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The Walking Dead: “Guts” Recap

Two episodes in, and I’m really looking forward to the second season of The Walking Dead. Not because I’m enamored of the first season… I am, but that’s not the reason why. It’s that hopefully, next season, this show will stop feeling like a zombie movie, and start feeling like a zombie TV show.

One of the questions I asked Gale Anne Hurd when I interviewed her about this show (an interview that may be sadly lost in the ether due to the restructuring of UGO) was how you get to the heart of what makes The Walking Dead special in comic book form: that it has no end. On TV, and particularly in the format they’re releasing the series in, it’s a six episode mini event. Longer than a movie, sure, but there needs to be a clear beginning, middle and end to where we’re going.

I’m not saying that episode six won’t leave things open for our characters – it probably will, though with a definitive resolution to the Shane/Lori/Rick triangle, as that’s where we began (ignoring the teaser from episode one, natch). But at six episodes, you inherently have to function as a mini-movie. It will only be with season two continuing the story showing that after the “movie” we’re still going, that we’re living in a world without an end to the zombie apocalypse.

Another problem that having a second season will solve is that so far, you can boil down each episode into the plot of a zombie movie:

Episode 1: 28 Days Later

Episode 2: Dawn of the Dead

Am I saying that this is all those episodes are about? Absolutely not, and just to clear one thing up right now, I’m really enjoying this show. However, when you have something working at this high a caliber, it also opens it up to more criticism. So deal with it, buddy.

Point being, we have a movie structure, and movie references… I want this to start acting like a TV show.

The other problem, and this is a personal one, is that episode two was far too hyped for me. Friends who had gotten a sneak peak invariably said how this was better than the first episode, and how Steven Yuen as Glen is the breakout star of the show. Is episode two better than episode one? Absolutely not. Is Steven Yuen the breakout star of the show? Maybe, but it’s going to take a couple of episodes to tell.

The other other problem, and this is a weird one, is that the first episode was too damn good. Frank Darabont’s direction is top notch, the look and feel of the show was unique, and as I’ve said before, there were moments that – and I don’t use this word lightly – were iconic. Not in terms of reference to other moments, but literally creating iconic moments on television, from the cross-cutting scene between Morgan trying to kill his wife, and Rick shooting the half-zom; or Rick slowly walking down the dark staircase; or the scene at the tank at the end. These were moments that were spectacularly shot and acted, and like nothing on TV.

The second episode is well directed, well shot, and well acted, but we’ve traded silence for action and yelling, and I miss it. I miss the deliberate pace (stop saying it’s a slow pace – slow means someone made a mistake in the editing, deliberate means they did it on purpose). I miss the focus on the characters, over clever zombie tricks and mythology exploration. I miss the cleverness of the first episode, and it’s willingness to go to some very dark places.

This week, we get a bunch of zombie survivors trapped in a shopping mall with a racist. That’s pretty much it. I can’t pinpoint where I’ve seen this before, other than pretty much every survival epic ever (including, if you trade racism for religious fervor, Darabont’s own The Mist). There’s some clever business with covering Glen and Rick with guts to mask their scent to the zombies, and the feeling is as tense as ever. But I want to get back to people talking, and reacting to the loss of the world around them.

We still get some nice scenes about that, particularly Andrea and Rick’s conversation about whether stealing matters anymore. And the teaser is particularly human and uncomfortable, as Shane basically shows his complete control and dominance over Lori in the woods, while her wedding ring sits prominently in the foreground. I even appreciated the introduction of Amy by following her butt as she walks. The character uses her sexuality a lot later on, and it’s a nice way of introing that without saying it.

But all in all, what we got this week was a really well done zombie movie, versus last week’s instant classic. I’m 100% on board, I just hope we can get back to the heights of the first episode… Or at least not fall further.

Notes:

  • It’s very, very weird to me that they didn’t cut into Rick hitting Mr. Racist in the very low shot. There was almost no reason to use that, then.
  • Speaking of Racist McGee, please let’s not have him survive to somehow menace our characters down the road. That’s boring.
  • I’m still curious about that helicopter. It indicates that maybe we’re going in a very different direction here than the comics, that perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I hope not.
  • People who watch this on DVD are in for a very different experience… This is shot for that, to watch without pause – rather than with commercials. Watching these two episodes on screeners was an entirely different experience than watching on TV, and I think I like the screeners more.
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