The first two episodes of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” were loaded with tension and creepy situations. It’s pretty much been full throttle on the intensity, especially the last ten minutes of episode #2, “Guts”. It was probably inevitable for the show to tap the breaks a bit and last night’s episode, “Tell It To The Frogs”, slowed it down a little bit and went for some character development instead of constant zombie attack. The question is this: Can this show survive when it isn’t an a zombie bloodbath?
Alert: There are spoilers from last night’s episode here. While there weren’t a ton of revelations, there was one fairly huge one so watch the show, then read on.
After last week’s episode ended, I thought that it was awfully quick for Rick Grimes to be reunited with his wife, Lori, and son, Carl. At that time, I wasn’t aware that this first season was only going to last six episodes. While I would like to have as much “The Walking Dead” as possible, I think I like the shorter seasons for the serialized dramas. If anything can be learned from “Lost”, it’s that seasons two and three suffered due to trying to be a lengthy season. When the show depends on you, the viewer, to know everything that has happened on the show to date, you’re better off leaving out the filler.
Okay…then why did last night’s episode feel like filler? Thankfully, the first five minutes featured the great Michael Rooker as the redneck savage Merle Dixon, which kind of made the rest of the episode a let down. How was that opening scene so damn scary? Not only that, could any of you understand a word Merle was saying? He was yelling and crying, speaking some sort of redneck dialect and I could not make out one word. That by itself was pretty scary. Then, the zombies got to the chained door, began to pound on it and hiss and moan as they tried to get onto the roof in order to eat what may be the last living human being in Atlanta. Being chased by zombies is bad, imagine being handcuffed on a roof as zombies swarm. Even if you get free, where do you run? One would think you run nowhere. Turns out, as those that watched the show, you do have options.
Rick and the Stereotype Gang gets back to the camp and we are treated to a very emotional moment between husband, wife, and son. Of course, that camp has been being led by Rick’s best friend Shane, who has been hooking up with his Rick’s wife. The next few scenes are really interested in doing one thing: showing that Shane is really not cut out to be a leader. He claims to be looking out for everyone, but he’s really being a controlling jerk. During Rick’s first night in his wife’s tent, Shane sits atop a camper in the rain and stares at the tent, knowing what is happening inside of it. I asked myself one question: is Shane angry that he’s lost Lori or is he overcome with the guilt associated with sexing up his best friend’s wife? Turns out, we find out which option Shane chose in just a few minutes.
After apparently having sex in a sleeping bag with their son two feet away (creepier than most zombies), Rick wakes up in camp and tells Shane that he plans on going back to Atlanta to rescue Merle. Oddly enough, Shane does not want Rick to go, which made me think that Shane genuinely feels terrible about his actions. Rick and Shane are interrupted by some screams and we are treated to seeing a zombie gutting and eating a deer. Mmm. Venison.
Turns out, the zombie didn’t kill the deer, it was Merle’s younger brother, Darryl. Needless to say, Darryl is very much like Merle, except he didn’t drop any ethnic slurs in his first ten seconds on screen. Once Rick tells Darryl that they left his brother behind, Darryl goes full hillbilly and tries to jump Rick, leading to an impressive hip check from Shane. After calming down, Rick, Darryl, T-Dog, and Glenn all agree to go back to Atlanta to do two things: get Rick’s Bag ‘O’ Guns and retrieve Merle.
The coolest thing about last night? Right before they left for Atlanta, Rick emerges from his tent in his police uniform. I love the fact that he still wears it and, at least to me, it’s become more than a police uniform. It’s Rick’s way of saying this: “I am still a policeman. I will lead by example. I will do what is right. I will protect people.” His uniform is becoming more like Superman’s cape. Shane does not wear his uniform. Hmm…
After everyone leaves, Shane takes Carl to a lake to hunt for frogs. While creepy and gross in itself, it’s the news that Lori delivers that is much worse. Turns out, as we learn from a clearly pissed Lori, Shane told her that Rick was dead before they fled to Atlanta. So it’s safe to assume that Shane is not only unfit to lead this group of survivors, he’s a backstabbing Benedict Arnold that lied in an effort to get into Lori’s pants.
Then, Shane nearly big a guy to death. Ed and Carol (a couple in their camp) don’t appear to be the most communicative couple. Ed likes to make his wife clean their clothes, cook their food, all while he sits around and smokes Winstons. He’s a real sweetheart. All the girls in camp are laughing and talking, which also seems to upset Ed and he physically tries to remove Carol from the situation. After Andrea stands up to Ed and Carol follows suit, Ed decks Carol. Shane, while acting honorably initially, grabs Ed, throws him to the ground, and proceeds to try to cave in his face. Again, not how you lead. Yes, you stop Ed, but you don’t beat him to an inch of his life. Compare that beating with when Rick pulled Merle off of T-Dog in episode #2. He did what was necessary.
This is why at some point, Rick and Shane are destined to have a stand-off. I’m sure this happens in the source material, but I’ve not read the graphic novels. It’s not going to be an ego fight for Rick, it’s going to be a fight over what is best for this group of survivors and Shane is just not fit to lead.
The episode wrapped up with Rick, Glenn, T-Dog, and Darryl slipping into the skyscraper and going to the roof in which Merle is trapped. Turns out, even though the door was still chained and locked, Merle is not on the roof. Well, most of him is not on the roof. The image we were left with was an empty set of handcuffs hanging from a metal pipe…and Merle’s hand lying on the ground, cut from the wrist. Merle pulled an Aron Rolston. Here is my question, where the hell did Merle go? How did he get out of the chained door? If he did, how did he avoid the zombies? Did he leap to his death? That was my initial thought, but I don’t think Merle is the type to go down like that. Crazy rednecks go out sitting on missiles as they fall out of planes, they don’t jump off of buildings.
Earlier, I said this episode felt like filler. I stand by that. Don’t get me wrong, I like the show and I’ll all in for the entirety of the season but it seems like what happened last night could have been told in half an episode. With only three shows left, I think that it is okay to lay a brick on the accelerator and leave it. Think about it, what if there wasn’t going to be a second season for the show. Would you be satisfied with three more episodes like “Guts” or last night? Give me “Guts” six times a week and twice on Sunday.