gross-out zombie kill. How Sayid was our Sawyer just then, anyway? One with a stick, and the other with THE DAMN ARROW FROM OUT OF YOUR OWN BODY? Now that's entertainment!

And against all odds, I even loved having Michael Rooker back. I must have missed seeing him in the previous episode's preview, as someone pointed out in the comments last week, but I sensed he'd be back soon, and I thought it was handled perfectly. In fact, keeping Merle in Daryl's head for a while would be fine by me. It's the in-body Merle that I'm worried about seeing again.

Nikki: SO agreed. I still remember an episode of Xena from season 1 where she’s shot with an arrow, and it goes into her but not through. She realizes, though, that you can’t pull an arrow OUT, that it can only go in one direction. So with that, she snaps off the tail and pushes the damn thing all the way through.

I think that’s the moment I fell in love with her. ;)

But back to THIS show. Let’s talk about the part we’re both itching to get to: that ENDING. As soon as Maggie looked at Glenn’s note and then looked up, completely terrified, I said to my husband, “OH MY GOD the WALKERS are in the barn!!!!!” And both of us were freaking out as the scene slowly crept to that horrific revelation. Herschel has said he wants to take care of the walkers on his property (we were reminded of that in this episode when Andrea was about to shoot Daryl) and Rick reminded her of Herschel’s request. But why? What the hell is he going to do with them?

Are the walkers in the barn actually people he found wandering onto his property? Or are they his family? He’s mentioned a few times that his family got bit, so it made me wonder if perhaps these are loved ones that he can’t let go. It would go a way to explaining the fact that Herschel is so quiet and filled with pain all the time. And in this episode, when he spoke to Rick, he became downright menacing, which was probably foreshadowing this revelation.

And aside from the final scene, I had another question I wanted to pose to you: what exactly are the zombie rules in The Walking Dead? I was chatting with a friend on Friday and she mentioned this is a problem she has with the show, and I have to agree. On Buffy, it’s clear what the vampire rules are. On Vampire Diaries, the rules are a little different, but they’re clear. In some zombie films, they’re super-slow and stupid. In others, they’re fast and frightening.

But on The Walking Dead, they seemed to move really quickly at times (remember when Rick first came to Atlanta in the first episode?) and at other times they’re slow and lumbering. You apparently turn into a walker if you get bit. Why? Is it the mixture of their saliva with their blood? Or is it the mixing of blood? If Daryl’s all bloody and has open wounds around his neck, and he puts a string of ears around his neck, would that zombie blood mix with his blood? Does it matter? Can they read? If they’re brain dead and only after brains, does that mean they can’t read at all? If so, why not put up signs throughout the forest for Sophia? You could say “We’re at the farm nearby” or “We’re looking for you, and we need you to go back to the highway and stay in one of the cars” or SOMETHING that would help them find her quicker.

What are your thoughts on this?

Josh: In the weeks leading up to the series premiere last fall, AMC posted ten 'Zombie Rules' to their Twitter feed as a way to build buzz. The rules were obviously intended for promotional use, but they are also legitimate within the context of the show and do a pretty good job of illuminating some of the seeming inconsistencies that you mention. As I have no permission to repost them, I will simply offer THIS LINK, sing the Jeopardy music quietly to myself while you fine folks click and read and ponder, and then assume we're all caught up.

Good? Good.

So, in essence, the rules state that whatever afflictions from which a person is suffering at the time of their death will also follow them into the dark world of the post-apocalyptic human smorgasbord. If an old or otherwise infirm person dies and is reanimated, they move much more slowly than someone who died in better shape; a guy who once had knee replacement surgery or an old war wound couldn't possibly maneuver with the speed or stamina of a former gymnast or high school quarterback. Decay does continue after reanimation, but it slows somewhat. A hungry zombie is much more dangerous than one well-fed (a fact with which Shane is already intimately acquainted). And how long it takes to turn after being infected is dependent on the nature of the injury, meaning a bite to the jugular would obviously be a faster change than something more superficial like a scratch on the leg or a drop of fluid in the eye.

All of these considerations, and more, were made by Mr. Kirkman over the course of the comic, and thank goodness they decided to bring them over into the show so faithfully. I much prefer this simple set of explanations, with its obvious real-world correlations, to anything that might come across more supernatural or science fiction cartoonish. It makes the world seem that much more authentic. Just wait 'til you guys see what happens to them when they start to starve!

But about that ending...

This is one of the first times since we started reviewing this season that my having read the source material put me at an unfair advantage, because I knew what was in the barn already. [GLENN'S NOTE: “Ever done it in a hayloft?” MY NOTES: “NONONONONOTTHEHAYLOFT!!!”] And I also know why, but I'm no tattle-tale. Of course I wouldn't dare spoil you guys on anything, ever. Besides, there's nothing that says they'll be there for the same reason(s) on the show, anyway.

And regardless of the rationale, this complication is bound to screw up the Quarry Kids' deal with Hershel's people. But will it merely put Hershel and Rick into more direct conflict with one another, or will the pet doc send them packing? And more important, will Glenn be able to perform under that kind of pressure? I can scarcely do it if the cat's watching...

Bits & Bobs:

• I continue to enjoy the flashback openings; that long shot of the darkened Atlanta skyline under attack was bone-chilling.

