Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Walking Dead 1.5 ‘Wildfire’

“…I think tomorrow I’m gonna blow my brains out…” – Jenner

After the exhilaration of last week’s episode, ‘Wildfire’ was a more nuanced episode of The Walking Dead supercharged with emotion.

Even without the context of what it actually referred to one could easily have deduced that the title of the episode – ‘Wildfire’ – was a way of describing just how exponentially the zombie epidemic had spread.

We later discovered that wildfire was in fact the code name first given to the outbreak by the government and that it didn’t take long for the virus to go “global”, but we’ll get to that later.

‘Wildfire’ began with Rick trying to make contact with Morgan on the walkie-talkie – I like it how Morgan might not have been seen since the pilot but he has far from been forgotten, both by Rick and the viewer. Rick’s dedication to finding Morgan speaks volumes about the man’s character and his need to feel like he’s repaid the debt he owes to Morgan.

Back in camp we were quickly reminded of the tragic events that ended last week’s episode as the survivors set about burning the bodies of the dead walkers (not before putting a pick axe through their heads though of course) and burying, at Glenn’s insistence, the dead ‘living’.

Glenn’s insistence on burying the dead ‘living’ was a way of trying to hold on to some shred of humanity and semblance of the old world. Glenn didn’t get much to do this week but his emotional plea to do right by the dead survivors was a nice touch and offered us at least a little bit of an insight into how we would cope in these unreal circumstances under the same pressures.

The camp were keen to dispose of Amy’s body before she ‘turned’ but Andrea appeared not to have moved from the position we left her in last week – crouched over her sister’s dead body.

Andrea appeared to be in some sort of trance, not responding to any of her fellow survivors’ offers of condolence; when Rick even got close Andrea stuck a gun in his face and in a nice call back to ‘Guts’ told him “I know how the safety works”.

Andrea finally opened up to someone as Dale tried to talk her round and we learnt, in a cruel irony, that it was Amy’s birthday. In the second call back to ‘Guts’ Andrea offered Amy the necklace she took from the department store back in that second episode.

We soon saw though that Andrea hadn’t become irreparably psychologically damaged by Amy’s death, as the real reason for her vigil over her sister’s corpse became apparent.

Because as expected Amy began to reanimate and as soon as she did Andrea put a bullet through her head. Amy dying in this way gave Andrea something never normally offered in death – the chance to say goodbye to an animated being.

That said, if watching your sister be killed wasn’t bad enough to then have to kill her a second time yourself is about the most unspeakable thing imaginable; so Andrea’s dedication to then burying Amy herself was quite admirable.

The other major development at the camp was the discovery that Jim had been bitten by a walker during the attack. Having tried to hide it at first as soon as he was rumbled, the mob mentality of the new world kicked in as the remaining survivors surrounded him and restrained him.

This led to Rick’s idea of heading to the CDC to try an source a cure for Jim, who quickly started to develop the fever Morgan told Rick about back in the pilot.

This in turn led to the butting of heads between Shane and Rick, of course Rick is blissfully oblivious to the subtext of this, but as viewers it’s interesting to see just how much of a douche Shane is turning into towards his former best friend as a result of his ever-growing jealousy and resentment.

Shane’s plummet further into desperation over losing Lori was evidenced further as it looked for all the world like he was contemplating shooting Rick and making it look like it would have been some sort of tragic accident.

Shane was rumbled before he could even make the choice as Dale caught him in the act and although he might be the oldest member of the group Dale has proven himself to be the most astute and the look he gave Shane suggested that he is well aware that something odd is going on in his head at present.

Before the group could depart we found Rick back out on the walkie trying to raise Morgan. Morgan appears to have taken on some sort of inspirational role in Rick’s life as Rick’s pleas down the walkie begging Morgan to have been right about the CDC looked to me more like a man praying to God. Rick has put his faith in Morgan, the man who brought him back from the dead effectively, which explained his desperation at the episode’s end – he couldn’t cope with the fact that the one ray of hope he knows his still out there possibly having steered him wrong.

On the way to the CDC Jim made the impossible decision for the rest of the group to leave him at the side of the road as he knew he wasn’t going to make it. His decision was akin to a vampire ‘facing the sun’, he knew it was over so he may as well try and find something beautiful out there – his family, who he knows are out there as walkers.

Jim’s “another damn tree” line was a nice nod to last week and no one’s goodbye to Jim was more poignant than Daryl’s. It may have only been a little nod but in that moment Daryl proved that he has heart and cares about his adopted family – even if he can’t bring himself to ever speak that way.

Before the survivors arrived at the CDC we got a glimpse inside the building at the only remaining person left inside – Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich).

However long Jenner had been alone in the building had clearly taken its toll on his sanity – much like many of the characters on The Walking Dead Jenner appeared close to a mental breakdown. Making video diaries to no one and talking to himself, Jenner had clearly developed a routine and adapted to his new life alone in the CDC.

His frustration at losing the DNA he was studying of a test subject threatened to push him over the edge until he spotted movement outside the building – Rick and his ragtag group.

As Jenner seemingly refused to let them in, Rick noticed the camera moving and begged and pleaded in utter desperation for his guidance from Morgan to be proved right to his fellow survivors who had doubted the decision to head for the CDC.

Just as it seemed Jenner was going to leave them out there, as the survivors dragged a still gesticulating Rick away the doors to the CDC sprung open; and just to complete the religious connotations of ‘Wildfire’ a glorious heavenly light shone out and bathed the remaining survivors.

Bullet Points:

- I loved Daryl calmly putting a pickaxe into a corpse’s head in the background at the camp early on in the episode. Daryl has quickly become my favourite character on the show and I think Norman Reedus is doing a great job giving him a veneer of compassion that is seemingly devoid in his more cartoonishly grotesque brother.

- The beaten wife unleashing years of frustration on abusive husband Ed with that pickaxe told more than any words ever could – Daryl’s facial reactions to her pummelling her dead husband’s skull to mush were priceless as well.

- I thought Rick’s “Do not enter the city, it belongs to the dead now” to Morgan down the walkie was a very cool line and I nearly made that my opening quote but I just thought Jenner’s line was more appropriate for the episode.

- Shane’s attitude of everyone sticking together rather than splintering off in groups reminded me of Jack’s mantra from Lost: “live together, die alone” – I’ve also seen another Lost parallel drawn in this episode with Jenner alone at the CDC reminding people of Desmond down the hatch.

- Noah Emmerich who played Jenner was last seen playing the shady Agent Fowler on White Collar – he’s a good actor who I’ve always liked, dating back to Beautiful Girls and Frequency and it was good to see him bringing a bit more importance to the Jenner character.

- During one of Jenner’s video diaries I thought the little red record button displayed was actually a red button interactivity display on my TV – it doesn’t really have any relevance here but it made me laugh at the time.

The Walking Dead continues Friday @ 10pm on FX


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