Hey gang! The Walking Dead just got a second season pickup. Thirteen episodes this time!
Two things I know about the second season, based on things Frank Darabont has said: 1) It’s taking place during the winter; and 2) Michonne will probably be in it.
If you know the graphic novels, you know what that means and are already excited. If you don’t know who Michonne is, feel free to Google it, but prepare to be spoiled.
Also, maybe you’ve come across during the week, but if you haven’t, somebody has made a Google Map with all the real-world locations from the show. Click and be spoiled some more.
Even if you only look at the map key, you’ll be plenty more spoiled than you want to. I clicked and learned that most of last week’s episode took place in Kentucky, not Georgia. But for me, many, many things were also spoiled. Click at your peril!
This week starts out at the encampment where Shane leads the group of survivors, including Lori and Carl. That old guy I mentioned last week, (his name is Dale), watches over the camp with binoculars, and that blond woman I mentioned last week, (her name is Amy), returns with a bucket containing a few wild mushrooms, which she gives to Lori. Amy wants to know how to tell if the mushrooms are poisonous. Lori brushes off her own ignorance with a glib remark, (“Only one way to know for sure!”), but Amy doesn’t laugh. Seems like there’s tension between these two. Hmmm…
Lori takes the bucket herself and heads off into the woods alone for some more foraging. Soon she finds some mushrooms. Things are quiet. She hears a twig snap. Turns around. Nothing. But she’s not alone!
“God, I hope that’s not Ben Roethlisberger. His summer house is Georgia, right?”
She gets up and starts walking back, then hears what are clearly footsteps, and then a hand appears behind her and covers her mouth. Guess who?
“Oh, is it not OK to sneak up on you when you’re alone in a forest during the zombie apocalypse? I’m so bad at relationships!”
Well, at least Shane provides food and shelter. He’s quite the catch by Palaeolithic standards.
Luckily for Shane, Lori’s sheer mortal terror doesn’t make her totally unreceptive to Shane’s subsequent sexual advances. He’s already on top of her, so they get down to it.
He takes off her shirt, revealing a necklace with her wedding band hanging off it. They both stop. It’s awkward.
But not so awkward as to kill the mood. Lori slips the necklace off and they continue.
The sex goes on longer than normal, even for a cable show, and then longer than that when Shane flips her over and keeps going.
He likes it rough, guilty, dirty, and unwashed in like a month. And no eye contact.
But whatever, what we really want to know is, what’s going on with Rick? We rejoin him where we left off last week, with him taking refuge in the derelict tank surrounded by zombies, whereupon the tank’s radio came to life and a mysterious voice made fun of him for being an idiot.
Rick is now in contact with this person on the radio, who’s not interested in explaining who he is, or in empathizing with Rick very much. We don’t know where this guy is, but from his vantage point he confirms to Rick that, yeah, he’s pretty much screwed. The guys also uses a new term to refer to the zombies: “Geeks.”
But he does offer Rick an idea for how to escape. Most of the zombies are having a feeding frenzy on the dead horse, which is at the front of the tank, so if Rick can creep out and head behind the tank, maybe he can outrun them.
Rick won’t be able to get to the duffel bags full of guns he brought with him, (sadly), so looks over his inventory: Beretta off the dead zombie soldier, with fifteen rounds; a shovel; and, he finds one grenade. Rick pauses over the grenade for a second, like it reminds him of something—I don’t know if I’m reading too much into that, but I’m playing it safe. So I’ll say, yes, it Means Something.
Now it’s time to make a run for it. Rick opens the top hatch and finds one zombie milling around.
What the fuck causes their mouths to be like that? Lots of them have that going on.
Whom he slashes in the face with the shovel. He jumps off the tank, draws the pistol, starts running and gunning,
Headshot, headshot, headshot, headshot, headshot and so on. It’s pretty much what you’d want out of a zombie show.
Then turns the corner into an alley and meets the source of the voice, this guy:
“Did I crap my pants? Dude, that’s the zombie smell. I’m really insulted you asked me that.”
