Episode 4 - Vatos
28 March 2012
Synopsis: Glenn is kidnapped by a gang while retrieving the guns. Rick heads in to negotiate and discovers that the gang are protecting a nursing home. At camp Jim digs all day and suffers heat stroke. The camp is attacked by Walkers.
The Good: The shocking attack by the Walkers which ended the episode was great television. The story throughout had been about people finding ways to get along, survive and do some good. So the sudden departure into bloody anarchy was genuinely shocking. It was directed beautifully with the Walkers seeming immensely threatening and dangerous. The panic felt real and it was gripping to realize that characters are genuinely under threat. It felt like no one was safe as Amy and Ed were killed and several other characters came dangerously close to being bitten.
Not only was that scene an adrenalin rush and a dramatic end to the episode but it also gave thought for the future. Will Amy and Ed now turn into Walkers? Where will the group move to now? How did the Walkers find them? Is anyone safe from being bitten in the future? It was a very bleak and dark end to the episode. It implies that The Walking Dead is going to continue to portray tragedy and misery throughout its run, rather than have genuinely safe havens popping up everywhere.
Amy's death was made sadder by a nice scene where she and her sister Andrea reminisce about their father. They wonder whether Florida has been hit as badly as Atlanta by the Walkers. It was a good line because it seems to explain why Rick isn't asking these people what has happened to the rest of the world. They have no idea.
The senseless deaths contrasted well with the Atlanta story where we discover that not all humans are turning their back on society. It was pleasant to see Rick and G realize that they could co-exist peacefully. The nursing home was an interesting glimpse into the myriad strange survival tales that could be out there. The peaceful distribution of guns also allowed Darryl to begin to seem more real. He was able to calm down throughout and begin to realize that his best chance of survival is to work with Rick. As they left though Darryl asked whether it was worth leaving guns behind considering that those old sick folk were going to die sooner or later. It's the kind of moral dilemma that could make the show intriguing to watch for a long time to come.
The initial surprise attack and kidnapping of Glen was a good twist in itself. The investigation into Merle's escape was also grimly interesting as we wait for his bitter angry return.
The Bad: During the standoff between G and Rick I was hoping someone would stand up for human decency and argue that Walkers were the enemy and surely they should all work together. In the end it was clear that G and his vatos had experienced selfish looters before and so were taking no chances. But the way the old lady wandered through the crowd to break things up felt very twee. I'm sure a less saccharine way could have been found to bring an accommodation between the two groups.
The characterization remains slow and somewhat generic. Jim (the man digging what I assume were graves all day) explained almost the exact speech I was glad not to have heard so far, about how his family were taken from him by Walkers. It's a tragic story but it was presented in more of a movie-cliche way than Morgan and Duane's story in the pilot. Jim's digging was apparently inspired by a dream that they would be attacked by Walkers. I couldn't tell if that was meant to be an interesting portent of doom or if we were supposed to think he was actually clairvoyant in some way. Either way it came across as heavy handed and his "reassuring" speech to Rick's son Carl sounded inappropriate and creepy.
The Unknown: Again I was left in doubt about how the infection spreads. Andrea is fully drenched in her sister's blood but no one seems concerned that she might be infected. What did draw the Walkers to the quarry? Is there anything the survivors can do to avoid detection?
Best Moment: The attack by the Walkers was shocking, dramatic, brutal and sad.
Conclusion: This seemed like a slight disappointment until the final five minutes. As horrible as the ending was it was important for the show. It will keep viewers on edge, knowing that no one is safe yet.
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