The Walking Dead episode 2

Episode Two: “Guts”

“We need more guts.”

Although AMC’s The Walking Dead is thus far deviating from comics’ storyline, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The second episode starts out with a gratuitous sex scene between Lori, Rick’s wife, and Shane, Rick’s law enforcement partner and close friend. After Mad Men’s licentious oral sex scene from this past season, the graphic sexuality starting out this episode isn’t surprising; AMC is really pushing the envelope in regards to sex and violence, trying to imitate HBO. Amazingly, it’s working since most of AMC’s original shows are captivating and clever.

Just like The Walking Dead comics published by Image, both episodes have ended on cliffhangers. This week’s episode doesn’t conclude with as much suspense as the pilot, yet the final scene – featuring Glen (Steven Yeun) driving a Dodge Challenger at full speed away from Atlanta – does contain a recurring motif: roads. I didn’t mention this in my review of the pilot, but the opening scene features a police car driving towards a crossroads – an indication of the unknown destiny awaiting the show’s protagonist. Even though this week’s episode doesn’t end in uncertainty, it does leave ask many questions which I’ll get to in a few moments.

Following Rick’s confinement inside a tank and a mysterious voice on a CB radio, episode two’s action begins with Rick exiting the tank, meeting up with Glen – the voice on the radio. Glen leads Rick to a department store where a group of survivors are hiding. Rick’s entrance into Atlanta in the previous episode culminates in a small army of the living dead, surrounding the department store and leaving them few options. Here we meet Merle (Michael Rooker from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer); a racist redneck carrying a large rife and a vial of cocaine. A confrontation between the group and Merle lead to a criticism against racism with Rick stating, “There’s no more races; just white meat and dark meat.” This is a common theme in Kirkman’s comics, where the values of our social structure interfere with the new paradigm. The social values of our civilization disappear when confronting a new world and the characters in the comics constantly affix the old rules to the new order; a recipe that many times results in death. This theme from the comics is playing out in the series in this scene and I’m certain it’ll come up again as the series progresses.

Another instance taken directly from the comics is smell. The pilot episodes features swarms of flies covering a litany of corpses, using substituting one sense indicator for another. Again in the second episode smell is used, this time when the group tries to escape the department store. With limited options, Rick and Glen cover themselves with the blood of a dead corpse, hoping the scent will deter the zombies from attacking. It works until it starts raining, leading to Rick and Glen running through the street and killing every zombie in their path. The scene where Rick hacks up a corpse, harvesting its blood and organs, is particularly disgusting. Again the show is pushing its boundaries, depicting a large amount of blood and innards. Yes, I understand they’re zombies and maybe the rules don’t apply the same for portrayals of human gore, but nonetheless it’s quite brutal and uncommon for a show on basic cable. I said last week that I’m not puritanical in regards to violence, but it’s just out of place – I’m not used to this much violence outside of pay cable (HBO, Showtime, etc.). I applaud Darabont and crew for pushing the limits with this new series, since a tame representation of the zombie apocalypse just wouldn’t work in the second decade of the 21st century.

Aside from the sex scene at the episode’s beginning, this installment of The Walking Dead is devoid of overt melodrama. Yet since moments like Morgan’s confrontation with his dead wife paralleled with Rick’s killing of the crawling zombie – rife with melodrama – contained an excellent score. This is missing from this episode. The music from the first episode during the before mentioned scene reminds me of Brian Eno’s early ‘80s output, especially the album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks – beautiful, haunting, and (like the album’s title) atmospheric. This piece of the score takes the viewer outside of the larger context of the show’s world, bringing you into these single moments that touch on more than a simple zombie story. These moments question what it means to be human and how our previous values connect to this new world scenario. It’s like this scene transplants the viewer outside of the violence, immersing them in the human drama that makes the source material so rich.

This lack of score, for the most part since there is some music, also works well for the overall feel of the show. The natural sounds of the environment are more prominent, bringing the danger of the moment into the forefront. Instead of relying on somebody else’s aural representation, this absence permits the viewer the opportunity to actually listen to the sounds around them – a highly important matter in such times. Returning to the opening scene, where Lori and Shane copulate, this scene features minimal score and demonstrates the importance of active listening. When Lori’s in the woods foraging for mushrooms she constantly pauses, listening to the sounds around her. Is it a zombie or is it just nature? Distinguishing between the two is of prime importance; imparting this imperative skill early in the episode frames the minimal soundtrack for the rest of the episode. It’s also building on the importance of our senses in this new world, something The Walking Dead has done in both episodes so far.