Rick and the guy run into the alley, which is quickly filling up with zombies. They make it to a ladder and climb up thirty feet or so, above the horde:
Zombies are dumb and can’t climb ladders
They pause to catch their breaths. The guy mocks Rick some more, this time for trying to be all Clint Eastwood and just show up in town on a horse, like he’s the new sheriff come to clean the place up, to which Rick can only sheepishly say, “That wasn’t my intention.” Even Rick’s uniform is now an object of ridicule. But Rick extends a hand and introduces himself, and we learn his new friend’s name is Glenn.
Then, the zombies start figuring out how to use ladders, so Rick and Glenn have to climb higher.
They make it to the roof of the building, many stories high, where Rick asks Glenn why he even bothered to help, if Rick’s such a dumbass. Glenn only shrugs. Karma, in case he ever finds himself trapped like that? Maybe he’s just as dumb as Rick, he says. That’s an ongoing theme so far, about how to maintain your humanity in a situation like this, and how it’s worth trying to save someone else even if it means risking your own life. Very real, very cool.
Rick and Glenn run down the stairwell to loading dock, only to find a few zombies milling around. But luckily, a couple strangers in riot gear emerge from the building, carrying baseball bats. They proceed to kill the zombies.
Glenn leads Rick inside, followed by the two riot gear guys.
AN ABANDONED DEPARTMENT STORE
Where a new blond lady sticks a gun in Rick’s face and accuses them of killing them all.
This is a new survivor group, so I’ll just introduce everyone now. In addition to Glenn, we have:
The lady with the gun is Andrea. Next to her is Morales. She’s the frantic one of the bunch, he’s the optimist.
Jacqui serves no purpose in this episode other than to provide one handy piece of information, which is coming shortly.
And T-Dog. He’s a little more important than that, kinda.
Morales calms Andrea down. Really she seems more distraught in general than pissed off at Rick. But she does have a point about Rick putting them in all in danger. First, this small group survives by scavenging things from the department store, which is meant to be stealthy, so it’s a no-no to run through the streets firing a gun. Worse, like last week with Morgan and Duane, Rick’s arrival and the gushots have attracted all the zombies in the area. Observe:
Zombie aficionados: doesn’t this look like exactly like the beginning of the first Dead Rising game?
One of the brighter zombies has even thought to use a chunk of concrete to smash the windows. That means he’s nearly as smart as a chimp!
It looks like they won’t be sticking around here for very long. They pause to fill each other in on a couple things. The gang wants to know what Rick was doing outside, and he explains he was chasing after that helicopter he saw reflected in a skyscraper in last week’s episode. They chalk this up to him hallucinating.
T-Dog pulls out a CB radio and tries to contact “the others.” Rick asks if that means the refugee camp Morgan and Duane told him about, and the scavengers scoff. That was overrun ages ago. Before they can explain who these “others” are, though, they hear gunshots from the roof. Must be Dixon, they say. They head up there.
This is Merle Dixon, the last member of the scavenger crew. (You might remember him from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, in which he played Henry Lee Lucas). Merle’s just standing on the building ledge sniping zombies one by one.
I believe we have an Iron Cross on the wristband there.
Since there are hundreds of them, obviously his murderin’ ain’t doin’ no good, so T-Dog yells at him for wasting bullets and attracting a mob. At which he laughs.
We all know Merle and his rifle have been hoping their entire lives for the zombie apocalypse and/or race war.
Merle says it’s bad enough he has to take orders from Morales, (uh-oh), so there’s no way he’s going to take them from T-Dog. (Uh-oh again).
The other scavengers try to get T-Dog to back off, but he pushes Merle back, Merle drops an N-bomb, T-Dog takes a swing at him, and Merle nails T-Dog in the face with his rifle-butt. And then the beat-down commences. Rick and Morales try to stop Merle, but his Klan rage is too great and they both wind up getting nailed.
Merle finally beats T-Dog to the ground, draws a pistol, and shoves it in T-Dog’s face. Andrea pleads with him not to pull the trigger, but there’s really nothing stopping him. He pauses for a second. Hears some thunder off in the distance. Something seems to stop him, so instead he spits on T-Dog and gets back up.
He’s not finished yet. Merle’s decided it’s time to pick a new leader, and like any psychotic tyrant, he wants to have a sham election and choose himself. At gunpoint, Merle makes everyone raise a hand to select him as the new head of the scavenger crew.
