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The Walking Dead — Season 1 Episode 2 — “Guts” — recap

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In last night’s The Walking Dead, we learned that zombies are color blind and that we shouldn’t judge a man by his zombie gut-soaked shirt.

The episode, aptly titled “Guts,” begins with Rick Grimes’ ex-partner, Shane Walsh taking a roll in the woods with Grimes’ wife, Sarah. Either Sarah thinks her husband is already dead, doesn’t care, or both — anyway, the scene is set for a loving reunion for all three in the next episode.

Then we switch back in the tank where we left Rick Grimes at the end of the first episode. He’s still surrounded by legions of zombies, but, thankfully he has a pal, in the form of a faceless voice coming in over the tank’s CB. Grimes makes a mad dash for a nearby alley, where the the voice and its owner, Glenn, is waiting for him. Glenn pulls him inside a department store, where he has been holed up with a group of other survivors from Shane and Sarah’s party — they’ve come to the city to scavenge supplies.

Only problem is, Grimes’ new friends aren’t very happy with him — in firing his gun, he’s attracted the shambling, groaning attention of Atlanta’s legions of zombies. Andrea, one of Glenn’s friends, pulls a gun on Grimes, explaining how now they’re all surrounded by zombies and totally up shit’s figurative creek. It’s Dawn of the Dead, minus the zombie-baby.

Thankfully, there’s a stereotype on the roof who can rescue the episode from zombie-cliche status. Merle Dixon is white, bald, a coke fiend, and damn racist to boot. He doesn’t like black people, and he demonstrates this by kicking the shit out of T-Dog, this episode’s token black guy.

Grimes ultimately does the hero thing and steps in at the last moment, saving T-Dog and then using handcuffs to lock Mr. Southern White Racist to a pipe. In a cringe-worthy sermon, Grimes informs Merle that there is no race anymore — just “white and dark meat” (skin, I think he meant, because I’m pretty sure if a zombie ate me he’d find both white and dark meat, as well as a large amount of chicken wings in my stomach).

Anyway, the intrepid band of people who really, really shouldn’t have come to Atlanta for supplies attempts to escape through the sewer, but find a rat-devouring zombie waiting for them. And that’s a no-go, apparently.

So on to Plan B — douse Grimes and Glenn in zombie guts, have them walk through the hordes of zombies by pretending to be zombies (a la Shaun of the Dead) and jump in some construction vehicles down the street.

The zombie-gut application scene should be the most gruesome yet, but it’s not. The triple emotional detachment — the fact that this on TV, the fact that it’s fake guts, and the fact that, hey, chopping up dead zombies doesn’t really bother me — made the scene more funny than retch inducing. Plus, how can you beat an intestine scarf?

So the guys leave in their zombie gut suits and the plan works swimmingly until — suddenly! — rain falls and, apparently, the best way to remove zombie gut stink is with a quick dousing of rain.

Right. Cause that always works with roadkill.

Anyway, the zombies can suddenly smell the two again, and chase them to the construction yard where Grimes and Glenn jump into vehicles. They rescue everyone except Merle, who’s left on the roof after T-Dog trips and drops the handcuffs key down a pipe. Whoops!

Alright, the suspension of disbelief needed for this episode increased dramatically, but did it matter? Not really. It’s already apparent that the zombies are not much more than meaningless device to move forward the human character drama. So I could care less about the logic of the zombie world. Yes, rain, probably won’t wash off zombie-stink, but I’ll let myself believe it for a moment or so because the rest of the scene was damn fun.

But given that, the real question is: how much legs does the zombie plot have, especially considering how much the story has been done and redone in popular culture?

Battlestar Galactica was another TV series about survival in the face of a ruthless, inhuman onslaught — and it was always at its best when it focused on how politics and relationships functioned under the strain of the constant terror of complete oblivion. The cylons were frequently a vague, menacing threat, and in some episodes didn’t feature as much more than a figment of the main characters’ paranoia — or as actual, subversive infiltrators.

Now, in The Walking Dead we won’t be dealing with zombie infilitrators (holy crap those would be some scary zombies), but we do essentially have the same plot device. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much in the way of character development this week.

That’s fine, though. The series is young. From the short preview of the next episode, it already looks like things will get a little more dicey when the group returns to camp and informs Merle’s brother that they left Merle locked to a freakin pipe.

This is a zombie, series, after all – they’ve got to get the cliches of the genre over with before they start doing anything really interesting.

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