The Walking Dead episode 5

Episode 5: Wildfire

So I’m going to start my essay about episode 5 with a minor rant. I hope this doesn’t detract my piece, but, as a reader of the Walking Dead comics, I feel it necessary. The show is riffing along a different tangent at this point, taking elements from the comics, shaping them into a different beast altogether. This isn’t a bad thing. For a devoted reader it gives suspense. Nothing is predestined at this point and anything’s possible. Am I one of those people who dislike when liberties are taken with a quality text? Yes. Do I condone and even enjoy when liberties are taken? Yes. It’s not how unfaithful an adaptation is, it’s when the integrity of feeling of the original source disappears, like Robocop 2 or 3 being devoid of Paul Verhoeven’s dark brand of social comedy. A faithful representation isn’t important; it’s capturing what the original manuscript imparts. Any adaptation demonstrating this sentiment seems valid.

That said, this episode of The Walking Dead was quite intense and traveling into interesting territory. Picking up the morning following the zombie invasion, we find Andrea crying over her dead sister Amy. The rest of the camp is disposing of bodies – axing their heads, burning the living dead, and digging graves. There’s an argument between Daryl and Glen over funerary rites, Andrea pulls a gun on Rick about Amy disposal, and Joe was bit by a zombie. Eventually the group decides checking out the CDC, amidst protest from particular group members, which leads to a new character and a new perspective.

Beginning, there’s a man alive at the CDC – a scientist (Noah Emmerich from The Truman Show), living along underground. Like Will Smith in I am Legend, he’s looking for a cure. His introduction is given through a digital recording, displaying a log or broadcast from his lair, distorting often. Here’s another issue I have with the television adaption: I believe they’re setting up the zombie holocaust as a disease, a mutation, or virus. The comics don’t follow this pattern, instead treating is as unexplained phenomenon. Like Romero’s Dawn or Day of the Dead, leaving the cause mysterious works in its favor. It argues the limitations of humankind, saying there are some things we can’t comprehend. Placing a distinct source of the epidemic doesn’t work for me; instead I enjoy the ambiguity. Is it god? Naturally occurring or human made? These kinds of questions are part of the journey. An unexplained zombie outbreak isn’t so final; like any series with sexual tension (The Office or Arrested Development), the zest dies when this tension does.

This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy zombie films with a concrete explanation. I really like 28 Days Later (Rage virus), Night of the Living Dead (satellite radiation), and Return of the Living Dead (experimental government gas), but there’s just something about uncertainty. The Night of the Living Dead remake directed by Tom Savini doesn’t reveal anything, calling it “hell on earth.” Dawn and Day of the Dead approach the phenomenon from a variety of perspectives (virus, act of god), with character motivation in Day of the Dead coming from scientists researching the pandemic. These are all great zombie films and in the post-modern world indecision works. While the original Night of the Living Dead uses radiation as an allusion to Cold War nuclear fears, no set path defines post-modernity and in a world where stable institutions are under scrutiny an unexplained outbreak reflects our environment, our fear, our hopes, and our ideologies. Placing a definite explanation on this situation is a modernist device, restricting the show’s possibilities. Then again, it’s possible we’ll never know what’s going on.

This episode was particularly depressing at times, especially Joe’s situation. Originally he tries hiding a bite he receives during the attack, later succumbing to the illness associated with bites. Moving back and forth between fever and lucidity, Joe finally decides the crew should leave him under a tree at the side of the road. After the group breaks camp, heading for the CDC, Joe reveals every bump on the road feels like “glass,” in his body. Joe faces death with nature, feeling the breeze on his skin and enjoying the world for a few brief moments. He “wants to be with his family,” which is a multi-faceted statement since his family’s dead but most likely zombies by now. He accepts the experience awaiting him. This made me think about this perspective: what it’s like to be a zombie. Is there any consciousness left? Is it like being stuck in some kind of status, experiencing without any control? Is what he is gone, leaving only an automaton bent on murder or is it a living hell – stuck in a prison, forcefully watching events in a bizarre Burgessian fashion?

