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October 22, 2014

'The Walking Dead' Season 1, Episode 4 Recap

by Jason Hughes, posted Nov 22nd 2010 7:00AM
'The Walking Dead' - 'Vatos'['The Walking Dead' - 'Vatos']

Series creator Robert Kirkman took a stab at penning an episode, and gave us a little bit of everything this show is capable of. After the epic climax of the search for Merle, I thought Kirkman was done with us. But he had another trick up his tattered sleeve for the closing moments. Now we stand with the potential of this series fully realized.

It can terrify and terrorize us. It can give us heartwarming and touching moments, as well as show us both the best and worst of what humanity is capable of. We can see bravery and heroics unmatched, with action and danger. Then we can see those small conversations, those little moments that make us human.

Oh, and all the dead people up and walking around. There's a bunch of those shambling around, though thankfully not dominating every scene.

As a long-time fan of Kirkman's comic series, I was absolutely blown away by his first foray into television writing. There were just so many things to love about this episode, it's so frustrating that we're already past the halfway point of this first season and looking at a potential Halloween 2011 premiere for the second season. I might die before then. Hmm ... has it ever been made clear if a zombie can still enjoy a fantastic television series?

I don't want the writers to get into the habit of giving us tender character moments as a prelude for killing a cast member, but at the same time we know the body count for this series is going to be huge. New fans, of course, have no idea who's going to die, and long-time fans may find that Kirkman uses this new iteration of his world to keep some characters alive he wishes he hadn't killed when he had. I can think of one he regrets offing and might change, and we haven't even met him here yet.

I thought the story Amy and Andrea shared in the boat about their father fishing differently with each of them was a wonderful testament to a man we've never met. It had his presence hovering over them in the same way Merle's presence hovered over much of the episode.

When Andrea announced that the next day was Amy's birthday, we pretty much knew she was a goner, but Kirkman did a great job of misleading us on who might die and who might not. I expected Jim to bite the dust after his grave-digging breakdown at the top of the hour led to him being tied to a tree. That's a snack all tied up and ready to go for the dead.

He also very cleverly had Amy be attacked in a scene juxtaposed with the attack on Ed. With Ed being a less sympathetic character, it was effective spotlighting a good character we're growing to care about with one we don't so much to emphasize the true equality this undead threat brings to humanity. For all our petty prejudices and racism and bigotry and whatever other baggage we carry with us, the undead don't care. A racist taste every bit the same as someone from the Peace Corps.

Speaking of which, Daryl is showing some more layers to him, which is another testament to the strength of the writing. It's so easy to make him a caricature of a redneck racist, but 'Dead' isn't opting for the easy route. He had racist remarks for both Glenn and T-Dog, and he's proven himself potentially as big a dick as his brother Merle, but he also showed himself a team player and potentially a worthy ally. Even after they knew Guillermo didn't have Merle, Daryl still went in to help Rick save Glenn.

Like all of us, he's more gray than black or white in his character traits. Merle may have the same layers, but he barely had a chance to show them. Nevertheless, his presence was felt throughout their quest to find him. We saw his resourcefulness in cauterizing his wound, as well as taking out walkers with one hand and losing blood. As Daryl said, he clearly is one tough dude.

They even addressed something from the comments, proving they are thinking these things through pretty thoroughly, by having Daryl speculate the saw blade must have been too dull to cut through the handcuffs. That is a plausible reason why Merle would opt instead to saw off his hand, and at least acknowledges what many viewers were wondering themselves.

Defying expectations again, Daryl and Rick basically surmised Merle had stolen the van to wreak vengeance on the camp, and yet when they got there that wasn't the case at all. So, the whole time we were watching the fish fry unfold, we were expecting Merle to come roaring in in a rage. That and the lack of surprise zombie attacks throughout the zombie episode left us fully unprepared for the undead onslaught that struck the camp.

Jim's hint that the dream that caused him to dig holes up on the hill was him having foresight of the slaughter and extensive losses they suffered, including Ed and Amy, was a little weird. Let's not see the show adding supernatural elements. This is a human drama about life in a world overrun by the dead. Hey, it works for the comics: Keep it simple here too. Otherwise, this was the most well-rounded and satisfying episode of the bunch yet.

Next week, I expect Rick to address his promise to contact Morgan and Duane and warn them away from Atlanta. Or at least I hope he does. Sure, he was distracted both in Atlanta and when he got back, and the attack probably changed everything, but a promise is a promise, Rick, and you should have that radio. The gang should be getting on the road now that their camp was so violently infiltrated, so why not pick up a couple of stragglers along the way?

'The Walking Dead' airs Sundays, 10PM ET on AMC.

[Follow Jason @ultraversion21 on Twitter.]

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Michael

It was absurd to me that they do not have sentries posted on duty around-the-clock at their camp.Considering the stakes I know I wouldn't want to rely on just the cans as the only warning system.Fantastic series!Disappointed that AMC only ordered 6-episodes for it,what happened to the usual 13-episode order?

November 22 2010 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevin

Great episode, the camp is really close to Atlanta (too close if you ask me.) I kept thinking they are really letting their guard down at the camp, relying on some fishing wire and tin cans to protect you from the zombies is never wise. I enjoyed the fact that the "gang" was really a bunch of good guys, nice to see a sterotype turned around. Yeah Merle might be responsible for the attack then again it just might be bad luck. I like the fact that Daryl is being given some nuance, there may be more to him than the stupid cracker we initially took him for.