My favorite character from the comics, Andrea (Laurie Holden), appears in this episode and my only complaint is that she looks older than her comic book equivalent. In the comic she’s a recent college graduate, working as a clerk at a law firm. In the series she looks at least 30. I’m not opposed to older women and my displeasure with this minor detail isn’t ageism, but I thought the best part of Andrea was her adaptability. Here we have a young woman, fresh out of college, that’s a crack shot and one of the strongest characters in the entire series. Andrea grows up very quickly in the book and reminds me of my girlfriend (who’s about the same age as comic book Andrea); a strong woman, able to adapt to most situations quickly and efficiently. The role given Andrea in this episode is minor and I’m hoping as the series progresses her character grows in a similar direction as the comic book.

The episode also features a line of new characters not in the comics, such as T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and a few of the others in the department store. I’m not opposed to this and any changes between the comic and the show can’t be all that bad if the show continues along the same path. This episode is genuinely scary and even though the audience is fairly certain the show’s protagonists will live through their various exploits, the cinematography and editing make you think otherwise. The Walking Dead is a very well crafted series, exhibiting cinematic qualities – a trademark of AMC shows like Mad Men (my personal favorite). I can’t wait for next week’s episode, as this week asks many questions: Is Glen leading a herd of zombies to the survivor camp outside Atlanta with the loud car alarm? What will Shane and Lori do when Rick arrives? When will we see our first batch of multiple deaths? Having read every issue of the comic so far I’m fairly certain where the show’s going, yet I’m horribly curious how it’ll get there. We’ll just have to tune in next week and find out.

Here’s the trailer for this week’s episode.

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5 responses to “The Walking Dead episode 2

  1. Encrazed Crafts

    I actually did not find the ‘organ harvesting’ scene to be disgusting at all. I was more offended by the primal lusty first scene than the gore in this one. At least there was a reason behind the need to cut open a dead guy, not something squeezed into the story just to cause trouble later on. To me, it comes across as if someone absent-mindedly lights a candle near a crate of TNT. (Perhaps it is a dark room, or the person is hard of seeing… if that phrase exists.) Only here, after the person lights the candle and leaves the room, someone else that can see perfectly enters and shoves the candle directly against the crate, then later cries the loudest when the room is destroyed. I hate it when the pile sloppily written drama on like that, that’s what sunk Spider-Man 3 so soundly.

    It’s funny how you type about the score to the shows, I don’t even remember hearing any! I think I vaguely remember music when the father of Duane was crying when he could not force himself to shoot his dead wife, and maybe a little when Glen was driving and whooping into the horizon. I think I got too engrossed between the droning zombie chatter and other action to notice. Actually, if it wasn’t for you typing out the names above the only character names I know off the top of my head are Rick and Nixon, because they said his name like five times rapid fire. And even Rick I only knew because I read it earlier today. Names and music do not store well within this brain, it seems.

    I really liked this episode though, can’t wait until next week to see the confrontation between Rick and Shane. Though if they keep up the visuals at this rate we’ll be ‘treated’ to a full on orgy before they get to a decent explanation as to why his wife is so eager to jump someone’s bones when it has only been two weeks at most since Shane dropped off those wilted flowers in the first episode.

    • I’m not against gratuitous sex (one of my favorite shows is HBO’s Rome – not lacking in either sex or violence) but it seemed quite racy for basic cable. Since I’ve read all the issues of the comic I know where this storyline is going – trust me, it’ll get quite interesting. However, I do agree Lori’s affair with Shane is a bit quick; it’s only been about a month or so. I guess people move quickly during the zombie apocalypse. I want to say that we can’t really know people’s motivations when occupying an environment like that in The Walking Dead. Since a main theme in both the comic and the series is the clash of ethics and social norms, it seems odd that Lori’s ethics are so shallow. I thought this when reading the comics also, although Lori’s character develops quite drastically in the books, pushing her indiscretion aside because of more pressing issues.