This week’s episode reveals a good deal of this fantasy world’s mythology, a necessary point in any well crafted science fiction or horror piece. I’ve always had difficultly seeing zombie films as strict horror, placing them in a science fiction category also. Science fiction author Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Scanner Darkly) says science fiction uses contemporary reality as a launching point, creating a fictitious world from where we are; everything else is fantasy. The main characters aren’t necessarily the human protagonists, but the world they inhabit. Flying cars and androids are a little more believable than zombies, but the sentiment is still there. The only fantastic thing about The Walking Dead is the walking dead. The characters, the sentiments, and the violence – all pretty realistic. The show takes a few improbable leaps occasionally, but everything else is highly believable; otherwise we wouldn’t watch the show and find it so captivating and horrific.

Between Joe’s slow demise and Amy resurrection, this week’s episode gives a good chunk of The Walking Dead’s mythology. Seeing Amy reborn in Andrea’s arms, breathing again for the first time, opening her dead eyes and glimpsing her surroundings, Andrea, and the camp, we see the pains of becoming a zombie. It’s not instant; we don’t see Amy jump up and start killing. Instead it’s like she’s realizing all the faculties under her control, then realizing her instinct when she grabs Andrea’s hair and beings pulling herself towards her prey. Like Roger’s rebirth in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead the character awakes confused before it finds its target.

Andrea and Amy’s scene was very intense, displaying all the anxiety The Walking Dead has to offer. Amy’s coming back and Andrea’s refusal to turn the body over was frightening. Waiting for Amy’s revivification seemed endless. Even though Andrea’s a primary character, the suspense was killing me. Everything about this scene worked: the music, Andrea’s reaction, Amy’s zombification – all were well played and highly effective. The scene avoids any sentimentality exhibited in earlier episode, even when there’s a sentimental attachment between the two sisters. It displays raw emotion instead of banal exploitation.

This episode, like the third one, only contains limited zombie killing and instead relies heavily on character development. The relationship between Dale and Andrea is continually growing – with Dale relating to Andrea the details of his wife’s death – and will hopefully tastefully mirror the comic book version. Tension between Shane and Rick is rising also. At one point when Rick and Shane are patrolling the perimeter Shane secretly targets Rick with his shotgun. His clandestine murderous desires are quelled, but also seen by Dale. I still believe a confrontation is eminent.

There’s still a good deal of violence in the episode, but zombie killing takes a back seat. One extremely violent shot contains Carol taking a pick axe to her dead husband Ed, obliterating his face. The camera picks up two quality shots, with blood splattering on the lens at one point. Later at the CDC Darryl shoots a zombie in the head with his crossbow. However, that’s not the most disheartening portion of the episode: the massive amount of decomposing bodies outside the CDC is. Like the pilot episode, a litany of flies surrounds the bodies laying outside, imparting an idea of the place’s smell. An actual smell isn’t necessary and the visual and aural representation conveying the situation soundly. Dozens of bodies litter the area, creating doubt and fear. Who knows which bodies are actually dead? How many walkers surround them? Luckily the CDC gate opens for the group, concluding the episode.

Unfortunately there’s only one episode left, with possibly a year until next season. I’m confident the show will end on a cliffhanger; most televised serials do. Next episode may answer any questions regarding the cause of the zombie outbreak and will drive the plot for the next season. The CDC scientist seems a little unstable, indicated by his logs seen throughout the episode’s third act and making me questioning what he’ll do next week. The show could still potentially derail and become a parody of its source material, delineating into absurdity. Since this week’s episode’s called Wildfire and the scientist references this term regarding the original spate, my suspicions regarding the outbreak’s source seems viral. I hope, for the sake of the show and my continued viewership, it’s not.