But luckily, Rick sneaks up behind him and brains him with the rifle butt. With Merle stunned, Rick cuffs him to a pipe. Then it’s time for a come to Jesus:
I was hoping he would kiss Merle to show how serious he was
Rick first tries reasoning with Merle explaining that, while racism always sucks, it’s especially stupid during the zombie apocalypse, because you should probably unite with your fellow human beings. Merle doesn’t see the truth in that, so Rick tries a simpler tactic and puts the pistol to Merle’s head. Merle tries not to act afraid, thinking Rick’s a cop and wouldn’t murder him, and Rick responds that now, he’s just a guy looking for his wife and son.
Then Rick finds some crank in Merle’s pocket and throws it over ledge.
“I’m not allowed to kill zombies, I got beat up, they don’t want me to be the leader, all my Nazi memorabilia got destroyed, AND I can’t have any meth? Nobody said the zombie apocalypse was gonna suck.”
Having dealt with Merle, Rick steps over to the ledge to catch his breath, and Andrew Lincoln plays it by having a slight tremor run through his hand. Nice. Morales joins him, and wryly welcomes him to Atlanta.
After the commercial break, T-Dog is still trying to raise the others on the CB radio, and it still isn’t working. Morales explains to Rick that the “others” are another group of scavengers outside the city. Andrea, still in despair, says it doesn’t matter that they can’t get in touch with them, because they couldn’t help anyway. Merle agrees. The streets aren’t safe and there’s no other way out of town.
Here Merle, having apparently accepted the collapse of civilization, has started to adjust. He drops all form of social convention and asks Andrea flat-out if she’d like to help him out of the handcuffs and then have sex with him. Awesome.
Meanwhile, the grownups try to figure out a Plan B. Rick suggests they try to leave through the sewers, but Glenn doesn’t see any manhole covers nearby. And here, Jacqui serves her sole purpose of the episode. She tells the group that this building, being old, probably has a drainage tunnel built into the sewers. She knows this because she used to work at the zoning office!
The gang runs down to the sub-basement, leaving T-Dog and Merle, and discovers that there is indeed a tunnel leading down to the sewers. It’s dank and smelly, like you’d think.
The group comes to an unspoken agreement that Glenn should probably be the one to climb down first, which he isn’t happy about, but agrees. Only on his terms, though. He wants to investigate first, and only with one other person because it’s a tight tunnel, so he picks Morales. Rick and Andrea will guard the front entrance where the zombies are trying to smash through. Jacqui will…yeah.
Everyone gets going.
THE FRONT ENTRANCE
Rick and Andrea make their way out here and start to shoot the shit. She apologizes for pointing the gun in his face earlier, but maintains she wasn’t entirely unjustified, because Rick did put them all in danger.
The gun doesn’t bother him, because he’s Rick, and a strong leader type and does not hold grudges. He even prods her a little for having the safety on when she did it, and now he shows her how to turn it on and off.
T-Dog is still trying to hail someone on the CB radio, and Merle’s still cuffed to the pipe. The CB isn’t working. Merle’s getting sick of being chained up. So, he has the sack to start sweet-talking T-Dog. T-Dog should grab the hacksaw from a nearby bag of tools and cut Merle free, because, hey, Merle didn’t mean anything by the racism. Their kinds just aren’t meant to mix, is all. But they can work together if they both get something out of it. T-Dog thinks this over, and then realizes, wait, I get absolutely nothing for this, plus he’s racist, plus he beat me up, plus he’ll probably try to murder Rick.
Anyone else love the irony of Merle having to ask T-Dog to unchain him, though?
THE DRAINAGE TUNNEL
Morales and Glenn make their way through the tunnel until they reach the sewer. Unfortunately, it’s barred off with rebar and they’d need a blowtorch to cut through. The aforementioned hacksaw wouldn’t work.
Oh, and then Morales’s flashlight comes across this:
Looks like this adorable scamp got caught with his hand in the decaying rat carcass!
But the zombie can’t reach them.
THE DEPARTMENT STORE
While they wait, Andrea spots a mermaid pendant at the jewelry counter. Rick spots her and she explains it’s the sort of thing her sister would love. Rick suggests she take it, but she’s reluctant since he’s a cop. Would it be considered looting? Rick doesn’t think the looting rules apply any more.
