Sunday 12 December 2010

THE WALKING DEAD episode six

The season finale of this zombie epic's first season aired in the UK this week. Check out my review, after the jump...

This final episode of the first season takes us right back to the start of the outbreak, with Shane's frantic attempts to save Rick from the zombie infested hospital. We discover that it was Shane (Jon Bernthal) who barricaded Rick (Andrew Lincoln) into his room and away from the zombies, and although it's clear that Rick owes Shane his life, by the end of this episode I'm not so sure Shane would make the same choice again.

At the end of the previous episode the survivors finally managed to find refuge on some safe ground, gaining access to the CDC building looked after by the only remaining survivor, Dr Jenner (Noah Emmerich). Assuming they're finally out of harms way, this safe haven allows them a moment to let off steam, but also let their guard down.

Rick can't help but share with Jenner how close he thinks they were to death out there, days away from either starvation or madness. It was a revealing moment for Rick's character, with his veil of cool, calm collectedness stripped away from him. He may be the lead of the series and the leader of the survivors, but this was the first chance to see Rick struggle with the load he has to bear.

This series has played on the secret of Rick's survival in the Hospital a couple of times. At first it seemed a fluke he made it out of the building and eventually to the camp, and Lori accused Shane of lying about Rick's death to get her into a relationship with him. This appeared to be the case, but the brief return to the scenes of the outbreak showed that Shane truly believed Rick to be dead, so his pursuit of Lori was him thinking with his heart, at least partially. However, it's safe to say that his encounter with her in the games room, was not. Although drunk, this was not a particularly nice side of Shane on display, and his attack on Lori will have repercussions during the second season.

The facility may not be running as it once was, but through the MRI footage of Test Subject 19, we're able to get a better explanation of the post mortem process of the reanimated dead. Why this is happening, Dr Jenner doesn't know and can't prove; but we do have confirmation that those who return from the dead are no longer the same people. This scene walked a fine line, but managed to not spoil too many of the mysteries around the walking dead. As I've previously written, this series would benefit from not getting bogged down in the science of the situation, and the lack of facts is not a hindrance for the series going forward.

Once the survivors were brought up to speed with the global situation, we learnt of the fate Jenner has decided for them. He may not be a mad scientist, but he's decided to play god anyway. The research has reached a stand still, and the facility is placed into a de-contamination process. In short, the self destruct button has been pushed and they're all trapped in the building with no escape. Apart from Shane's little rendezvous with Lori in the games room, this episode was nearly monopolised by Dr Jenner and his research. He was only introduced in the last episode and, although crucial to the season finale, took time away from the established survivors we've got to know over the last few weeks.

Daryl didn't get to do much except swing his trusty axe, this time at the blast proof barricade on the research floor. Dale and Andrea were offered a couple of nice scenes that hinted at the relationship that may develop between them, and both actors should be commended for the performances they've put in over this season. For me Jeffrey DeMunn has been crucial to the success of this show as a drama, able to provide Dale's sage words of wisdom with heart, wit and sincerity, despite the bizarre situations he's been placed in.

All of the cast have performed admirably throughout the show, with facets of their characters still only just appearing. Jon Bernthal's Shane has proven to be an integral role in the series, far from what I expected after reading the comics; and Andrew Lincoln is no longer This Life's Egg to me. He is Rick Grimes, Sheriff's Deputy and zombie outbreak survivor. In the next season I'd like to see more of the secondary characters (in particular Daryl and Glenn), as it's a great ensemble cast overall. The actual zombies haven't played as big a part in this series as I thought they would, but I haven't minded too much. However, when zombie attacks do occur, it's with a brilliant flash of panic and violence, and those moments are great fun.

The weary travellers may have escaped the complex with the help of some heavy weaponry, but the journey's just beginning for them. This series went out with a bang (quite literally), but the occupants of the caravan have some major issues that will make interesting viewing in the second season. Rick's carrying the secret Dr Jenner whispered to him, and there's going to be much speculation about what it is until the next season starts. I could comment on my theories, but given that I've read the comic book series that might be from an unfair advantage. All I'll say is that it might not be the most obvious revelation.

So, here we are at the end of this first season of The Walking Dead. At only six episodes it may have been infuriatingly short, but proved that zombies can find a home on our television sets and not just cinema screens. It looks like we've got to wait until October next year to catch up with the survivors, and I just hope the next season lasts longer.


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