Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Walking Dead: 4.01 "30 Days Without an Accident"

Hello, all you lovers of walkers and all things gory… it’s time for the return of The Walking Dead posts!! As always, I’m joined by my compatriot in zombie head-smashing, Joshua Winstead, writing all the way from the land of TWD filming: Atlanta, Georgia. And yet, through the magic of the internet, we can make it look like we’re sitting right next to each other. Ooooo…

We do apologize for the lateness of this one. First, Canadian Thanksgiving got in the way of me getting anything over to Josh before Monday evening. And then he’s in one of his busiest work seasons of the year. And, oh right, I have work, too. So this is a rather quick and dirty post, but next week will be better. ;) Until then, prepare thyself for the loopiest, most stream-of-consciousness rundown of the episode you'll read this week. ;) 

In the season 4 premiere, Tyreese has a girlfriend, Beth’s got a boyfriend, and Carl’s got a pig. By the end of the episode, two of those relationships have been forever altered.

Nikki: Let’s start right at the beginning. Six months have passed since the last episode of the show, and I’m thinking they’re showing this in real time, because a period that is possibly about six months has also passed on the show. (They may have said the exact period at one point, but I missed it if they did.) In that time, the new people from Woodbury have been brought to the prison and integrated into the group; they’ve reinforced the fence and built large extra wooden fences with big pointy sticks on them to impale zombies who might get a little too close; they’ve introduced a pulley-system to open the front gate to let people in and out; they’ve instituted some sort of council to decide things for the group; they’ve socialized into hunters and gatherers, food preparers, schooling systems, social groups, and committees; they’ve created a garden; they have a horse and a few pigs… in other words, they’re starting anew inside the walls of a prison. There’s a great scene at the very beginning of the episode where Rick — who appears to have regained his marbles since the dire events of season 3 — goes out to the garden and we see him digging. In order to block out the sounds of the zombies, he wears earbuds, and we hear only the music he hears. (Did anyone else, by the way, think, how the hell did he charge an iPod?) And then, when he finds a gun buried under the dirt, he stops to look at it, and for one moment, removes one of the earbuds. And only then does this seeming paradise turn into the walled hell that it really is, with the snarling, growling walkers pawing the air behind him, desperate to break through the fence. It’s a brilliant set-up scene, showing that time has passed, some things have improved, but at its core, the world is still the same.

Josh, what did you think of the beginning scenes?

Josh: Hi, gang. Welcome back to Badnewsburg! Everyone enjoy their summer vacation? My summer was amazing, aside from one unfortunate beachside incident wherein my daughter sprayed bargain bin aerosol sunscreen into my eyes. Kids, you know? I'm not quite back to 100% just yet, but I feel improvement every day. My wife says it's looking much better, but mirrors are fairly useless to me at present, so I'll let you be the judge:

Not so bad, right? Wish I could figure out why she won't kiss me any more... Ah, well – I'm sure she'll come around in time.

Speaking of which, life has been moving right along at the folksiest prison in Georgia since last we met. The size of the group has grown considerably, both from the incorporation of the Woodbury survivors and the periodic welcoming of other random refugees from outside the fence, and it appears that this increase in the labor pool has led to a boom of sorts. The new systems are keeping everyone safe and well fed, and romance is in the air. It's almost... peaceful. Must be time for things to start going horribly wrong.

I really enjoyed how clearly the new dynamic was established even in so few broad strokes, with big changes detailed in very naturalistic ways. We learn that Rick has not simply given up his gun for a wheelbarrow – he's surrendered his authority entirely, leaving the government of their enclave up to a council of elders from the old core group: Hershel, Carol, Daryl, Sasha and Glenn. The sheriff is focused on raising food and raising his family, content to leave his old ways behind him and try to set a different example for his son moving forward. My guess would be that there is more than a little atonement weighting this decision, too. Rick sees plenty of hands to do the ugly work now, and he's more than happy to opt out. He's recovered from his mental break and doing well, but he's not the same as before.

No one's the same, really. Daryl seems calmer and quieter but still struggling to make peace with the notion of himself as authority figure and role model. Carol continues to mature into the tough, clearheaded veteran we began to see last season, working hard in the camp by day and using her regular evening “story time” to secretly tutor the camp children in the unsubtle art of apocalyptic self-defense. Glenn and Maggie, now married, are grappling with the notion of starting a family amidst the perpetual danger and uncertainty. Carl continues to work at reconciling his age with his experience, but it has obviously left him feeling like he belongs nowhere, with no one. Michonne is slowly combing the surrounding area for any sign of the Governor, still spending most of her time alone but certainly coming across as more personable than the cigar store indian she played most of last year. And poor Beth, once so delicate that she could scarcely be talked out of suicide, has now sworn off emotional attachment in favor of a hardened stoicism.

