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Explosions, suicide by explosion, and maddening pre-explosion whispers in the excellent season finale for AMC’s The Walking Dead, “TS-19”

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Scientists have proven that massive explosions are by far the greatest way to end anything, especially pie-eating contests, but also the premiere seasons of zombie TV shows.

Last night’s season finale of The Walking Dead not only took this lesson to heart — ending with a thoroughly satisfying and god-damn big fireball — but also included enough character drama and plot revelations to keep you enthralled throughout.

It was the episode with the fewest zombie kills and the fewest zombies. Not surprisingly, it was the best episode to date.

Below, we tally the points to come up with a final verdict for The Walking Dead, Season 1.0 (explanation of point system at the bottom of the post. Also: SPOILERS AHEAD).

+500 A good serving of points for the opening scene, a flashback of sorts to when the zombie hordes overran the hospital. With Rick still in a coma and government troops executing anyone that so much as hints of zombie, Shane tries to wake up his friend. Seeing that it’s impossible, he shoves a hospital gurney against the door and makes a run for it. (This gives a little background for his later claim to Lori that he believed Rick was dead — a hospital gurney certainly seems like poor protection for the zombie horde.) I’d love to see more flashbacks next season — so long as they don’t get all Lost-y.

-50 Seriously, a gurney? I mean, Shane was totally right in assuming Rick was dead. These zombies can overrun the American military, but are thwarted by a cot on wheels?

+150 The survivors meet Jenner, the lone CDC scientist who survived the apocalypse and stuck around the CDC headquarters. He claims that the majority of other scientists either fled the center to search for friends and family, or committed suicide.

+500 A break in the action was necessary at this point in the series — we’re dying for some more background, and this episode at last gave it to us. The early scenes with Jenner are mostly based on dialog and move slowly, but at least some of the many questions viewers have about the apocalypse are answered. Jenner shows the survivors a kind of motion captured MRI scan of a victim’s brain. It shows how the virus or bacteria or whatever it is (somehow Jenner doesn’t know — hard to believe, but whatever) first kills the victim and then reanimates them, activating only a very small portion of the brain. The video ends with the trace of a bullet flashing through the victim’s brain. We later learn that the victim shown in the MRI was actually Jenner’s wife.

+300 After a brief respite of wine-induced revelry, Shane presses Jenner to tell them about what happened. Jenner doesn’t really know, other than that the French were the last to hold out. But eventually they, like everyone else, succumbed. Once the electrical grid dies, he explains, there was only so much that could be done. Andrea takes this news poorly, more so than the rest.

+100/-100 Shane, in an alcohol-induced stupor, stumbles in on Lori in the living quarters’ lounge. He confronts her about the way she’s been treating him, and she tells him it’s because he told her her husband had died. He explains that he was nearly certain he had died, and regardless, saved her and her son’s life. When she refuses to listen to him, he tries to rape her, and she responds with violent nail-slash to the neck. The scene gets points because it was hard to watch — for which it also loses points.

-200 Alright, let’s just be clear on this. I hate commercials to begin with, and there’s no way I would normally criticize a show for its choice of commericials, but the fact of the matter is that every time those god damn Quiznos 5-4-3 Singimals ran, I came very close to ripping my eyes out and shoving a power drill into my ears. STOP IT SINGIMALS.

+200 The next morning, Dale observes a digital clock on the wall, steadily counting down (it’s at about one hour when he sees it). He asks Jenner what it’s for. Jenner breaks some pretty bad news — the center is running out of power and when it does it will be decontaminated (AKA blown to smithereens). T-Dog, Grimes, and Shane run into the basement to see what the situation is. They find dozens of empty fuel cans. There’s nothing they can do.

-200 Why wouldn’t Jenner break this news earlier? We get that he’s suicidal, but he hardly seems homicidal. In fact, when the group comes back upstairs, Jenner puts the place in lockdown. Everyone else in the world is dead or dying, he tells them — they’re all just delaying the inevitable. But the survivors plead with him, telling him that even if hope is futile, he has to at least give them the choice to hope. Eventually he opens the door, but he warns them that the computer has locked all the upper level exits.

+1,000 For mystery whispers. As Rick prepares to rush out with the others, Jenner pulls him aside and whispers something in his hear. “WHAT’D HE WHISPER GODDAMNIT?!” rang multiple times through the hollow mustiness of my brain. If we never find this out, I will need to be committed.

+500 While the others flea, Jacqui and Andrea stay behind, which Dale can’t accept. He tries to convince them — and especially Andrea — that suicide is the wrong choice and that she can’t do this to him. When she doesn’t move, he tells her he’s not going anywhere either. Upstairs, the others blow out the glass with a grenade. They flee to the vehicles. At last we see Dale and Andrea struggle out the window and take cover. Jacqui has stayed inside. Then BOOM.

Episode point total: +2,700
Season one point total: +4,300

The first season of The Walking Dead was a mixed bag — it started strong, petered out quickly, and then came back roaring in the final two episodes.

I’ve never read the comics and don’t know what to expect from the overall plot. The series will always be threatened by it’s nature — the gimmicks of zombie movies generally work best in a one-and-a-half- to two-hour movie, not a multi-season television series. To get past this, the show will not just need to develop characters more, it will also need to move into how society and civilization continues post-apocalypse. Otherwise I fear it will run out of steam quite quickly.

“Romero Points” is a system that awards or takes away points for certain scenes in a The Walking Dead episode. A positive score is the degree to which George Romero would approve, and a negative score indicates the number of times he would roll over in his grave — that is, if he had one, because he’s very much alive, and also who knows whether or not he even plans to be buried, as he might want to be cremated, or if there would be room in his grave to roll, or even if he will ever die.

The points may seem arbitrary, because they are, and if you complain about the point system then you automatically lose 5,000 points. Also, I cannot be held accountable for incorrect math, because I am not good at math, but I am very good at awarding points.

Finally, please note: These points are not the real George Romero’s opinion, because I have no idea what he thinks. Rather, it is the one who lives in my head and tells me every night that I’m the “best little zombie fan ever.”

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One Response to “Explosions, suicide by explosion, and maddening pre-explosion whispers in the excellent season finale for AMC’s The Walking Dead, “TS-19””

  1. avatar Rhe Hill says:

    My thoughts exactly. Through I was a little disappointed in the explosion. Maybe I’m missing something, but they seemed waaay too close to that fireball to drive away unscathed. I also didn’t care if Andrea went up in flames, but I’m glad Dale didn’t. Jacqui didn’t seem like a quitter to me either.

    Not knowing what Jenner whispered to Rick is still bothering me, so I hope season two primers before next Halloween. I also really really want to know what happened to the guy and his son who saved Rick in the first episode.

    Thanks for the recaps. Loved the rating system. Can’t wait until the next season.