Down With The Sickness [The Walking Dead Dissection]

Posted by Justin on March 19th, 2012
beside the dying fire walking dead.jpg

A season comes to a close with the cast a little lighter, many bullets fired and a few lessons learned.

This might not be a democracy but it is the final Dissection of the year so you might as well click through a read it.

Zombies!

Kirkman’s first rule of zombie physics: a horde in motion tends to stay in motion. The pack o’ walkers that descended on the farm at the end of last week’s episode hit early and often.

The one element of this series that hasn’t suffered in this extremely uneven season as been the action beats. Even when the storytelling in lacking, the runnin’ and shootin’ sequences have always felt tight and suspenseful. Since this dominates a full half of the episode this week, there is really little to criticize.

Sure, some of the rules seem a little fuzzy to me. If it’s feasible for the group to hide in cars on the highway while a horde staggers by, why couldn’t they just turn off the lights and stay in the house? Daryl dismisses this by saying that the walkers would just tear through the house. But I think that’s just because he saw the intro where the pack of zombies breaks through a wooden barricade.

Anywho… it doesn’t really matter if their choices are dumb or not. You can chalk it up to panic and the fact that Rick isn’t there to lend is steady hand since he’s trapped between the house and a hard place with Carl.

We get what we came for. Wholesale zombie slaughter.

t-dog.jpgT-Dog

So T-Dog escapes with Lori and The Youngest Daughter Who Tried To Commit Suicide In That One Episode. He says it’s pointless to look for them and they have to hit the coast. Lori, who is now without her husband and son protests and demands he either turn around or let her out.

Which is when it hits me, has ANYONE EVER ASKED WHAT T-DOG’S REAL NAME IS? Seriously? What if this entire time he’s been waiting for someone to bring it up. And what would his reasoning be for keeping it a secret? Is it embarrassing?

Okay, while trying to find a good T-Dog picture I am reminded that T-Dog’s real name is Theodore and he reveled it in the episode Bloodletting this season.

Bottom line, if you want to nab two chicks and take them hundreds of miles away from their families, you better have a more familiar name than T-Dog.

Reunion

I can’t be the only one who had the slow “we found each other” theme from Lost playing in his head as all the cars pulled into frame.

Infection!

We get the “big” reveal which has been teased since the final episode of last season. We are all infected. More specifically, you don’t have to get bitten to turn into a zombie.

It’s obvious that Kirkman is very proud of this and he should be. It’s easily his biggest original contribution to the zombie genre. A defining element of this franchise.

But that being said, I am not really sure this piece of information warranted the kind of build up it got.

It really doesn’t matter to our characters. No one is particularly worried about dying of natural causes. Murder is always going to be a sticky issue everyone has opinions on. So, really, what’s the big deal about the infection? How does it really affect the plot or the motivations of the survivors?

As much as I despise the BUT IN THE COMICS! arguments, I thought the revelation of suicide turned zombie was a pretty brilliant way to illustrate this.

michonne .jpg

A Stranger In The Woods

Andrea gets separated from the group and stranded in the woods. Low on ammo and down to her last breath, a walker twice her size falls on her and it looks like curtains. Until the swipe of a kitana launches the zombie’s head into the air. We see a cloaked figure holding chains connected to a pair of armless walkers.

Those who read the comic know it’s Michonne, a weaponized woman who has found her own, shall we say unique, way through the apocalypse.

We don’t see her face because up until right after the show, there was no announcement on casting. Creator and Executive Producer Robert Kirkman revealed on the Talking Dead that she will be played by Danai Gurira. As with most of the casting, she looks quite a bit like her comic alter ego. Apparently she’s on HBO’s Treme, any viewers of that show can chime in on if she’d particularly suited for this role.

I’m interested to see how she mixes into the show. Her addition, along with The Governor represent a larger than life element to what has been more of a human drama this season.

But… there is just something nagging at me about this… it probably has something to do with the other reveal…

Hard Times Ahead

The final shot of season two is a slow revelation of a prison.

This foreshadows our survivors next home as foretold in the source material.

Here is my thing: if you never read the books, which 95% of all the viewers have not, what does this shot mean to you?

It’s not particularly visible. Rick and company don’t take refuge in it. It’s just a dark prison. At least Michonne is an interesting (and at this point ambiguous) physical specimen and intersects with a main character by the end.

I just wonder what the expected reaction is.

In Summation

Once I have a little more time to think about this season I’ll do a recap/look ahead. In the meanwhile, the show continued a trend of strong episodes that almost made me forget how frustrated I once was with this series.

Almost.

  • mxyzptlk

    They ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.

    This episode had enough movement to make up for some of the static cling the narrative seemed to suffer from in this season. The infection raises some interesting possibilities:

    IF they’re all carriers, THEN
    A.) Does the infection require a trigger other than death to start something happening, kind of like the Epstein-Barr virus can trigger multiple sclerosis, and

    B.) If triggered, does it manifest in nutty behavior that could be taken as a sign of bad moon rising?

    If A is the case, then the group is not necessarily a risk to each other. They might want to keep an eye on possible triggers — where there is a discernible change in behavior.

    If B is the case, then Shane’s trajectory makes more sense, and maybe even Hershel’s hitting
    the bottle should be signs of worry. Lori becoming Lady Sybil MacBeth also makes a little more sense. That said, the oncoming
    Ricktatorship might be of concern as well — we’ll have to see. For all we know, since the CDC doc was loony toons, maybe he didn’t have the faculties to explain any necessary details to Rick (which is most likely why Rick kept it to himself).