All in all, pragmatism still rules the day for our old friends, but considering the circumstances, it's a necessary efficiency. And really, when viewed in light of their existence up to now, the present must feel positively dreamy. Even in spite of the buildup of walkers on the fence and Violet feeling poorly, things seemed to be looking up. For a minute there.

What did you think of the new characters we met this week, Nik?

Nikki: Well, there were a lot of them, that’s for sure, and I don’t actually remember many of them. There’s the guy who’s Beth’s boyfriend (who is no more by the end of the episode) and the guy with the glasses (who is no more by the end of the episode) and Tyreese’s girlfriend, and D’ANGELO BARKSDALE!!! (I don’t trust him for a second, especially around Cutty) and I’m sure there were a few others with lines, but instead it seemed to be that previously secondary characters like Tyreese and Beth were given larger roles.

There’s also the woman who lures Rick to her campsite in the woods. Now, I’m assuming everyone watching knew that was a trap from the get-go — the camera didn’t just zoom in on a spider on its web for nothing — but Rick goes along with it. (Before I say anymore, please tell me that you also thought she was a zombie at first. She spoke and I thought, “OMG the zombies can SPEAK NOW!!!” and was entirely freaked out, and every moment after that, as they were walking through the woods, I think she scared me more than any of the zombies on the show.) 

At least Rick had his back up and was ready just in case she jumped him, which she did. She says she’s bringing him back for her husband, but you see this heap under a blanket. Was it a husband or a baby? If it were a grown adult zombie, wouldn’t it be up and walking around and not huddled under a blanket? I was convinced it was a zombie baby under there, but the hump looked too big to be a baby. Maybe it was just the torso? God knows… maybe they blew their budget during the “Don’t look now but zombies are coming through the ceiling at Safeway!!” scene.

This storyline obviously ends badly, and in advance Rick tells her that he’ll ask her three questions. I paused and said to my husband, “What would your three questions be?” and he said, “Bah, I don’t like thinking about these things,” so I threw the remote at him and told him I’m finding a new Walking Dead viewing buddy (not all of this necessarily happened) but in that moment I thought my three questions would be to ask them if they’d killed any walkers, and if they’d killed any people, and then I was stuck on the third. So I was rather pleased when the first two questions he asked were variations on mine. And the third one — “Why?” — was of course the necessary followup to asking if the person had killed any humans. Mine probably would have been, “Are you a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” I don’t think I would do well in an apocalypse.

What did you think of Rick’s three questions, Josh?

Joshua: It's funny, because I also paused at this point in the episode, wrinkled up my nose, and said in a crazy voice, “Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see!” which sort of broke the mood, because up to that point Clara had been freaking me out, too, and then suddenly all I could think about was Monty Python. (No, seriously; not long thereafter, I was asking myself why her skin seemed to have that greenish tone, wondering whether it was deliberate camouflaging or perhaps anemia, when I suddenly and uncontrollably took on a feminine Cockney accent and crowed aloud, “It's 'cos she's Irish, o' course!”)

Like you, I thought that Rick's questions were fairly perfect. However, their usefulness would be dependent on the interrogator's ability to distinguish honest answers from lies. In this world, I'd have to wonder how often you could count on the truth, and the mere process of judgment is wildly dangerous, as this encounter proved. Rick played things very cautious from the jump, but he still almost got himself killed, and it's no wonder why the council wanted him armed for the trip.

Clara's storyline was a tense, poignant way of further illustrating how the group has begun to try bringing in people from the outside, showing us the vetting process and its unavoidable hazards, but it also effectively sets up what I suspect will be a recurring theme this season: namely, how trustworthy a stranger can be. I say that not only because there are so many new faces in the group, and likewise so much potential for secrets, but also because I have a very bad feeling indeed about the events at the end of the episode. Everything about the deaths of Violet the pig and Patrick the glasses kid, down to all those ominous shots of water throughout the episode, would seem to point toward some kind of natural but wholly terrible contagion that is bound to threaten the safety of their haven far beyond just the havoc wrought by one roving walker in the middle of the night. I'm no epidemiologist, but if what they're facing is a waterborne illness like cholera, then might that not render the prison flatly uninhabitable? And if that's the case, then how can they hope to relocate a group this size?

Ms. Stafford, how did you interpret these portentous developments?

Nikki: Ooh, no you di’int!! You referenced both Monty Python and the Holy Grail AND mentioned water?! Therefore, I cannot resist… I predict this as an upcoming scene:

King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king.
Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis the Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Ah, I could keep at this all day. Next week we must figure out how to write our entire rundown using only Monty Python quotes. And also, if Rick’s third question had instead asked the Irish woman what the air-speed velocity of a well-laden swallow was, it would have been epic. (Side note: my six-year-old son now will tell me that if I want him to get his pyjamas on, “You must answer me these questions three.” Then he usually just asks one.)

But back to seriousness and death!! While I wasn’t anticipating any Python, I was half-anticipating a zombie pig, which would have been amazing. (Cue Homer Simpson singing the “Zombie Pig” song.) Wait… I said this was serious times now. Ahem.

