Walking Dead: Vatos Review - Mania.com

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  • TV Series: The Walking Dead
  • Episode: Vatos
  • Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, IronE Singleton
  • Written By: Robert Kirkman
  • Directed By: Johan Renck
  • Network: AMC
  • Series: Walking Dead

Walking Dead: Vatos Review

Best Show on TV – Period!

By Joe Oesterle     November 23, 2010

Walking Dead continues to impress Mania.
© AMC/Bob Trate


Four episodes in and this program shows absolutely no signs of sucking. This fact should come as no surprise, because Sunday night’s chapter, “Vatos,” was penned by the writer/creator of The Walking Dead graphic novel series, Robert Kirkman.
   Followers of the books (like myself) have to be impressed with how fresh this creative team has managed to keep these stories. Characters who weren’t originally conceived for the comic pages have blended nicely with those who were fully realized for the print version and no one is crying foul. If anything we’re grateful for the brand new revelations. Two such departures from the books are redneck brothers Merle and Daryl Dixon. Merle is openly and aggressively racist, while his brother Daryl seems merely mildly bigoted, but it’s nice to see neither character is a walking hillbilly cliché.
   At first many of us assumed these newbies would only amount to so much zombie fodder, but it appears that the late additions to the cast are as compelling as any from the black and white monthlies. Merle is obviously not the type of character we’re used to rooting for, but you have to sit back and give the good ol’ boy his propers when it comes to kicking zombie ass and taking zombie names – especially after sawing his own hand from his shackled arm. Talk about literally winning a war single handedly. You may not like Merle’s world view, and you’re right not to, but if Rick can get this guy to be a team player, Merle would be an asset to a now depleted camp.
    Little brother Daryl for his part showed himself to be more than a one-dimensional character as well. His ability with a crossbow is an asset in a world where a shotgun fire can give away your location to a certain flesh-hungry enemy. His bravery and determination are admirable, and the esteem in which he holds his imperfect brother is actually touching. My guess is Daryl understands Merle’s douchiness only too well, but at the same time, he marvels at his big brother’s physical and mental toughness. I’m betting we’re going to find out aside from Merle’s obvious social imperfections, he’s a loyal family man, and that’s possibly where Daryl’s determination to rescue Glen comes from.
   As if to balance out the testosterone of the Brothers Dixon relationship, we were also introduced to the sisterly love of Andrea and Amy. Fishing in Dale’s boat, the girls had a much more hormonal moment of familial bonding, which of course in hindsight only foreshadowed Amy’s ultimate demise.
   Family played a big role in this episode. Lori is trying desperately to keep hers together while Jim was out digging holes in the hot Atlanta sun because he no longer has a wife and kinds to protect and rely on. Easily the most chilling line of the series so far came from Jim after Shane subdued him, “The only reason I got away is because the dead were too busy eating my family.”
   Just as I copied that quote down, it dawned on me that (unless I’m mistaken) we have yet to hear the word “zombie” come from anyone in four episodes. We’ve heard “walkers,” “the dead,” “geeks” and “those things.” We’ve even heard the “N-word” fly freely and effectively, offensively from Merle’s uncensored lips, but apparently, the Z-word” is taboo.
   Ok, back to the family theme. Since these writers have made points to not present their audience with a bunch of stereotypical individuals, it was nice to see we weren’t handed a group of bas ass Mexican gangsta opportunists. The Vatos were in all likelihood an even closer knit group than the gang back at camp. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of Rick’s plan, and if I had any negative criticism it would have been I found it tough to swallow that a trained officer like Rick would walk into an unfamiliar building, knowing full-well that he was completely outmanned, and outgunned. That said, I decided to forgive the scene when it was revealed the Vatos were not a group of bloodthirsty banditos and were much more concerned for the welfare of the nursing home inhabitants than shedding unnecessary blood.
   This leads nicely into one of the other show’s other themes; social status. Janitors are running communities, pizza guys are brilliant tacticians, and Shane, a man who’s been a cop for his entire professional life, is finding being a cop isn’t as easy as it was. The world has changed, according to T-Dog, but as Guillermo points out, it really hasn’t. The weak still get taken.
   Side note, I’d like to point out how dumb the name “T-Dog” sounds to me. Of course the name “IronE” (the man who plays T-Dog) seems a bit weird too, but at least that moniker doesn’t sound as hopelessly dated – it’s just strange. I’m wondering if T-Dog had a closet full of shiny suits and harem pants and a copy of M.C. Hammer’s “Too Legit To Quit” in his car’s tape deck before the apocalypse.
   Side note, after that side note. I’m betting Rick’s hat, and the repeated retrieval of said hat is a tip of the cap to Indiana Jones. I’m curious if this will play out for the length of the series run, or if it was just a one episode incident.
   Once again, back to the review. I have to admit, I was a little surprised to find it wasn’t Merle who was back in camp exacting his brand of misguided justice, but rather a pack of Z-words out for a midnight snack. This of course brings us back to the other theme of “surprise.” It really says a lot for this show to actually surprise the viewers of a zombie show with a zombie attack. And a bloody one it was. Sure we said farewell to some red shirts, as well as wife-abusing Ed, but also lost in the melee was soon-to-be birthday girl, Amy. Amazing as this seems, we were over 4 hours into this tale of undead cannibals before we ever witnessed an actual attack on a human.
   We didn’t see it yet, but I don’t think I’m letting any spoilers loose in a zombie TV show when I speculate even though Amy and Ed won’t have any more speaking roles, I have a strong hunch they’ll be up and around in some form next week.
    And with that, I’ll wrap up this review, but join me after next Sunday’s penultimate episode. Same Z-word time. Same Z-word column.
Follow Joe Oesterle’s book, “Weird Hollywood” on FaceBook. Lots of deleted and unedited stories from the book, but also plenty of genre discussions and some like-minded people. Daily updates. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1334282523#!/pages/Weird-Hollywood/129515117077132


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fatpantz 11/23/2010 1:14:24 AM

An amazing episode...it just keeps getting better and better!  My emotions were going insane at the end when what I thought was going to only be a wandered hitting Ed, turned into a full massacre.  I have to watch the episode again, but didn't Shane get a huge chunk taken out of his arm during the fight?

