The Walking Dead recap: No 'Guts,' No Glory
Rick's audacious plan to outwit and outlast the zombies foists him into a leadership position with a scrappy band of humans
AMC’s The Walking Dead is so bloody/complex (or is it bloody complex?) that EW writers Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson are getting together once a week to watch and recap it. Plus, frankly, zombies are a little less scary when you’re not viewing them all alone. Below is a transcript of Jeff and Dan’s conversation.
JEFF: Last week on Halloween, Frank Darabont and the tricky team behind AMC’s The Walking Dead left us with a quite a treat: The grisly spectacle of zombies gnawing into a horse and gulping its organs while our hero Rick Grimes was just yards away, trapped inside a tank, wondering how he was ever going to escape. It was a hell of a way to end a pilot–vaguely existential, certifiably queasy, classic cliffhanger–and there was little chance The Walking Dead could ever top that moment. Right, Dan?
DAN: Jeff, to quote the Family Feud buzzer…. X! The horse feast proved to be a mere amuse bouche to the gross-out entrée that was the graphic gutting of a zombie: Think Chef Boyardee and Sloppy Joe having a bloody love child. (Actually, don’t think that. Too disturbing.) But we’ll get to that gore-ific scene a bit later. Let us kick off the convo with the opening scene, which appeared to be a zombie stalking of Rick’s wife, Lori, yet morphed into something almost as unsettling: an animalistic love scene between Lori and Rick’s partner, Shane. That was no innocent roll in the HEY! It was more like forbidden fruit. And we’re left to believe that when Rick finally meets up with the RV refugees, we will bare witness to a lot of awkwardness.
JEFF: Some lovers spend their sexy time playing Doctor, French Maid, or Pizza Delivery Man. Shane and Lori? They get kinky with Fake Zombie Attack. I guess it’s true what they say: Fear–and especially fear of being ravaged by a fetid, flaking corpse–is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Seriously, their “lovemaking” was passionate, desperate, sad, scared, and even angry. Having Lori hit PAUSE so she could yank away the reminder of Rick–the wedding band on her necklace–contributed to the illicit vibe. Assuming Shane and Lori weren’t romantically involved prior to the zombie apocalypse—
DAN: A risky assumption–but continue.
JEFF: Is Lori committing adultery? She has every right to presume that she’s a widow.
DAN: We pieced together from last week’s episode that it’s been a month since the zombie plague hit. Call me old-fashioned, but when you lose a spouse, I think you should be “closed for business” for at least, I dunno… four months?
JEFF: I don’t blame her for craving some visceral, profound human connection amid what must be very difficult circumstances. Regardless, I’ve spent a lot of time with Rick. I’m moved by his quest to reunite with his wife and child. So to see Lori faithlessly diddling his best friend isn’t all that endearing. Will I warm to her? TBD. But let’s make like Sherman and march into Atlanta…
DAN: Yes, let’s. Truth is, I’m much more eager to spend time with Rick on the road than hang at base camp; I don’t know which of those folks I’m rooting for yet. (Maybe when Rick gets there, my interest in the RV refugees will perk up.) In Atlanta, Rick met up with a gang of scavengers (all of whom were later revealed to be part of Shane’s camp of survivors), beginning with a likable dude named Glenn, a.k.a. the voice on the other end of the tank radio. He was full of helpful info (serving as Rick’s eyes so he could escape from the tank without getting munched) and gallows banter (Rick: “There is no good news?” Glenn, after a long beat: “No.”); his sidekick vibe gave this fairly somber show a bit of a wink. But it was interesting that Glenn referred to Rick as “Clint Eastwood,” the first time the show has explicitly referenced pop culture. Can a zombie-movie joke be far behind?
NEXT: Our story is set in the south, so of course there’s a predictably off-his-rocker bigot. (Sigh.)
DAN (Cont.): Anyway, Glenn and Rick wound up holing up at a department store with the other scavengers, including a noxious white supremacist named Merle Dixon, who was clearly unhappy to be sharing air with a rattled African-American named T-Dog. Last week, Jeff, you wondered if women would be turned off when Shane used the b-word. So what were you thinking when Dixon dropped the n-word? Because we totally went there.
JEFF: Of course we did. Whenever Hollywood takes us into The South, a story about race must be told, with at least one utterly unreconstructed white guy who’s an off-his-rocker bigot. Even though rootin’-tootin’ Merle (the always compelling Michael Rooker) was left handcuffed to a pipe and abandoned to an uncertain fate, I’m betting Rick & Co. will be crossing paths with him again. (See: conspicuously dropped handsaw.) Interesting: George A. Romero’s genre-launching zombie opus Night of the Living Dead (1968) was a metaphor for the upheaval of the Vietnam War/Civil Rights era. His shopping mall-set sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978) was a critique of consumerism. Last night’s episode seemed to be a mash-up/homage to both.
DAN: You haven’t seen either of those films, have you?
JEFF: Nah. Wikipedia. Honestly? Night of the Living Dead put me to sleep. But I saw Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake. Does that count?