Here’s the trailer

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4 responses to “The Walking Dead episode 5

  1. Encrazed Crafts

    I need to type up muh’ review of this ep. in the mornin’. Got too late to get to it tonight. To avoid typing out a rough sketch of it here, I’ll try to be brief. (Harder than it sounds for me :D)

    I’d grade this one the same as episode 3. “Good….” I liked it, but compared to the fourth, I very clearly did not like it as much. Too many out of character actions, or just plain awkward, jarring moments if ‘out of character’ wouldn’t be the proper description. Shane pulling a gun, for example. Aye, for the comic viewer “it’s about time!” but for the average cuppa joe TV fan, it is waaaaay off base. Dale is an exceptional character, though. This episode really brought him out to shine, in my opinion. Little miss Andrea has…we’ll go with ‘bothered me’ by pulling a gun on Rick. Again. For her sake, she should be glad I was neither Rick, Shane, Daryle, or anyone else with a gun when she did that. She had a tender and (for once) non-melodramatic moment with her sister, but that parting moment does not rectify the line she crossed with Rick to get there. Writers, feel free to hoist your reveals in anyway you see fit. Just do not damn your characters to wow the audience. Also, Rick seemed almost scatter brained this episode, probably not unlike how my over all thoughts are turning out here. Hmm, this is a beefy paragraph, cutting the source on this one and hopefully it will be hammered out a bit better when I revisit it in like ten hours.

    Your review was excellent as always, my friend. But no mention of the musical score this time around? Shame, shame -_^ (Also, darn you for mentioning Robocop! Now I got the mechanical iron-clad clockwork-like theme tick-tocking away in my head!) I actually heard a little bit of music this time, but not enough for me to remember how it went. I believe it was around when they were leaving camp and parting ways with The Mexican Guy and his family. I too mirror your thoughts on the ‘what will they change’ worry for the series. You summarized it perfectly, so pardon this potentially terrible paraphrase: keep the feeling true and fill the rest of the episode with whatever works. I like that they are changing it so that it will be new for *everyone* watching. But in doing so will they also change how the show feels? Hard to say until we see the final ep. of the season. This could be a great thing for all, or stank something fierce and succumb to what could be described to as “The Sequel Curse” and how every sequel generally misses what made the first one great in the effort to outdo the visuals and what not. (To me I’d say this is the case in video games as well, and even speak heresy to some that God of War 2 might have had more boss fights and whatnot but when it comes down to it the game was horrible and overly difficult due to poor balancing, programming, or the director at the helm. It was like Matrix 2 and 3 in video game form; bastardizing what made the original grand and memorable to sate the company executives’ thirst for profit-lust with no thought of the people’s enjoyment that actually supply their payroll.)

  2. The music when they were breaking camp and parting ways was good, once again reminding me a little of Brian Eno Apollo era synth work. Like the first episode, this approach to the score wasn’t terribly melodramatic. It avoided the trap the show fell into when Rick reunites with his family in episode 3, which I still believe mimics a Hallmark card commercial.

    Sorry to mention Robocop, but I love that movie. Any science fiction (except Hollow Man) directed by Paul Verhoeven is tops in my book. Total Recall? Love it! Starship Troopers? Love it just as much. They’re all solid sci-fi films, discussing current events through a futuristic guise. I believe science fiction works best when it critiques our society, not when it creates a completely fantastic world. I’d rather watch Blade Runner over Star Wars any day.

    I played God of War 2, right before my PS2 broke, and I was disappointed. I spent hours beating it only to find I need to buy a PS3 and another game. The hell with that! That experience turned me off from video games – I refuse to buy a PS3 or other console. I have noticed how game companies will come out with cheap sequels just to whet gamer appetites and it’s usually obnoxious.