I am glad to see that the tv writers are sticking to the formula of "nobody is safe" so we never know who is going to survive or die.  I think my favorite scene though was Guillermo talking about how everyone left the old people to die and the only two to stay were an orderly and a custodian.

This show is for anyone that loves a deep plot full of strong character development....i urge everyone, even non-zombie fans to check this show out!!

gauleyboy420 11/23/2010 2:19:25 AM

Where is my comment? I hate when a glitch erases my comment

gauleyboy420 11/23/2010 2:28:24 AM

TWICE NOW!!!!!!! GODDAMMIT MANIA!!!! AWESOME PROGRAMMING!!!!! It's been 2 years since the re-vamp!! Get the damn glitches out!!!


Not gonna re-type my questions, all I'll say is I love the show, and Joe good review.

gauleyboy420 11/23/2010 2:29:25 AM

TWICE!!! It has erased my comments. Get on it Mania!!! not gonna re-type it AGAIN!!!

erkman12 11/23/2010 5:34:33 AM

Am I the only one who thinks Merle led the Walkers to the camp to get his revenge?

johnwhitetoledo 11/23/2010 5:48:56 AM

@Erkman. Nope I agree it was a Merle set up.


No Shane was not bit, Ricks little boy has to blow his head off.

and Lastly, I read the comic once...and Im glad I havent reread it. This show is so good as to be amazing. Unfortunetly its probably doomed to the BSG hell of awesome shows that never get Emmy's. Mores the pity.

and I think that next weeks episodes will show  Daryl popping Amy and the fallen in the head.

To qoute River Tam "Bullet in the brainpan- squish."

LocoLobo73 11/23/2010 6:20:15 AM

Erkman, yeah I thought he might have loaded them in the back of the box truck and drove them up to the camp also. But the Geeks could have also followed Dale when he came up the hill with the challengers alarm going off.

Roqueja 11/23/2010 6:22:08 AM

I love the way that Kirkman is keeping the core characters developing with interaction with the new characters.  It was a fun episode, and I hope to see more of the same.  The potential for some is unlocked with the armagedon, while others simply do anything to survive by banding together with like-minded people.  I can't wait for the next one.  Long live the Walking Dead!

LocoLobo73 11/23/2010 6:31:39 AM

This show just get better with each episode, and last nights was no exception, This show has great dialog and pacing. I am loving every minute of the changes to the comics, in fact I have managed to not reread them until the seasons over. I also have to say they did a great job from the start , with them having all the extra Lunchables, (extra cast) running around it makes for more intense scenes, such as lastnights attack on the camp. Two more episodes to go and I seriously cant wait to see them. What makes it more exciting is the fact that we have no idea about Merle, he is this loose cannon that no one knows what going to happen and it lends to the anticapation. I am becoming a fan of Daryl and seriously wouldnt mind him staying on for the time being he has become a likable character even though he is not a part of the comicbook cast.

I just wanted to touch on something that seems to have bothered many , the Vatos, I ve read a few of the reviews and everybody keeps saying how they really didnt need to be in the episode, and i disagree, I think they need to be here for a few reasons most importantly because it shows that our group is not the only people left, and I also think it re enforces Rick's belief that He is doing the right thing , by going back for Merle, the radio, and the guns. Somone has to do the RIGHT THING, and sometimes its not going to be the people that you think they are, Readers of the comics should embrace this most considering the adventures our group endures, know what I mean. That being said I have one more thing to say about the Vatos, their actions alot of viewers thought it was dumb , well even Rick asks what exactly was he thinking. Oh yeah and the part with Merle and the roof, do you remember anyone actually checking the roof, cause i dont remember the roof being an issue to get off of, it was only an issue that merle was handcuff on top of it and that they padlocked the door, no one said there wasnt another way up or off. Nor was it ever implied that it was


MrOptimusPrime 11/23/2010 6:53:58 AM

Ok this episode was great too.....had me on edge the whole time.  Man when that last episode airs and then we have to wait for more I know that I am going to experience serious withdrawl issues the likes I have not had for some time with a TV show!!  

erkman12 >>> I am not so sure that Merle led the walkers to the camp on purpose they may have been following him regardless. 

I also had an issue with the plan that Rick came up with when they ran into the "Vatos" but it was good to see that at least he put T-Dog in a sniper position.  However at the camp there was no sniper or anyone on guard while the fish fry was going on???  WTF this is the zombie apocalypse after all and there must be thousands of them in the city right!!  No kind of early warning system either right??  Now don't get me wrong I ma glad that anyone can get eaten at any time but some common sense needs to be employed here.  It must be my old USMC instincts kicking in here!!   

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