Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Walking Dead 1.6 'TS-19'


“We always think there’s going to be more time… Then it runs out…” – Jenner

The finale of the first season of The Walking Dead didn’t really feel like a finale at all which is down to the reduced season we have had first time out.

Although ‘TS-19’ didn’t feel like your stereotypical season finale it still was a hell of a ride, even if it felt a little bit rushed, which again is more to do with the six episode first season more than anything else.

We began with a flashback that showed us that Shane hadn’t been lying when he said he tried to get Rick out and why he then thought his best friend was dead – whether he really believed he was dead we’ll probably never know but it certainly appeared as though he did.

The desperation of those opening days of the outbreak were depicted in all their grisly glory as the military routinely shot both the living and the dead alike with no remorse.

An explosion caused all the equipment Rick was hooked up to go off which led Shane to check his friend’s pulse, it is at this moment that Shane appeared to make the decision that Rick was dead – although clearly he wasn’t.

We haven’t had enough exploration into the backstories of Shane and Rick to know if Shane’s assumption Rick was a goner was steeped in jealousy of Rick or lust after Lori but Shane made one hell of a misjudgement in those moments, subconsciously influenced or not.

If Shane really thought Rick was dead it begs the question of why he risked hanging around longer, with both walkers and trigger-happy military around, to barricade the door to Rick’s room. Maybe it was to save his friend the indignity of becoming a walker should his body be discovered or if he did still think Rick was alive maybe he thought the least he could do for the friend he was leaving for dead was give him a fighting chance.

Back in the present we joined the group where we left them last week at the CDC just after the doors opened allowing them access. Jenner immediately seems reluctant and hesitant in granting them sanctuary but appears to relent on the condition of a blood test for each of them.

When his blood test leaves Andrea faint and he learns that the group haven’t eaten in days he supplies them with a meal and near copious amounts of alcohol, which as we all know – never ends well.

The wine seems to help them all forget as they share a laugh and seem relaxed for the first time since we met them, that is until Shane kills the mood entirely by quizzing Jenner on what went down at the CDC.

Of course they all want answers but Shane’s timing and the look of satisfaction on his face as he shat all over Rick’s success of bringing safety and, albeit brief, happiness to the group seemed to suggest he was merely trying to spite Rick out of his increasingly dangerous jealousy.

The luxury of hot water and wine didn’t bring joy to everyone though as we saw that Andrea was still utterly destroyed by the loss of Amy – to the point of physical sickness. Her devastation would eventually see her almost make an irreversible decision by episode’s end – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Before that we saw the very different ways that alcohol had affected the group’s duelling leaders. A drunk Rick opened up to Jenner about how scared he really has been and how hopeless their journey has all felt, his bottling up of these feelings has been tormenting him but he had to stay strong, not just for his wife and child, but also for the group that looked to him for leadership.

Shane on the other hand proved how dangerous his lust for Lori really is as he tried to win her back round. After telling her almost verbatim what happened in that opening flashback, which we obviously knew to now be true there was a little bit of sympathy for Shane. Lori clearly now thinks he is lying and just told her Rick was dead to get close to her and fill Rick’s shoes as a Father so you almost feel bad for the guy – sure we don’t know yet what his motives are but it sure looked like he just panicked and made a mistake.

But then any good will toward Shane went straight out the window as he tired to force himself on Lori.

The next morning a hungover group was quickly snapped out of feeling sorry for themselves as they were introduced to the titular ‘TS-19’ or test subject 19 or Jenner’s wife as we would later discover she was.

Through playback of the CDC’s study of ‘TS–19’ the survivors, and the audience, got their first glimpse of how the virus takes over the brain. The symbolism of the nerves and synapses turning black was perfect – the brain literally dies a black death.

Then after a time the brain stem starts firing again but the rest of the brain remains dead; as Jenner explained it’s enough to get them up and moving again but everything that made you ‘you’ is long gone and the walkers are nothing more than a shell operating on the most basic instincts.

The ever astute Dale seemed to be the only one that had noticed the ominous clock that was counting down in the building, when probed Jenner was non-committal, simply stating that is when the generators would run out and facility “decontamination” would occur.

As the male members of the group desperately tried to get the power to last a bit longer, unsure of what would happen if it didn’t, Jenner revealed exactly what would happen to the terrified remainder of the group – a painless, instant death as the air is literally set on fire throughout the building – scorched earth, nothing survives.

Jenner then took it upon himself to lock the group in the control room of the building to give them a merciful death rather than letting them re-expose themselves to the horrors waiting outside.

Whilst most of the group were aghast at this thought, some felt that maybe a compassionate death wouldn’t be such a bad thing. So while Shane went nuts with a shotgun (releasing frustrations far beyond almost dying I’d venture) the likes of Jacqui and Andrea elected to stay behind voluntarily as Jenner relented and allowed the group to leave if they wished.

Jeffrey DeMunn got another chance here to show off some fine acting as Dale stubbornly convinced Andrea that there was something worth living for and that she did still matter and have something to offer the world.

The surviving members of the group barely made it outside before the entire CDC engulfed in flames taking Jenner and Jacqui with it.

The episode and the season ended rather poetically on black plumes of smoke pouring into the air looking eerily similar to the black that poured into the brain of ‘TS-19’ during the study.

Bullet Points:

- The unadulterated joy that hot water brought to most of the group shows just how dystopian this world is that they occupy and just how much we take something seemingly so simple for granted as a society.

Without getting too preachy, hot water is a luxury that many people in the world will never know and it’s easy to forget that sometimes.

- Another fine moment of Daryl gold this week: as Daryl hurled his axe at the doors blocking the exits to the control room, Jenner commented that the doors “are designed to withstand a rocket launcher”, to which Daryl replied “well your head ain’t” whilst swinging the axe towards Jenner.

Brilliant. By far my favourite character from this season, let’s just hope he sticks around for season 2.

- We got a little throwaway nugget of information from Jenner before he went up in flames: the French were supposedly close to an antidote before the world finally went off line. Was this nothing more than a disposable line or could getting to France be a long term goal for the survivors?

- The above point brings us nicely on to my last point in my reviews of season 1 of The Walking Dead and that is just what the hell did Jenner whisper to Rick before he left!?

Fans of the show have no doubt been debating the hell out of this already – was it where to go next or some other useful titbit that might just help the group survive out there? Or was it mainly a Lost in Translation-esque stunt that we’ll never get an answer to and was merely dropped in there to keep us guessing and debating until next year? Time will tell I guess…


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