DAN: That’s more than I know. Did you get nicely faked out like I did by the aborted sewer-tunnel-escape story line? I thought we’d spend more time exploring that angle, but our guys ran into a zombie wall way sooner than I’d imagined.
JEFF: Well, the show was all about indulging Rick’s ingenious if outrageous final solution to their predicament–but to earn the right, we first needed to see an attempt at a more sensible fix. (Nitpickers would have hammered the show for not giving the sewers a try. “Hasn’t Frank Darabont ever seen The Third Man!?”) (And speaking of geeky trolls: What’s up with calling the zombies “geeks”?) “Guts” was a very special Election Week installment of The Walking Dead. The episode was all about power. Who gets to make the rules? And how relevant are the old rules of civilized society–about anything, from adultery to civil rights to looting and murder–when civilization breaks down? (I’m reminded of what Sawyer once said in Lost: “Folks down on the beach may have been doctors and accountants a month ago, but it’s Lord of the Flies time now.”) Dixon embodied a terrifying answer: Indulgent anarchy, toxic solipsism, might-makes-right selfishness. You wish that any society could be organized around its most idealistic principles–even a society struggling to survive a zombie holocaust. It was awesome to see Rick dethrone Dixon–
DAN: Giving us the first true moment to cheer for our hero. Way to put those badass small-town cop skills to use!
JEFF: But I was a little bummed that the lawman only indicted him for being an inconvenience to immediate survival and didn’t read him the riot act for his hate. (A new Declaration for Zombie America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created to be… either white meat or dark meat.”) For now, the order of the day is utility. The one who gets to rule is the one with the most gumption to take charge with a good idea that benefits the most amount of people. Rick ceded authority when Glenn mustered the courage to sell his sewer plan to the group. When that failed, Rick reclaimed the conch by having the guts to put forth an escape involving… well, guts.
NEXT: Wait, couldn’t “wet zombie” be kind of similar to “wet dog”? Also: This week’s body count.
DAN: What a foul, fantastic plan it was. Rick axed up a zombie carcass and then he and Glenn slathered themselves with the dead man’s innards to hide their human smell and dupe the zombies into thinking they, too, were part of the malodorous undead. This was unabashed, hey-check-THIS-out! B-movie butchery. Did the show really need to take it that far, with generous shots of goopy entrails, enhanced with wet-mud sound effects? Not really. Did I squirm with delight anyway? Absolutely. (The bug-eyed look of shock on your face, Jeff, reminded me of the look on Beavis’ and Butthead’s faces as they watched a Hall & Oates video.) There’s probably no way the producers could have gotten away with showing Rick hacking up a dead human being. But what they could get away with doing was having Rick hack up a dead zombie while poignantly reminding us that the corpse was once a human being with feelings and problems like everyone else. “When I get to my family,” noted Rick, “I’m going to tell them about Wayne.” The show wanted it–and got it–both ways.
JEFF: It was a defining scene–and a true water-cooler buzz moment–for a show that aspires to produce complex emotional drama… and wallow in horror movie outrageousness like a pig-headed cannibal sausage farmer in Motel Hell mud. I, too, thought it was a stroke of touching and twisted genius to have Rick give those last rites–to humanize this deceased member of the undead–before whacking up Wayne like a lumberjack Lizzie Borden. Dan, they didn’t just “slather themselves with a dead man’s innards,” they accessorized themselves with entrail necklaces and tendons fobbed with feet and hands! Good heavenly lord, it was all kinds of sick! If Sweeney Todd opened a Burger King, this is what the kitchen would look like. Bottom line: Rick’s plan worked. Kinda. He and Glenn passed through the zombie horde unmolested… until it started to rain. Washed of their zombie stank, the men’s delectable alive-ness was restored; “the geeks” caught a whiff and rampaged.
DAN: Nitpicky question: Couldn’t the rain actually have enhanced the undead odor on Rick and Glenn? Kind of a wet dog situation?
JEFF: Maybe the rain had some bleach in it. So, Rick and Glenn busted some heads (and shot a few more), grabbed some vehicles, and liberated their friends, and they all got away to live another day and another episode. And now, the Rick-Shane-Lori showdown awaits.
DAN: Indeed. And Lori has some ‘splaining to do. I’d like to know: What were the circumstances around her leaving Rick behind? What kind of feelings does she still have for him? (The removal of the necklace before shagging Shane seemed to indicate some level of conflict/guilt.) And how long will it take for Rick to discover the Lori-Shane tryst? And because we’re asking questions, what do you think Dixon is doing right now, Jeff? Staring at that aforementioned toolkit of cutting implements, deciding whether to take Jigsaw up on his offer to play a game?
JEFF: Someone really needs to lend Dixon a hand–because he’s going to be missing one the next time we see him.
CONFIRMED HEADSHOTS (WITH GUNS): 12 + 10= 22
CONFIRMED HEADSHOTS (BY BLUDGEONING): 1 + 5 = 6
TOTAL ZOMBIE KILLS (ESTIMATED): 13 + 32= 45
HUMAN DEATHS: 0 (But for how much longer?)