The Walking Dead recap: Dissecting 'Frogs'
Perhaps it would be possible to have a “calm discussion” on the topic of The Walking Dead. But our obsessive enthusiasm for the AMC zombie drama is so great that it requires two recappers—Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson—to pick its delicious brain. Yes, “words can be meager things,” to quote deep-thinking Dale—but hopefully our “Totally Walking Dead” duo can croak wisely about “Tell It To The Frogs”…
JEFF: The Walking Dead’s third episode brought Rick Grimes to One RV Hill, the survivor camp led by “friend” and fellow lawman Shane Walsh–illicit lover of Lori, wannabe father to Carl, and enthusiastic connoisseur of Cajun-style frog legs. We were better introduced to people only fleetingly seen in previous episodes. Dale, an older man with an On Golden Pond hat, wise and grizzled. Jim, the taciturn, tool-stingy grease monkey. Amy, mushroom-picking, mermaid-loving sister to tough but gun-ignorant Andrea, who last night proved capable of sharing delightfully blunt TMI and standing up to pigs like Ed, a nasty traditionalist who lords over his meek wife and quiet daughter. If last week was sensational for being a thrilling Zombie Horror Picture Show, this week–full of tense fireside chats and tearful pillow talk, nostalgic banter about pre-apocalypse culinary (and carnal) pleasures and debate about knotty moral conundrums–was riveting for emphasizing different values.
DAN: The show demonstrated its capacity for producing provocative, poignant human drama as well as chills, thrills and entrail spills. Last week was like white-knuckling your way through videogames like Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil. This week felt like a season 1 episode of Lost (fear of the boogeyman in the woods, figuring out how to make do with limited resources, power struggles in the new order). “Tell It To The Frogs” also doted on the emotional ramifications of Rick’s arrival at camp—and the guilt/relief/uncertainty it triggered in Lori and Shane. So yes, not much reveling in zombie gore–though we did get the spectacle of a walker pigging out on deer guts (Bambi buffet!) and his subsequent, glorious decapitation.
JEFF: And that wasn’t even enough to kill that plague-carrying man-thing! As squirrel-hunting hawkeye Darrell noted, you have to brain them–and so he shot the zombie through the eye. I bellowed a bloodthirsty “OH YEAH!” like a drunk Canadian at a hockey game.
DAN: I know—you did it right in my ear, accent and all. Were you really drunk?
JEFF: We’ll share the secrets of our Walking Dead drinking game at a later date. To business! We opened on Merle, who last week had been handcuffed to a pipe and abandoned to Atlanta’s revenant ravagers. We found the boisterous bigot sunblasted and dehydrated, muttering through the pleasant memory of punching an uppity Army officer. Then: Panic. I’m gonna be Zombie Casserole if I don’t get outta these cuffs! He looked to the sky and made proffers to Jesus. I know I’m a hideously foul frog—but deliver me from evil, I’ll become a prince. With the walkers clawing at the door, Merle was even more manically motivated–and then he saw the handsaw. I felt for Merle—for his profound, all-around “disorientation,” to use one of the episode’s key buzzwords–and we were meant to. It was an effective set-up for a discussion about the value of human life, even a seemingly worthless one.
DAN: You’re right. And I was manipulated into even feeling a smidge of compassion for Merle’s equally charm-challenged Darrell (who surely has another brother Darrell). As expected, he did not take the news about his left-for-dead sibling well and had to be (illegally) choke-holded into “a calm discussion on the topic.” But we have to talk about The Grimes Family Reunion sequence, complete with… heartwarming music! The show has already made a name for itself with some gooey moments–but not this kind.
NEXT: Time to reconsider the “Lori is unlikable” line of thought?
JEFF: I loved the staging–Rick practically tackled Carl to the ground with that joyous hug-–but we should call out what many people might be thinking: It was pretty improbable that Rick would have really found Lori & Carl.
DAN: That reunion was about as likely as that deus ex machina downpour of frogs in the movie Magnolia. But you know–
JEFF: Wait! Dan, are you saying that “Tell It To The Frogs”—which had Shane bonding with Carl via a splish-splashy frog hunt and had Lori making lewd Miss Piggy jokes—was deliberately referencing Paul Thomas Anderson’s modern day family-of-man fable about connection and coincidence?
DAN: I was just—
JEFF: I TOTALLY AGREE! I also think the episode was forging a subtextural hyperlink to The Frogs by Aristophanes, an ancient Greek comedy in which the god Dionysus descends into Hades to retrieve a playwright capable of inspiring a war-ravaged culture to pursue heroic virtue over jaded pragmatism! Are you suggesting that The Walking Dead is a tragic drama intended to rally our own sense of idealism in these tumultuous times?
DAN: Umm… all I was trying to say was that the improbability of the Rick/Lori/Carl reunion didn’t take me out of the moment.
JEFF: Oh. Yeah, that didn’t bug me, either. Moving on: Remember all our “Lori is unlikable” chatter the past couple weeks? Time to rethink that thanks to the big twist: We learned that Shane had told Lori that Rick was dead. She was muy furioso about the lie and told Shane to stay away from her and Carl from now on. No more forest nookie for you! Do you think Shane intentionally ditched Rick to the zombies to clear a path to Lori’s heart?