    The problem with the infection is that it’s a closed door as for rebuilding a life. As soon as one of them dies and it isn’t from a walker, then they know they’re all at risk again. It puts a whole new spin on end of life initiatives.

    But if the infection is latent and needs to be triggered — and once triggered, behavioral changes ensues — then you get a new spin on John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There,” which John Carpenter based the 1982 version of “The Thing” on. You get rabid Manchurian candidates with latent zombie tendencies. You get tension and inherent drama over who can be trusted within the group, as well as who they can trust from outside the group. Plus there’s the possibility of a subplot on how to detect and get rid of the infection within the living.

    Don’t muck this up, Kirkman.

    The deus ex machina in this episode wasn’t as egregious, but it was a little hard to believe that Daryl would ride up at the same time that Glenn and T-Dog would arrive, almost as if it were coordinated. You could hear a little echo of “we gotta fit the episode in 44 minutes.” Had they pulled the trigger on some of the latter drama earlier, not only would fans of the show be less irritated, but they could have had the more realistic moment where they had to search for T-Dog, or Daryl and Carol get knocked off Daryl’s bike, and they spend the night staying alive until Glenn finds them in the morning.

    As for showing the prison, I see why you ask who that shot was for. But look at the way it’s shown; you don’t have to have read the comics to look at a slow, panning shot on the heels of an intensely dramatic moment, and know the juxtaposition carries over to the next image. Hence the shift from crazed Rick to the prison means “this place won’t be good.” I think that shot composition does enough to convey what the comic-savvy audience member already anticipates.

    (This is a cool rhetorical trick called an enthymeme; it means to put two different things next to each other without making any overt connection with the hope that the link will be made in the minds of the audience. It usually works on an emotional level, it’s how clever comics are made, and politicians do it all the time.)

    We don’t really know what that helicopter was for, but going off that enthymeme idea, it almost seemed as if they were suggesting the copter is what drove the herd.

    The image of Michonne keeping those armless, jawless walkers on chains was unnerving. Partly it was the lack of arms and jaws. But there was just something unsettling about seeing them in chains like that. Maybe because they were black, and i the deep South, African Americans in chains carries all kinds of other baggage. Yet it’s a black person holding those chains… and a woman at that. At any rate, it was a powerful image.

    One last thing: What about the logo on Carl’s shirt? I know it’s probably for some local tee-ball team or something, but the logo looks a heck of a lot like the logo for the private military company that Lost mercenary Martin Keamy worked for — which looked a lot like the logo for the notorious PMC Blackwater that caused all kinds of havoc in Iraq. See the pic and tell me where that shirt comes from. If it isn’t something common to people in that region of Georgia, ya gotta wonder if that’s not some kind of easter egg — maybe for some group that knows more about the infection than we do.

  • http://mrprayer.net Mr.Prayer

    >>if you never read the books what does this shot mean to you?
    For me it was like that:
    -We need home with big strong walls
    -Some dark settlement. With big strong walls. Possibly prison. May be some fortress built after apocalypse happened (military?).
    -Will they find it? Stanislavsky says they will.
    -Who will be there?
    -What kind of negotiations Rick will have to make to get into this “fortress” and to stay there, considering how tough Herschel was.
    -May be it’s populated by walkers and there will be season-long clean-up operation.

    So, it’s kinda normal plot twist for me.

  • http://ebonnebula.deviantart.com/ EbonNebula

     I really like this episode. The only thing that really seemed out of place was the introduction of this Michonne character. I understand she is a fan favorite from the books, but I’ve never read ‘em.

    To me, it’s just a typical Walking Dead action sequence. All alone in some Texan woods, running for their life, hoard of zombies, out of ammo. SUDDENLY: katana wielding stranger clad in black cape-n-cowl, with her two armless zombie gimps. Who the hell is this anime character, and what the hell is she doing in my deep-south zombie survival drama?

    Don’t misunderstand. I am intrigued about this character, and want to know more. It just seems like it’s a bit of a drastic shift away from the realm of possibility, and that’s something that allot of TV audiences aren’t in to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/asseluKdivaD Davey Kulessa

    I don’t really get your question about the infection. I didn’t read the comics, but from what I understand the infection that turns you into a zombie after you die and the infection that makes you die (after being bit) are two entirely different things.

    The zombies carry a virus that eventually kills you if you get bit or scratched or whatever, and it just so happens that everyone who dies turns into a zombie because they carry the “i’mma be a zombie” disease, which as far as I know has no visible symptoms other than turning into a zombie?

    The logo on Carl’s shirt is for “Science Dog”, which is something from Robert Kirkman’s other comic, Invincible. I don’t know what it signifies though, just an easter egg.

  • mxyzptlk

    Science Dog — thanks for that, it was bugging me.

    As for the question, I’ll try to clarify.

    First, I’m not yet convinced that everyone is a carrier (but could easily be convinced). I’m not yet convinced because we’ve only seen two instances of that, and both Randall and Shane were acting erratically and with potential violence. We know they were both carriers, so does the zombie virus make the carrier act erratically?

    But if they’re all carriers, the question of if the virus leads to erratic behavior still stands because we have evidence of a few characters acting erratically (Lori, Herschel), but not all of them. So maybe the virus needs to be triggered by something; the active virus results in crazy behavior when the victim is alive, and zombification when the victim bites it.

    If the virus needs to be triggered — and a triggered virus in a living carrier results in erratic behavior — then you get some great possibilities for ready-made tension and drama. That’s the possibility that reminds me of The Thing.

  • Fitzthetim

    There was a lot of panicked shooting in that episode – did anyone miss at all?

    Enjoyed the episode and looking forward to the third series.