November 22 2010 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hollywood Ron

Have you tried to cut tempered steel with a hacksaw? Have you ever seen Mad Max? It takes a lot less time to hack through your hand at the wrist than it does to hack through hardened steel.

Tendons are easy to cut through, and to lop the hand off at the wrist joint, as Merle did, is not difficult as there nothing holding the hand to your arm aside from muscle and gristle. Even if we're talking a brand new hacksaw blade, your arm will give a whole lot quicker than even the little tie rod thing they had Merle cuffed to would.

November 22 2010 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Hollywood Ron's comment
Piecar

Hey Ron....try it. The tie rod, not the wrist. And it's pretty dubious intel to reference a cheesy Australian movie as facts for your case.

Me, I've cut thousands of pieces of threaded rod, once with a Leatherman. You're, unfortunately, completely wrong. It's a half inch piece of rusty rod, that doesn't squeal in pain, vs YOUR HAND!.A sharp hacksaw could clear the rod in three swipes....It might take ten for a dull one...and the DEAD DIDN'T GET THROUGH THE DOOR. It's dumb....very very dumb. But they want his hand off, so it's off.

November 22 2010 at 10:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skunkyDan

~ so Merle stole the vehicle the guys came to town in . Ummm, the guys couldn't find the odd car to hotwire ? instead of walking all the way back to the camp in the hills . And all of the sudden, out of the blue, the Zombies attack the camp in the hills ? I thought loud sound attracts them ? there wasn't much loudness at that fish fry . So I think old Merle managed to lure a few Zombies into the back of the van and brought them to the camp for his roof-top revenge.

~ I am also wondering if one of the bit players got bit or scratched by a Zombie during the out of the blue camp-attack and will hide the fact from the others ? I want to see someone go through the change .

November 22 2010 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to skunkyDan's comment
Piecar

Well, there's the rub...The first time we meet the group, Andrea, TDog(stupid name)Morales, Merle and the other one, they are already in town, right? How did they get there THAT time? They never reference another vehicle, I assume they walked in. I think it's precedence. As soon as they get the sports car, for instance, they, pun intended, cannibalize it for their other vehicles. I think the cube van is the only thing driveable right now.

That Merle unerringly goes from the downtown retail core to the railway area down a remote spur and behind a fence. and is able to pick out their working cubevan, having not been able to see it two eps ago....well, that's just convenient tv. The kind we have to accept.

November 23 2010 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jessica

I totally think that Merle loaded up the van with Zombies and sicced them on the camp seeking revenge for being left on the roof.

The last 5 minutes of the episode was the most intense thing I have ever seen on TV. Wow! So sad, so scary.

I'm so loving this show!

November 22 2010 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Jessica's comment
Sarah

Yes, I also think that Merle filled up the van with Walkers to exact his revenge on the camp.

November 22 2010 at 6:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Griff

i was looking to see if someone else thought the same. definitely my thoughts too that Merle loaded up the van. too many zombies to just show up at once.

November 23 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Piecar

Jenny, look at the episode again. specifically the times when Jim is digging. The tall buildings in the background are so close it looks like his in a city park. They are not that far out of Atlanta.

I agree about the implausibility of the bag of guns being the only guns in the city. All I can suggest is that you can't look too hard at this stuff or you're going to be frustrated at every turn. The guy cut off his hand without needing to, seems a waste to balk at a bag of guns.

November 22 2010 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frank M.

Maybe Merle led the zombies back to camp & then cut the early warning string of cans so they could sneak in & go all zombie on their asses.

November 22 2010 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Frank M.'s comment
Piecar

I'd forgotten about the early warning string. You're right, it could have been that. Good thinking.

November 22 2010 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jenny J

Ok, just a question...after the van was stolen, how did the city folks get back to the camp? Did they just run? Is the camp close enough to downtown to run that far?

November 22 2010 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jenny J's comment
st3v3n

Yeah, but not incredibly close. They left while the sun was up, and it had set by the time they got to camp.

November 22 2010 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KVC

I'm sorry, but these people seem really stupid to me.

First the bag of guns...are you telling me there are no gun stores in the city of Atlanta?!?! No police stations? Or the gang can't travel to one of the 15 military bases in Georgia? Guns should be easy to get. A lot easier than food in a big city.

Second there are so many ways you could lead the zombies away from your base. Or kill them off with fire and traps..

November 22 2010 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

I worked in the hardware business for years.A hacksaw blade "too dull" to cut the chain of the handcuffs would cut your arm like a dull knife cuts a tomato,it would smash it not cut it clean.the chain would have been much easier to cut than the rod rust or not.

The end scene of the attack really caught me off guard.I kept expecting to hear to engine of the truck,the camp expecting it to be all the guys and it being Merle.Instead we got a surprise.

I'm waiting to see if Amy is now a Zombie.She was intact enough to be one after being bitten.

The scene at the old folks home and everything before and after was amazing.Great acting and great writing,thinking way out of the box.

I'm going to miss this show when it ends.I'd love to see it go for several seasons and for longer numbers of episodes.This is not a 6 or 13 ep story,you could easily get several 20 or more ep seasons out of this level of writing and acting.

November 22 2010 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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