Saturday, 20 November 2010

'THE WALKING DEAD' 1.3 - "Tell It To The Frogs"

Saturday, 20 November 2010

This wasn't as fun as the premiere, but it was a big improvement over "Guts" and definitely the best installment in terms of characterization. Not that there are any characters who are fresh and interesting creations, but "Tell It To The Frogs" at least spent more time in their company. In so doing, it's given The Walking Dead a stronger foundation to build-on from here; a reason to care for people who, until now, were little more than extras. I remain ambivalent about the long-term potential of this show (it's hard to determine what the "goal" is, beyond everyday survival in an open-ended zombie milieu), but this is tempered by knowledge the comic-book source is 7 years old and still being read. It must surely be leading somewhere, right?

This week, the survivors of the department store crisis made their way back to the mountain base-camp, where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was reunited with his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). So much for the overarching storyline of one man trying to find his missing family amidst a zombie apocalypse. You could argue it was refreshing to get this far in Rick's mission so quickly, but I can't help thinking it's a very premature move. The emotional issue is that Lori has since started sleeping with Rick's best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) -- something Lori's now determined to put in the past, seeing as her husband's alive and well -- but as we have no pre-apocalypse attachment to her marriage, or sympathy for Shane's feelings for her, it's hard to really care. I think they should have kept the Grimes family separated, so we could grow to appreciate Rick's love for his family (maybe via some flashbacks), while seeing Lori and Shane get so close that it would feel like a bigger wrench when Rick wandered into camp. As it played out, it just seems to have killed the pilot episode's biggest emotional hook: one man, left for dead, trying to reunite with his family.

Still, "Tell It To The Frogs" earned some credit for showing us the ramifications of the end-of-the-world on society; as the women find themselves washing everyone's laundry in a lake, while the men are out hunting deer or planning rescue missions. Overnight, the gender politics have regressed by a few thousand years. One survivor, Ed (Adam Minarovich), is also becoming a problem because he's not a team player, and now finds himself in a world where the law can't be enforced by authorities. He's later revealed to be abusive to his wife Carol (Melissa McBride), and earned himself a harsh beating from Shane. In this world, violence is the only way to maintain a semblance of order, and that's fine if the strongest people in charge are the most reasonable and levelheaded, but I'm sure the tables will turn sooner or later.

It was good to get to know the camp-site characters, if only in broad strokes. Most interesting was the presence of Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), the brother of the racist Merle (Michael Rooker) they've left on the department store rooftop, handcuffed to a pipe with hungry zombies clamoring at a locked door. Rick and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) are wracked with guilt over leaving Merle to die of hunger and exposure, so form a rescue party to head back into Atlanta and free him, while also retrieving much-needed weaponry. The episode's climax, showing that Merle has sawn off his own hand to escape, was so inevitable it lost all impact, but it certainly adds spice knowing Merle's out there, likely keen to get his revenge on those who left him behind...

"Tell It To The Frogs" certainly achieved its aim; introduce the characters properly, develop some relationships between them, give us a clearer sense of the six-part season's direction, seal the tone of the show, but I'm still a little bored by what I'm seeing. That's partly because the zombie genre is well-trodden ground, but also because the BBC's remake of Survivors covered similar territory recently -- especially regarding the societal upheaval. For me, there's nothing here I haven't seen before and done better, basically. It still needs time before the show's own characters and situation has evolved enough that I'm invested in this particular universe, because right now it reminds me of a park where everyone's playing games I've been playing elsewhere for awhile.

  • It just occurred to me that Sarah Wayne Callies is starring in a drama where there's a character called T-Dog and a one-handed man, having previously appeared in Prison Break, which starred the one-handed T-Bag.
  • I guess the explanation for why nobody went to rescue Rick stands up to cursory scrutiny (everyone was told patients were being evacuated to the city), but I'm still very confused about the length of time Rick was in a hospital bed.
  • I'm also unsure about how long Lori and Shane have been having an affair. It feels like it's recent (i.e. since Rick "died"), but that makes Lori look really bad. If they've been having an affair since before Rick was hospitalized, that makes more sense, but for whatever reason the show's done a poor job making that clear.
WRITER: Charles H. Eglee, Jack LoGiudice & Frank Darabont (story by Charles H. Eglee & Jack LoGiudice)
DIRECTOR: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
TRANSMISSION: 19 November 2010, FX/HD, 10PM