Sunday, October 9, 2011

'The Walking Dead' recap, 'Wildfire' - Season 1, Episode 5

A few months after the first season of "The Walking Dead" ended, I wrote up a recap/review of the season's fifth and penultimate episode that never left its file in Microsoft Word. I have decided to share it below. Enjoy:

When we last left Frank Darabont’s thrill ride “The Walking Dead,” a zombie ambush plagued the 20-plus survivors who were finally united near that big abandoned rock quarry outside Atlanta. This racks up the group’s body count, which now includes an abusive husband. The walkers bit both Ed in his tent and Andrea’s younger sister Amy, the worst bummer it being the night before the girl’s birthday. Andrea had been diligently looking for makeshift gift-wrap.

Around dawn, Rick, a sheriff’s deputy in civilized life, uses his walkie-talkie in the hopes that Morgan – a man whom Rick met after awaking from a coma in “Days Gone Bye” – can hear him, and urges him not to enter Atlanta, which is crawling with hungry walkers. When Morgan and his son Duane went elsewhere, Rick gave them a walkie-talkie to maintain contact everyday at dawn. Morgan once said the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta was allegedly working on a cure; he is since unreachable. These details from the pilot are big motivators for Rick in Season One’s penultimate episode.

Andrea leans over Amy’s body, still in frozen shock from the slaying. The clock ticks until Amy is to become a zombie, but Andrea threatens to shoot whoever approaches the corpse with intent to harm.

The group deals with death in different ways. Ruthless redneck Daryl Dixon moves Ed’s body to be burned, which upsets Korean 20-something Glenn, a former pizza delivery boy who believes all should be buried. Families come to terms with their respective losses – by doing the devastating deed of killing a loved one before they turn into a full-on zombie. Carol smashed in her husband Ed’s head with an axe, and Andrea shot Amy just in time. Everyone, the characters and the audience, knows that the bitten need to be killed, sooner rather than later. Then, there’s the guy who conceals it. Jim gets called out for concealing a stomach bite from the ambush. Rick tries to protect him from trigger-happy folks like Daryl in the precious hours before morphing into a bug-eyed stiff.

Meanwhile, Rick keeps his pipe dream of visiting CDC in his back pocket. Shane vehemently shoots it down and proposes relocating to the heavily armed, if not operational, military base in Fort Benning 100 miles south.

Lori is ambivalent about the two men in her life. Looking back, her husband Rick left camp looking for a bag of ammo almost as soon as he arrived, and his best friend Shane lied about Rick being dead while he was MIA post-coma. Shane dutifully looked after Rick’s family then, specifically shacking up with Lori, unbeknownst to Rick. (Hopefully, that secret won’t come to light for a while.) Needless to say, neither guy is Lori’s biggest fan right now. But she supports the voyage to CDC.

While hunting in the woods, Shane aims his rifle at Rick from a distance. Dale subtly notices, only strengthening the token old guy’s own paranoia, and Rick unconvincingly plays it off like “we need some damn reflective vests around here!” The pilot, “Days Gone Bye,” was the only episode that convinced me that Rick and Shane were best friends. Aside from a Tarantino-esque squad car chat over hamburgers, these police have yet to click in an apocalyptic setting.

In what amounts to a Jack Shephard speech, the de facto leader of the pack, Shane, concedes to pushing onward to CDC in the morning. “The most important thing here is we need to stay together,” he sermonizes, to the group at fireside. All but one family chooses to stay behind. Rick equips them with guns and ammo.

Again, Rick’s attempt to reach Morgan at dawn via walkie-talkie is to no avail. Our considerate hero leaves him a note and map. No sign of Morgan yet – will he show up in the finale for a “Shawshank”-style homecoming?

The crew departs in separate vehicles, which goes smoothly until Dale’s ancient RV burns out. Jim is, predictably, in bad shape, so they leave him by a tree to ideally die as far away from them as possible.

Then, we meet someone new, Dr. Jenner (played by Noah Emmerich), who records scrambled video transmissions as the last remaining CDC scientist. He is admittedly a suicidal wino, or in other words, an entertaining guest role. The gang arrives at the corpse-ridden concourse outside lab headquarters and immediately loses hope. Not Rick though! After detecting a slight shake of the security cam, he desperately pleads for CDC to open up. As Jenner programs the doors to unlock, a beam of light is cast on the survivors.

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