• My favorite moment from Daryl's story was his coming around with the zombie chewing on his toes. That is a method for cleaning mud from between the treads of one's boots that would never have occurred to me.

• Did I misunderstand, or did Head Merle say that Daryl was 'shrooming out there in the woods? So that's why he always wants to go out alone!

• Dale, to Andrea: “Don't be too hard on yourself – we've all wanted to shoot Daryl.”

• Carol, to Daryl: “You're every bit as good as them. Every bit.” Well, well, well.

That's all I have for this week, everyone. There are two more episodes before the long winter's nap of hiatus begins, so I hope you'll all come back for our holiday special next week, when we'll be exchanging our goriest-looking cranberry sauce recipes as well as some great Walking Dead-themed holiday gift ideas. See y'all then!


Linda345 said...

Nikki, although you're right about the antifeminist tone in this episode, I didn't notice it and am not bothered (usually those things bother me). I was too busy laughing myself silly listening to Glenn. Actually, I'm impressed with Andrea's determination to learn to shoot. And she got rid of the zombie in the bathroom very well that time. I do believe the women are going to get stronger.

I love watching The Talking Dead after the show. Chris Hardwicke brought up that Daryl might have considered trying not to drag his leg so much while walking toward the van. Yeah, Daryl gets some blame.

Shane is an ass! He couldn't have used a condom? Didn't he think what would happen if Lori became pregnant and they'd be bringing a newborn into this? And hey, Shane, THEY FOUND SOPHIA'S DOLL. I'd say it's worth looking around for Sophia. Right, Josh. What the heck is in Fort Benning, anyway, that Shane wants to rush off to? It's nice and comfy at Hershel's farm, except for the Zombie Barn.

Lisa Ferreira said...

Daryl's "son of a bitch" solidified him as the new Sawyer.

Page48 said...

3 armed and dangerous dudes were standing within sneezing distance of the wounded walker (Daryl) and Andrea thought she needed to take the shot from the next county?

How about Daryl eating raw rodent? Ugh! I mean Ugh!

Looking at all those hungry dead things in the barn, maybe it's just as well that Glenn's a one minute wonder.

I haven't read the comics, but my first reaction was that the dead barn dwellers were family members and that maybe Doc Hershel was keeping them around for when the Center for Disease Control (ruh-roh!) came up with a cure. Or maybe he's working on a vaccine using zombie antibodies or something. Or maybe they have a zombie slow-pitch league on weekends. Or maybe he was saving them up for GLENN.

Shane the pain. I'd like to see zombie Otis bite Shane in the ass before this thing is over.

Batcabbage said...

Daryl's arc this episode was brilliant. He's not Sawyer, he's not Sayid - he's a totally awesome character in his own right. The stuff with Merle was just fantastic, and seriously, shooting a zombie with an arrow PULLED FROM YOUR OWN GUT??? Just excellent. I clapped when that happened. And quite frankly, with source material that's as good as The Walking Dead comic, I'm surprised that my favourite character is one that's not in the comic. It worries me, actually. I said to Batkitty several times during this episode 'I don't remember hating [insert annoying character name here] this much in the comic'. I really hope they don't fuck this up. But, to quote the man who made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs, I've got a bad feeling about this.

vw: expeckya - a term of general enquiry of one's time of arrival. 'When can we expeckya for dinner?'

Nikki Stafford said...

Page48: Looking at all those hungry dead things in the barn, maybe it's just as well that Glenn's a one minute wonder.

That just made me laugh out loud. ;)

R.P. McMurphy said...

I kept thinking that Daryl was having an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" experience and was going to flash back to the Zombie snacking on him when the bullet hit him. I guess I'm still in LOST mode.

On behalf of all the one-minute wonders, maybe someone can tell Glen to think about baseball next time. It works!

Ambivalentman said...

I'm becoming very frustrated with this series now for a few reasons:

1. The characters. Daryl is the only character we are consistently talking about because he is the only character a) doing something interesting and b) surprising us with insight into his psychology. The rest of the group have become nothing more than a whiny group of survivors who are not very proactive and seem to have no problem letting others dictate terms to them.

2. The pacing. Glacial is a kind word. I get that the slower pace is supposed to build tension, that we are meant to be focused on the significant details of character and theme, but when the characters aren't popping and the themes are pretty basic, the pacing doesn't build tension so much as convert it into annoyance.

3. Drama. I read on a another blog, or from another critic that the writers of this show don't seem to know how to write group scenes. On reflection, this is wholeheartedly true. Almost every dramatic scene in this episode, and many of the previous ones, are between two characters. I think this may explain why the characters aren't really standing out. Since we can't see them interact with each other, it's hard to know who they really are.

Great recap, you two. I appreciated Nikki's neo-feminist reading of the show.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Sawyer got shot AGAIN trying to help someone else's kid. Will he never learn?

-Tim Alan

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I found Nikki's comments interesting, because I was at a panel at a SF convention this weekend where someone mentioned that they like the series better because it has less misogyny than the books.

I think we're seeing problems with the budget cutbacks. Staying in one place means hiring less actors (zombies can be paid less because they don't have lines) and needing less sets. It's hard to have drama when the cast is mostly sitting around in a reasonably comfortable place, and having to search for Sophia at least gives them a reason to go out in the woods and at least possibly run into a walker.