Interesting little moment, where they continue to riff on what happens after society collapses—what used to be a crime, isn’t any more. That’ll be life in general now.
But I do wonder, since there are no longer any laws for Rick to enforce, why did he change into his uniform in the first place? Force of habit? Did think it would lend him more credence with people he’d come across? Maybe he learned from the experience with Morgan and Duane and figured wearing the uniform would make him seem trustworthy—their attitude totally changed when they learned who he was. Or maybe when he put it he just didn’t yet know that society is gone. He still thought there was a refugee camp in Atlanta, so maybe he figured some amount of law and order remained.
Or maybe it’s just psychological, like he doesn’t want to admit that the past is totally gone. Not sure. There hasn’t been a moment where we really see Rick thinking it over.
But anyway, Rick and Andrea’s moment is interrupted when that zombie with the chunk of concrete finally busts through the first set of glass doors. (It took him this long?) Morales and Glenn return with the news that the tunnel is a dead end, so they’ll need a new plan to escape the city.
Everyone’s reconvened here, and Rick looks through the binoculars to try to figure out a plan—he seems to have become the group’s informal leader by now.
He spots a construction site with a few vehicles, including a truck.
That gives him an idea—the construction site will likely have keys to those vehicles on hand. Problem is, the streets are filled with zombies. Maybe they could create a diversion? (I was thinking he’d use that grenade here). Merle laughs at him, because the plan sounds like a Hogan’s Heroes plot.
Rick sticks with it, though. He asks the others what attracts the zombies other than sound, and they remember the zombies detect people by smell also, (the conversation was a little neat). There ya go.
THE DEPARTMENT STORE
Rick’s got a plan, but it doesn’t look like the others are too sold on it. Glenn gripes and Morales urges Rick to reconsider, but they don’t have time. He grabs some overcoats and keeps moving.
THE LOADING DOCK
Quickly the gang returns here, where the bodies of those two zombies T-Dog and Morales killed earlier are still lying. Rick and Glenn drag one back inside.
THE DEPARTMENT STORE
Rick grabs a fireaxe. Oh no…
Everyone looks on as he prepares to start hacking the zombie body. But he just can’t do it.
Rick searches the body and finds a wallet in one of the pockets. He looks through it. Before this guy became a zombie, his name was Wayne Dunlop. He was 31 and had a girlfriend named Rachel. He had 28 bucks in his pocket. If Rick lives through this, he will tell Lori and Carl about this Wayne Dunlop. It’s another nice emotional moment, acknowledging how much it would suck to actually live through this, in more ways than just by being in danger. (i.e., this show is nothing like Dead Alive).
And, haha, Wayne Dunlop was an organ donor. Time to start choppin’.
We only see a tasteful amount of zombie gore.
The reason for this, obvs, is so Rick and Glenn can smear themselves with zombie guts and sneak through the hordes outside. Still, gross. Glenn pukes everywhere.
Rick tells the others to be ready to leave in case they make it back. T-Dog asks the one nagging question hanging over people’s heads—what to do with Merle? Rick decides it’s best to leave that up to T-Dog, and tosses him the handcuff key. I’d say this is the first quasi-non-cop thing Rick’s done so far. (Hoping for lots more!)
STREETS OF ATLANTA
Rick and Glenn emerge, even more gutty, and even with zombie hands dangling around their necks. They begin to stagger toward the construction site.
One of the zombies looks suspicious.
God, he looks horrible. Not a single disfigurement anywhere
But they make it past.
They crawl under a bus barricading off the department store and out into the main street, chock full o’ zombies.
THE DEPARTMENT STORE ROOF
The other scavengers head up here to monitor Rick and Glenn’s progress. Merle wants to know what’s going on, and when he learns Rick’s out on the street, he thinks the handcuff key is, too. But T-Dog holds it in front of him. Merle does not look thrilled about this.
That thunder Merle heard earlier returns, and the clouds overhead darken. Uh-oh.