      I don’t know why I pay so much attention to soundtracks, but I firmly believe a good score can make a mediocre movie better. Look at Lost in Translation – it’s a good movie and visually striking but isn’t anything spectacular. The inclusion of Kevin Shields’ original score and music from The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine made the movie come alive. Dune is another good example. The film is barely watchable but the soundtrack by both Toto and Brian Eno is incredible. It makes the movie better. I feel the creators of The Walking Dead are implementing music correctly. The right score can make or break a piece and if you didn’t notice the score it means it worked well. I’m just a music dork and listen to things like that.

      And yes, Spider Man III is fucking terrible. Thanks for reading and commenting =)

      • Encrazed Crafts

        I can see that people would adapt as time goes on, but even after watching an interview of her about her character online she claims she thinks that Lori is mostly doing it for the primal part of the brain to feel close to another human being after such a traumatic event. I’m not really buying that, not because I doubt this happens constantly even in current times, but due to how it was portrayed here. If she really thought her husband was dead, clearly she’d be grief-stricken. Possibly she warmed up quickly to his best friend for several reasons, maybe even citing back to keeping her son safe by having a strong man in charge. I can totally buy that angle, but when it is thrown at the screen for (what feels like) pure shock value, it degrades the validity to that thought process to say the least. Have them screw up a storm if only they can display it correctly. That scene just made me feel ‘icky,’ and this is coming from someone who has ingrained the images of tubgirl and goatse into his brain.

        I really like soundtracks, too! I’m glad to see several gaming companies utilizing them as well (the God of War series and anything by Jesper Kyd are top notch). Spider-Man 1 and 2’s were outstanding, the three Matrixies (Matri?) and Pirates of the Caribbean movies were equally noteworthy if not for the very reason as you suggested, propping up a weak (and then weaker as time went on) movie series.

        “And yes, Spider Man III is fucking terrible.”

        Hahaha. Put that on a shirt and you’d be making *millions*.

  2. I agree the sex scene was for shock value. AMC aspires to be HBO, even though that’s impossible considering the restrictions placed on basic cable channels by the FCC. AMC has three great shows at the moment (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead), but they’re not in HBO’s league (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rome, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc.). HBO is like quality literature and although these three AMC shows are amazing and would fit in perfectly on HBO, the censors take away this possibility – AMC has restrictions, HBO doesn’t.

    That said, AMC’s attempt at presenting HBO quality series’ is successful so far. Mad Men is probably the best thing on television right now and The Walking Dead is fantastic. It’s a fresh take on zombies, bringing the genre into the 21st century. I haven’t watched those interviews online with Sarah Wayne Callies discussing her character, but the comic gives the feeling of uncertainty. Nothing is permanent in the books and Lori’s affair with Shane is understandable, even if I don’t agree with her ethics. Supposedly Shane and Rick were very close prior to the zombie apocalypse and I’ve heard of situations where grief can bring two people together. They didn’t waste much time though and their keeping it from Carl and the others indicates their remorse regarding their actions. They know it’s wrong yet they keep doing it – a sure sign of people who might not be too intelligent. That may sound a bit conceded, but anybody who acts purely on instinct like they are isn’t using their brain.
    I don’t play video games much anymore but there are some video game scores that are phenomenal. I heard a great score from a Star Trek video game that was very cinematic; as good as something in a feature film. I’m not an avid soundtrack collector, but I have most of John Carpenter’s scores (Escape From New York, Halloween, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13), which are amazing. He uses analog synthesizers and the composition is great for his films. Ennio Morricone is another fantastic soundtrack composer and his scores for movies like The Thing, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are listenable outside of the films. One of my favorite scores is from the French film High Tension – a score implementing various sounds, reminiscent of Nurse With Wound, Hoor-paar-Kraat, or Coil. There’s so much one can do for a film and sometimes it can make the movie.

    I still hold that Spider Man III sucks. The first two are ok but I didn’t love them. The same with the Matrix movies; they’re ok but nothing spectacular. I liked the first two Pirates films but turned off the third one about an hour in. I thought it was boring and didn’t go anywhere. Then again, one of my favorite movies is Total Recall. =)
    Thanks for the responses. I love feedback. Hope you enjoy next week’s episode of The Walking Dead. I can’t wait.

  3. Pingback: Abortions For All: 2010 in review | Abortions For All

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