We’ve known for a while now that there is nothing “typically zombie” about The Walking Dead. Last night we witnessed an atypical cliffhanger as well--the gang just silently hightailing it out of Dodge, in their collectives Dodges, Chevys and Winnebagos. I have to admit I’m curious to hear curious to learn what you fine readers think about this ending. Personally, my feelings are mixed, but nevertheless, this was another hour of spectacular tension and drama. It wasn’t flawless tension and drama, but it was pretty damn close.
Speaking of flaws, let’s get to Shane. I always believed Shane did all he could to help Rick before he revealed to Lori that her husband (and his best friend) was dead. This episode proved that. Notice I said Shane did all he could do. Shane is, at the heart of everything a good guy, and while Shane has acted bravely in the past, he is not a hero. He’s a flawed good guy. Under normal (non-post zombie apocalypse) circumstances Shane would probably never have made a move on his buddy’s wife. Under normal (non-post zombie apocalypse) circumstances, Shane never aims a loaded rifle at his cop partner’s head, and under normal (non-post zombie apocalypse) circumstances, Shane never gets close to raping a woman he has deep feelings for. These however, are not normal times, and Shane, as I stated is a flawed good guy, but not a hero. Rick on the other hand is a hero. Rick would have probably gotten Shane out of the hospital had the roles been reversed, or at least died trying. Rick most likely has always been Shane’s hero, and while I don’t make a habit of making excuses for guys who think about killing their friends and forcing themselves on women, it’s easy to see how these extraordinary circumstances could break down an ordinarily good, but not heroic, man like Shane.
I also realize it’s going to be hard to review this episode and throw out hunches without revealing possible spoilers from the comic book, but I do feel since this program has strayed liberally from the original source material in content (but has not strayed in tone) I can make some educated guesses that may or may not be comic book related and still not feel as if I’m ruining any surprises. That said, I’ll do my best to tread lightly.
After a brief getting to know you period with Dr. Jenner, as the gang is feeling somewhat safe again, and are beginning to loosen up a bit, courtesy of little old wine drinker Jenner’s private stash, it’s Shane, who to paraphrase Glen, kills the buzz.
The good doctor explained the situation, complete with a chilling recount of the zombie attacks and mass suicides at the building. I have to confesss, I was completely wrong about our fatalistic physician. I suspected he was a twisted genius who just realized he had been given a second chance at saving civilization, and I assumed he would be using at least one of the survivors as a human guinea pig by injecting them with the virus. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I had been lead down a blind alley with that theory.
It was also a nice twist to find the test subject in question was not only his wife, but the actual scientific mastermind. I found the scene of TS-19 to be fascinating, heartbreaking and a tad disappointing. The fascination and heartbreak are obvious enough, but here’s where the disappointment comes in. If in fact Jenner’s wife was the Einstein of that particular viral research, and since we know she volunteered to be studied, I find it very hard to believe/understand how and why Jenner would have put a bullet in the best test research sample he had. I’m certain a brilliant woman of science would have made her desire to be studied after the change crystal clear to everyone, especially her medically trained specialist/husband. I suppose the argument can be made Jenner was incapable of seeing his wife that way, or possibly she was shot by military personnel who was under orders to shot anyone who zombs out, but since Jenner is dead, and there’s no way we’re likely to hear either of those explanations, it just doesn’t make any sense she wwould want to end her zombified existence without properly exhausting all the potential exploration. Perhaps past studies already showed everything there was to know about what happens after you’re turned, but since that was not stressed, terminating Mrs. Dr. Jenner seemed a bit unlikely to me.
My only other complaint about the show involves one of my favorite characters, Daryl. Daryl is the reactionary in the group. Shane can be hot-headed, but Daryl has an itchy cross bow trigger finger, and it’s a tricky writing assignment when two characters have similar sensibilities. The difference is that Shane (in theory at least) has been trained to not attack first and ask questions later. Daryl has no such preparation, and would likely reject the notion anyway, since he’s probably acted and reacted according to what his gut told him to do, and never listened to anything his brain had to say until his knuckles were already raw and bloody. Lately though Daryl’s behavior has been almost comical. Someone does or says something that threatens his life or the existence of the group, and Daryl flies off the handle, but is always stopped just short of a brutal confrontation. As my good friend Hanso said to me in a personal email after I expressed these concerns to him, it’s getting to the point they need to stop this before it turns into a drinking game. “…Daryl threatening to kill someone, take one shot of booze. Rick or someone else one stops him, take another.”
While I enjoy a good drinking game as much as the next guy, (probably more to be honest… I kick ass at Mexi-Cali. Email me for the rules.) I’d rather not have one of the best characters on television reduced to a becoming an automatic joke. While I honestly don’t think that will happen, there is a dangerous trend developing.
Now that that’s out of the way, there was plenty to love in this installment. The scene with Shane and Lori in the rec. room was about as real and terrifying as any zombie attack so far. Shane obviously felt horrible about it the next morning, when he confesses openly to the group, yet privately to Lori that he feels worse than Rick’s hangover, and his behavior was “not like me at all.” This show is not so much about humans turning into zombies, as it is humans devolving into monsters. Shane sees what he’s becoming, and he’s starting to fear it.
As nice as the scene between Dale and Andrea was, I was more impressed with the sincerely tender moment of acceptance between Dr. Jenner and Jacqui. As an avid reader of the comics, I was aware Dale and Andrea are much too important to the story to have them evaporate in the CDC building, but from a writing perspective, there needed to be a sacrifice from the group, and Jacqui seemed to be the natural choice. Her character hadn’t done much to this point, and perhaps I missed what her actual connection to T-Dog was but she did call him sweetie (or some similar term of endearment.) This will now help move T-Dog along as a character and give the audience a reason to cheer him on a little more – because let’s face it, you name a guy T-Dog, and you’re almost daring the audience not to root for his death.
There’s no question the biggest question left for us to ponder after all was said and done, is what was actually said, and what will be done. Now is the time I will warn non-comic readers of a potential spoiler, but to be fair, these are guesses I would have made even if I never read the books. While these bits of information are in the book, the TV show has been anything but slavishly devoted to what has been laid out in the printed form, so I think it’s fair to speculate here. Just be warned.
Theory Number One: Dr. Jenner told Rick he (and/or everyone) is already infected, and will turn upon death whether they have been bitten or not. This could explain why Shane didn’t hear Rick’s heartbeat while he was in a coma, yet the monitor indicated his heart was beating. There’s no doubt in my mind Shane felt Rick was dead. That is why he closed Rick’s eyes after he listened for a beat. I am curious what the question marks at the bottom of the monitor meant.
Theory Number Two: Lori is pregnant. The tension of course will stem from the question; who is the father? Naturally when Lori learns this news, she will be forced to admit her affair with Shane, which will undoubtedly heighten the tension between the two men. Things will definitely get very ugly from there.
Theory Number Three: Both Theory Number One and Theory Number Two are true. It certainly felt like Rick was hit by a double dose of surprise.
Theory Number Four: He said the same thing Bill Murray said to Scarlett Johansson.
Regardless if any of the above is true, and I’m betting at least three of the scenarios are, I’d also assume the doctor gave Rick advice as to where the next safe zone might be. In the graphic novel it’s Washington D.C. and I see no reason for them to change that.
And so, as the battle weary convoy makes it’s way up the highway to another, and thankfully longer, season of undead inspired adventures, we are left to wonder if Bill Murray was talking about zombies in Lost in Translation. It would have made a nice segue to his appearance in Zombieland.
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