I’m trying to figure out how Patrick got sick, and what could have caused it. Out in the woods we saw dead deer that seemed to have just died for no apparent reason. Then Violet the pig was dead. Patrick is sick at the end, but I didn’t see him eating any pork. However, I DID see Daryl eating the pork, but he’s not sick. BUT remember when Patrick walked up to him to fawn all over him? Daryl’s holding pork in his hands, then he licks his fingers and shakes Patrick’s hand. Is it possible he passed something over to him? Or is it just coincidence? And why would Daryl be immune if he was actually eating the tainted meat? It’s unclear at this point, but now there’s a new threat from the inside. What is causing the animals to get sick? Has the original plague that caused the zombie threat in the first place gone airborne somehow? It’s a frightening thought, and now Patrick is locked in with them, and could have passed on his illness to any of them.

In the scene where Carol is reading to the children as a guise to actually teach them how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, she’s reading a passage from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the scene where Tom and his girlfriend Becky get lost in the cave and run out of food and water, and worry that no one will notice they’re gone until it’s too late:

Becky gave loose to tears and wailings. Tom did what he could to comfort her, but with little effect. At length Becky said:
   "Well, Becky?"
   "They'll miss us and hunt for us!"
   "Yes, they will! Certainly they will!"
   "Maybe they're hunting for us now, Tom."
   "Why, I reckon maybe they are. I hope they are."
   "When would they miss us, Tom?"
   "When they get back to the boat, I reckon."
   "Tom, it might be dark then — would they notice we hadn't come?"
   "I don't know. But anyway, your mother would miss you as soon as they got home."
   A frightened look in Becky's face brought Tom to his senses and he saw that he had made a blunder. Becky was not to have gone home that night! The children became silent and thoughtful. In a moment a new burst of grief from Becky showed Tom that the thing in his mind had struck hers also — that the Sabbath morning might be half spent before Mrs. Thatcher discovered that Becky was not at Mrs. Harper's.
   The children fastened their eyes upon their bit of candle and watched it melt slowly and pitilessly away; saw the half inch of wick stand alone at last; saw the feeble flame rise and fall, climb the thin column of smoke, linger at its top a moment, and then — the horror of utter darkness reigned!

Carol’s going to teach them the instincts they need so they don’t feel as helpless as Tom and Becky in that scene, unless Carl runs off to tell his dad first.
There are so many other things we both want to say, but it’s Thursday already, and we need to have this posted for all of you before the next episode airs! But first, I just wanted to say a few things:
 -When Hershel first walked over to Rick, I said to my husband, “Um… did he grow a leg in the last six months?!” No, instead he’s found a prosthetic so perfect he doesn’t even limp.
-I know that Daryl has gone from redneck to fan favourite to unlikely pinup boy, but the high-fashion model hairdo they had on him was a bit much, I thought.
-The zombies through the supermarket ceiling definitely unleashed a whole new level of disgusting on this show, from the walker hanging from the light fixtures by his intestines to the one whose head smashed like a water balloon to the one whose face D’Angelo peeled off. GOOD GOD.

And if we had more time, Josh says he would have talked about:
-the great Stanley Brothers version of “Precious Memories” they used in the opening
-the Tom Sawyer passage
-Michonne killing the cardboard Frankenstein
-Carol calling Daryl “pookie.” Yeah. What WAS up with that?!

Maybe next week we’ll be able to go longer and find more time. Until then… rawr! (That is the lamest attempt at a zombie growl EVER.)


Efthymia said...

OMG, I had forgotten to be impatient about the Walking Dead post!

That's pretty much all I had to say. That, and that Daryl's hair is indeed pretty ridiculous.

Blam said...

Yeah... "Pookie"?

I'd be totally cool with finding out that Daryl and Carol had already become a couple — a revelation that I more than half-expected last season but didn't come to be.

@Nikki: // Tyreese has a girlfriend, Beth’s got a boyfriend, and Carl’s got a pig. //

Great bluegrass song or worst rom-com ever?

@Josh: // I really enjoyed how clearly the new dynamic was established even in so few broad strokes, with big changes detailed in very naturalistic ways. //

Agreed. While the opening sequence was nicely done, however, and there's lots of promise in terms of plot / character development, I'm a little conditioned to anticipate frustration as the season moves on. My hope is that we can get some community subplots going at the prison without it just being filler of little interest or detracting too much from the extant main characters.

@Nikki: // and he said, “Bah, I don’t like thinking about these things,” //

Ha! Oh, I hope Joan sees this.

Given the shot of that spider in the woods and the expired pig at the prison, I suspect we're watching a dark alternate timeline of Charlotte's Web in which Charlotte never meets the doomed Wilbur. Shame nobody at the prison was a veterinar— HEY WAIT A SECOND...

Page48 said...

"30 Days Without an Accident"?

Let's talk about the real issue here: "30 Days Without A Shower".