Episode 5 - Wildfire
11 October 2011
Synopsis: Jim was bitten and the survivors debate what to do with him. Rick wants to take him to the Centre for Disease Control and try to find a cure. Lori and Shane argue with him but he gets his way and they move out. Along the way Jim asks to be left behind. At the CDC only one scientist remains.
The Good: The ending of the episode was terrific. After spending so much time in the quarry with our survivors our perspective abruptly jumped to transmissions from the last remaining CDC scientist, Jenner. His lonely and futile attempts to find a cure were chronicled briefly before he spots the arrival of our survivors outside.
The Walking Dead is an understandably bleak show. Tragedy is as fascinating to watch as anything but without hope it can be a depressing journey. Rick is the voice of hope right now. He avoided seeing most of the horror and experiencing firsthand the world fall into disarray. So he holds on to a belief in civilization and humanity that many of the others have lost. He is the one who has the hardest time accepting that Jim won't survive. And he is the one who pushes for the trip to the CDC. He manages to drag everyone else along on his hopeful journey despite Shane and Lori trying to talk him out of it.
As the sun sets the deserted CDC looks very much like the worst place to be. Walkers are approaching slowly and more will doubtless hear them soon. Rick screams at the security camera imploring those inside to help them out. On the inside Jenner was conflicted. Doubtless he fears this group may just be looters (at best) or be carrying infection or attract walkers (at worst). The emotional conflict on both sides at that moment was communicated really clearly. Again the fear of the survivors was well acted. But in the end Rick and hope win at least for today and Jenner lets them in. It was strong TV, giving the viewer a reason to rally behind Rick and his struggle.
Leading up to that the survivors dealt with the aftermath of the Walker attack. Andrea's determination to say goodbye to Amy and Glenn's tears over the dead bodies did a nice job of showing us the communal grief. I liked all the details in the decisions which led to the survivors breaking camp and moving on. The blame game between Rick and Shane over the attack on camp was understandable. As was the discussion of whether the military or the centre for disease control was where they should head to. There was even some suggestion that they stay put with Shane suggesting he "put up more tin cans" which explains what defense they had in place to warn against Walkers. Darryl was still mad about what happened to Merle. Rick left detailed instructions for Morgan and Duane. It was all logical stuff.
There were a couple of other moments which particularly stood out. One was just artistic in the distasteful cut between Lori's promise to treat Amy's body gently to Darryl ramming a pick axe into the brain of a corpse. It managed to be a kind of sick joke as well as once more showing us the brutal realities of the survivors life. The second moment was when Shane briefly wandered whether he could just "accidentally" kill Rick while they were out on sentry duty. I really liked that moment. I don't believe Shane would have done it but in a world with no police and no society who would know? It was a genius moment to show the temptations which humans face in isolation. That moment was setup emotionally by Shane quite rightly pointing out that he took care of Rick's family as if they were his own before Rick found them. The show has been very strong at showing us these moments where characters come up against the new world they are living in.
The paranoia over Jim's bite was well presented and created yet another horrible moral conundrum to be picked over. The decision to leave him by the side of the road was sad and created a discernible sense of loss going into the jump into the next phase of the story.
I liked Morales' family leaving the group. It makes sense that there would be divisions and some people's instinct would be to try and find their families.
The Bad: Andrea's decision to allow Amy to turn into a Walker came across as more creepy than touching to me. Not to mention potentially very dangerous.
The Unknown: Jenner's brief broadcasts made mention that the outbreak had "gone global." It was a very rewarding moment for me as it justified us waiting for the show to answer this obvious question. Hopefully now Jenner can fill us in on more details about how the infection started and spread. The way this question has been left for the first season finale has worked out really well. Season two will be able to almost start the show again but with its rules and characters already established. The CDC electricity situation could use some explanation.
In the post-Lost world it's difficult to avoid comparisons with a sci-fi show which covered so much genre ground. But as some readers have brought it up, this episode definitely had a couple of strong Lost parallels. Jim being left behind after slowly suffering reminded me of the story of the Marshall. A more obvious parallel though came with Jenner (Desmond) being alone trying to save the world with Rick (Locke) banging on the door only for the light to come on.
Conclusion: Another really good episode. The last ten minutes was such an effective change of scenery and tone that it gives me great hope for the show's future.
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