DAN: We should be wary of coming to that conclusion so soon. Shane may have made an honest mistake, born out of bad intel. Regardless, I hope that we’ll be unpacking some intriguing relationship mysteries as our saga continues. Sometimes a little soap can help wash off all the zombie muck.
JEFF: “Tell It To The Frogs” made it clear: Lori (hearts) Rick. In the wake of the zombie apocalypse, she had gained eyes to see her failings and regrets in their marriage. Rick was right: She had kept the family photo albums. And she was warmed by the fact that Rick had made that assumption; it was as if she felt loved by his faith in her. Rick and Lori consummated the renewal of their relationship with a discrete, tender sex scene… even though Carl was snoozing just a few feet away. That skeeved you out, didn’t it?
DAN: Last week I outed myself as old-fashioned for wanting a widow to wait at least four months before re-opening for business? Add another one to that list: Don’t “Take Grandma to Applebee’s” when your kid is in the room. Actually, I thought Lori might use that as an excuse NOT to re-consummate, possibly indicating that she was sitting undecided on the pointy part of the love triangle. But nope, a decision was made: Rick was in, and Shane was out(side, sadly gazing at their love tent).
JEFF: But let’s note that Shane was attractive to Lori for at least two, still-relevant reasons. 1. He’s good with Carl. 2. The dude must have taken dating tips from Twilight, because he’s downright Edwardesque in his intense attentiveness. We know that Lori wasn’t getting that from Rick pre-zombie apocalypse—and I suspect she may still struggle to get it due to his devotion to his principles. Which brings us to The Great Merle Debate.
NEXT: Brace yourselves for references to Grapes of Wrath and Arrested Development…plus the season-to-date body-count tally!
DAN: While I appreciated the nobility in Rick’s heroic decision to go back to Atlanta—not only to rescue Merle, but also to retrieve the bag of weapons (700 rounds of ammo!) and to fulfill his promise to Morgan and Duane to contact them every morning on the walkie-talkie—I was conflicted about it. Rick, you just miraculously reunited with your family. Now you’re leaving on a mission: impossible? And you’re taking three able-bodied men with you? You’re going to put everyone you fought for–and more–at risk because your conscience is egging you to go save the life of someone who’s more hindrance than help?! I forget: What is the road to hell is paved with again?
JEFF: I can see both sides of the argument, too, but I was swayed by Rick’s desire to fulfill his pledge to Morgan and Duane. I was even moved by his stance on Dixon, the least and loathsome of these human creatures. He set a provocative, inspiring standard for the value of human life. In an episode that slyly invoked Henry Fonda (see: On Golden Pond), Rick struck a Tom Joad pose of inspiring idealism. (That’s right! The Walking Dead = Zombie Grapes of Wrath!) Yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions–but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be traveled. That was Rick’s thinking, at least, and so he descended into the undead dustbowl of Hot-lanta with Glenn, Darrell and T-Dog.
DAN: And when Rick rode off, the camp went to pot. A misogynistic, abusive lump named Ed broke up a nice bonding moment between the women as they were washing clothes, pining for the luxuries of a life now lost (enjoyed the jolt of Andrea’s ‘vibrator’ admission), and musing on the not-so-fair gender division of labor. As Ed grew increasingly menacing, Shane intervened. Our supplanted hero—his alpha male status diminished with Rick’s return; a prince, abruptly poofed! into a frog by his princess—was clearly angry from Lori’s bitter kiss-off. In a fit of Shanger, he unleashed furious fists upon Ed, well past the point of neutralizing the threat.
JEFF: Ed was a jerk, for sure. But was he despicably misogynistic or just desperately traditionalist, holding ruthlessly to severely defined roles as a way to survive disorientating circumstances and protect his family? He’s a control freak desperate to keep what he has—which means that he’s a lot like Shane. In beating Ed bloody, Shane was really beating on himself. Of course, when it comes to self-abuse, no one tops Merle. When Rick’s Emergency Extraction Team got to the roof, they found that the bigot-in-bondage had successfully shed his manacles–and his hand. And with that: To be continued…
DAN: But wait! How did Merle get off the roof? That door was still shackled shut. I doubt he could’ve shimmied down a water pipe or air duct with a bloody stump.
JEFF: I say: Airlift. Remember the helicopter Rick saw last week?
DAN: Yes! Of course! And as Merle gets into the copter, he shouts ‘White Power!’ and stabs the pilot, who is revealed to be Will Arnett! Will looks at Merle with pained confusion and just before passing out, he mumbles, “But I’m white…”
JEFF: Way to enflame my Arrested Development grief. Quick! Take us out by saying something funny!
DAN: “I’d rather eat Miss Piggy?”
CONFIRMED HEADSHOTS (GUNS): 22 + 0= 22
CONFIRMED HEADSHOTS (MISC.): 6 + 2 = 8
TOTAL ZOMBIE KILLS (EST.): 32 + 2 = 34
HUMAN DEATHS: 0
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AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.