Finally, after a long break, classic television character Merle Dixon is back.
I thought we’d go at least two or three more episodes before he would return, bent on vengeance for Rick Grimes and company leaving his racist ass handcuffed on a rooftop, but it turns out, not only is he back right off the bat, in the pre-credits teaser, but Merle is the driving dramatic force for the rest of the season. Yay?
This is a toughie to talk about, actually. Inherently, I liked this week’s episode. Now that we’re a little beyond the insanely great heights of the premiere, and the shock of, “Oh, this is just a really good TV show, and not the best TV show of all time” has settled in, I’m more inclined to like The Walking Dead for what it is, not for what it could be. However, I also think we can all agree that Merle Dixon was the weakest part of this show so far. Not only that, but this week we’re introduced to Merle’s equally stereotyped brother, Daryl Dixon. He’s a redneck who hunts squirrels, and also hates people of other races. Again: yay?
And the fact that most of the episode is spent wondering how they’re going to tell Daryl his brother was left to die, and then mounting a rescue mission for him means that we’re starting in a weak place. Basing the dramatic arc around Rick, or Shane, or even Andrea, who’s made a pretty indelible mark these past two weeks makes sense. Merle, on the other hand? Lori says what the audience is thinking when she incredulously says to Rick, “Merle? You’re going to risk your life for Merle Dixon?” Exactly what we all were thinking.
It’s not all bad, though. As I said, despite the lack of dramatic interest, all of the scenes are well acted, and well shot. In particularly, Shane and Rick falling back into old routines by subduing an angry Daryl – cop-style – was a neat little visual way of re-establishing their relationship, without ever saying it out loud.
And of course, there’s the reunion between Rick, Lori, and Carl, which was heartbreaking, and pretty much perfectly paced and acted. I loved the reactions from Shane on the sidelines, particularly his expression vacillating between joy at Rick’s return, and confusion/sadness that whatever he had with Lori is now ancient history.
I wish we could focus almost entirely on this aspect of the show, and leave the adventure aspect behind. Especially as we’re now getting a Pirates of the Caribbean scenario, where our main characters are running back and forth between the camp, and Atlanta. And again, and again, and again… We still have three hours to go, so it’s possible we might see it open up a bit again, and see more of the world – but I suspect we’re going to stick with this “rescue Merle” storyline, before climaxing with the confrontation between Shane and Rick.
This show continues to be excellently produced, and eminently watchable – I just wish we were getting more focus on the survival aspects, and less on the action/horror.
- Don’t remember if I mentioned this last week, but the credits say this is, “Based on the series of graphic novels.” Which is curious phrasing, as the series was released as issues. Can we really not say, “Based on the comic book series,” for fear the audience would think it’s kid stuff?
- I kind of miss Rick being alone… I know he headed out immediately, but seeing him with Lori, in particular was a bit of a bummer – it almost felt like, dramatically, the series crested early.
- I wish all the ads during this were zombie themed. “Viagra made my penis come back from the dead!”
- Are we supposed to think Merle is dead at the end? I mean, I know he’s not, but Daryl’s reaction seems to indicate they think he was eaten or something? Also: I wonder what this means for Rick’s *spoiler* behanding down the road… Probably not going to happen now, huh, for fear of being repetitive?
- Speaking of broad characterizations, we now also have Ed “The Abuser,” which boils down to “guy who hits his wife and thinks she should do laundry.” It’s only frustrating because Rick and Shane are so well drawn… We need more layers on these people, stat.