    I have my fingers crossed that next episode will continue on a decent path. So far I’m impressed with the show and even though it’s delineated from the original source I enjoy where they’re going. Rick did lose it a little this episode but it worked out for the best. I think its proof that his instincts are the most sound in the group. I really hope Dale and Andrea hook up soon, since their relationship was one of my favorite parts of the comics and I can’t wait to see what happens between Rick and Shane. I didn’t like Darryl at first but he’s growing on me. Darryl’s becoming more tolerable and starting to see things another way – as evident when he left Joe behind. He could’ve put an arrow in his head but instead left him in peace. Darryl’s a good example of a character unique to the show that’s growing on me. He’s rough, crude, and somewhat dumb, but he’s not such a bad guy. Of course, that can change in an instant. Let’s just hope Merle’s out of the picture.

    I’ll check out your take on the episode later. I need to move a couch. =)

  3. Encrazed Crafts

    Starship Troopers is one of my favs! People like to dog the film, but still like it, dagnabbit!

    Haha, did GoW2 break your system, or did you do it yourself after beating the game? 😛 That game really bothered me from start to finish, they should have left the original guy in charge of the first game carry on his idea, but no. I still feel bad for the Misses. She bought me the game with hard-earned cash only for me to rage while playing it constantly due to horrid game making choices and terrible story line that was not present in the first game. The ending really was the best part, while it it debatable as to why: Because of a good cliffhanger, or because the torment has finally ceased? Even the music wasn’t as good as the original, and yes, I am still wanting to finish that music post >.<

    Slightly off topic: Almost every game outta EA is entirely upselling based. No longer to people ask "How many levels will the game have?" but "What levels will be available at release?" as you can bet quite a portion that within three months tops a patch or micro-expansive will arrive for another 10 dollars (minimum) that will unlock more levels and weapons or skills etc. You will not be allowed to play with people on those new levels unless you *have* those levels, so you either play a now gimped game, or shell out the cash and carry on as usual. (I do not shell out anymore cash, for the record. Oh, and WoW isn't quite 20 bucks a month, but with a few states there is a tax that bumps the cost up to about 17.50ish a month. Cool stuff, eh? Uncle Sam didn't help build the game, but when profits are large enough…)

    A couple of different commentors are not liking with the series is diverging from the comic unless they only added the CDC as a side-plot and they plan on going right back to the storyline after this matter is dealt with. (Stumbled upon a little fact that Shane wasn't supposed to walk back to camp this episode. Interesting.) We'll see how and what happens next week, though I gotta feeling that things won't go as peacefully as they did this episode. (For one, it's the final bang of the season. Two, this one was verging on dull compared to Vatos, so hopefully they get something rolling before the big cliff hanger.)

  4. I don’t think the episode was dull, but it contains more character development and sentimentality than Vatos or the first two episodes. I thought Andrea and Joe’s scene were highly compelling. Joe’s scene was the more intense of the two and between his performance and his fate it wasn’t hard to empathize. Showing his decline was excruciating at times and I was happy we didn’t see him actually die – his downfall was enough.

    I love Starship Troopers, although the sequels are pretty awful. The third movie is watchable but I wouldn’t recommend it. Right now I’m watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and I’ll probably write about it later. I think it’s hysterical and a really good sequel, relying on parody instead of terror for its results. Plus, Tom Savini did the special effects and it has the late, great Dennis Hopper running around with a chainsaw.

    God of War II didn’t break my PS2 – it broke on its own – but I’ll never play that game again. The cliffhanger pissed me off. In essence it said, “spend $400 on a new game system and $60 on a game and you can find out what happens.” The hell with that! I’d much rather save my money and play pinball.

    On taxes: I’m fine with higher taxes. Roads, schools, police, firefighters, and every other public amenity doesn’t come free. I’m not hyper-liberal but a few bucks for a luxury or cigarettes seems reasonable (and I smoke). Then again I don’t agree with a great deal of government policies (mainly war and privacy issues), but that’s a whole different discussion and one I try to avoid when possible.

    Get to work on your music post! Sometimes when I don’t know what to write I just start riffing about something. Sometimes that’s why my posts are about movies from 20 years ago. I attempt to write something every day and a journal or diary isn’t my thing – hence this little blog. =)

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