Saturday 13 November 2010

THE WALKING DEAD episode two

The second episode of the new zombie epic aired on FX last night. Read my review after the jump...

Picking up right where the first episode left off, Rick Grimes is still stuck in the tank, surrounded by flesh eating zombies. Luckily for him this episode properly introduces Glenn (Steven Yeun), the smart mouthed kid on the other end of the two way radio. Once he assists Rick in fleeing from the tank and we find there are more people in the city, we get to know more about what this episode is really about. Escape.

Before Rick can continue looking for his wife and child, he first must help the group of survivors whose location he's just accidentally revealed to the hordes of the undead. My previous assumption about the show's relation to the book's story arc appears to be wrong. This episode greatly differs from any of the events in the book, but nicely introduces some new key characters. At the current rate we'll be lucky if they get half way through the first book by the time this series ends in 4 episodes time. Either that, or they're going to go down the True Blood adaptation route, taking the core events but using them when they want to.

This episode really sets out the idea that, as well as the zombified corpses walking around, there are still some rather unsavoury parts of humanity left over, exemplified by Michael Rooker's redneck, Merle Dixon. In a time when survivors should be banding together, he sees it as a chance to take charge with rifle in hand. Luckily, with the arrival of Rick that idea's quickly done away with, Dixon ending up handcuffed on the building's roof.

We don't see too much of the camp where Lori and Carl are, but a couple of the characters relationships are established. By chance, the group that are in the city are from the camp, although Rick doesn't know this yet. When word reaches the camp of their situation, Amy (Emma Bell) is the first to want to mount a rescue mission for her elder sister Andrea (The Mist's Laurie Holden), but her plan is refused by the de facto leader Shane. He's clearly marked his territory as the alpha male of the camp, and has no problems in making important decisions on behalf of the group. The potential for future conflicts is becoming clearer.

Shane's relationship with Lori is made quite explicit in this episode, and again, it appears this adaptation is taking things a bit further. Lori's physical relationship with Shane is in the book, but she seems to be enjoying it a lot more here. She's assuming that Rick is dead, but has quickly slipped back into family life with Shane as the substitute husband.

One of the best scenes in this episode was what I'm going to call 'the zombie walk'. Knowing that to get to the abandoned vehicles down the road they'll have to mask their scent, they decide to use what they've got on hand, i.e. rotting corpses. After choosing a body to dismember, the group set about him with an axe, Glenn providing some much needed dark comic relief when he notices that the previous owner was an organ donor. The following amble through the crowds of zombies (with Rick and Glenn caked in guts to cover up their own stench of mortality) is like the scene in Shaun of the Dead where they approach the pub, only with more dismemberment.

The next scene of Glenn in the sports car also shows that there are moments of fun to be had in this abandoned world, zooming around the streets at 90 mph (not to mention using an axe to attack a zombie like you would a soft boiled egg). Of the new characters introduced in this episode, Glenn was a clear highlight for me. They've set out his stall early as the comic relief; kind of a wise cracking sidekick of Rick. If there's one thing the zombie apocalypse needs, it's a bit of humour, so his arrival is most welcome.

Michael Rooker's bigot seemed to nicely sum up the dangers of what's been left behind, and although the episode leaves him handcuffed on the roof with no key, his close proximity to that hacksaw makes me think we'll see him again real soon.

Once again the effects were awesome, and I could almost smell the putrefying stench when Glenn and Rick were smothered in zombie remains. At least they're free from the city now, with Rick's arrival at the camp imminent. As well as meeting more survivors, there's going to be some fallout from Lori's feelings for Shane. Roll on next week.


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