T-Dog then tries the CB radio again, and this time, he gets through…
THE SURVIVOR CAMP
Everyone back here is keeping busy. Dale’s trying to fix the RV. Lori observes Shane teaching Carl how to tie a kind of knot and looks thoughtful about it. Maybe Shane can be some kind of father figure for the kid.
Amy is freaking out. “They should have been back by now,” she worries.
And then their radio comes to life. Dale answers, and it’s T-Dog.
So, it seems the scavengers were originally members of this survivor encampment. A very nice coincidence for Rick, (until he figures out what’s going on with Shane and Lori).
They hear only part of what T-Dog is saying, but they can make out “apartment store.” Amy can tell they’re in trouble and wants to rescue them, but Shane again doesn’t want to risk people unnecessarily. Amy confronts him. Andrea, apparently, is Amy’s sister. Amy can’t believe Shane and storms off.
Shane looks to Lori for help, and Lori heads off to console Amy.
I’m pretty sure something else is up here. Based on that subtext between Amy and Lori back in the cold open to this episode, I’d guess Shane’s involved with either Amy or Andrea, and Amy was suspicious about him and Lori. Don’t know for sure, though. More on this later.
Rick and Glenn continue to shamble on towards the site. It’s still tense. The zombies still seem suspicious. Rick tries to keep Glenn calm.
And then it begins to rain. The disguise slips.
The guys on the roof watch Rick and Glenn start hacking their way through the zombies, and finally they make it to the construction site. They climb over the chain-link fence.
They toss off their grimy overcoats. Glenn runs over to the lockbox where the keys are while Rick draws Andrea’s pistol and starts picking off the zombies that are climbing over.
Glenn finds the keys, tosses them to Rick, they get into the truck just as the zombies blow over the fence.
Unfortunately, they don’t bulldoze their way through. Again, this isn’t Dead Alive.
They drive away from the department store. This is horrible for everyone on the roof because it looks like Rick and Glenn are just ditching them rather than risking their lives again to come back. (Which is exactly how I would behave, if this were a Left 4 Dead mission).
But they’re not going to abandon the others, because Rick and Glenn aren’t dicks.
Glenn doesn’t want to go back where the zombies are, but Rick won’t hear of it. All they need to do is create a diversion.
To do that, they spot a car, stop the truck, Rick smashes through the car’s windshield, setting off the alarm. Glenn’s going to take the car and lead the zombies away from the department store while Rick drives up to the loading dock.
The scavenger crew sees the truck returning and grabs their gear to leave. Merle starts losing his shit because he still hasn’t been unlocked from the cuffs.
Actually, I bet Merle’s had this exact nightmare since he was a little kid. And now it’s real. Poor guy.
Everyone runs down the stairs except for T-Dog, who finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Save his ass, or save the racist asshole sociopath who beat the shit out of him? Merle’s frantic and wails that leaving him to die wouldn’t be humane, so we know where he stands.
T-Dog can’t bear to leave the guy, even if it’s Merle, so he turns back.
BUT THEN HE TRIPS AND LOSES THE HANDCUFF KEY DOWN A DRAIN.
THE DEPARTMENT STORE
The others run past the front entrance as the zombies just about break through. They’re running out of time.
Merle berates T-Dog for losing the key on purpose, but T-Dog insists it was an accident. Merle finally pleads with T-Dog not to abandon him…and T-Dog does exactly that. He looks like he feels guilty as hell, but still, when he reaches the stairwell, he actually turns back and locks the padlock. (To trap Merle on the roof, or to keep the zombies from finding him? I don’t know).
Merle howls that the scavengers are damned and will burn in hell. So hey, at least he’s a God-fearin’ man.
But anyway, how cool is that? Not only the shift that makes T-Dog have to consider Merle’s humanity after Merle dehumanized him. But that “you’ll burn in hell” line sticks out, to me. It’s not like losing the key totally nixed the possibility of saving Merle—T-Dog still had the hacksaw, (the others didn’t take the tools with them), and he could have at least tossed it to Merle before fleeing. So really, T-Dog chose not to save him
There’s no way this is the end of Merle. I’m guessing that because of this, Merle will return down the line somewhere as an avenging angel of death. Or if this actually is the end of him, surely some other version of karma will ding the survivors for doing this.
But I think it’ll be Merle. He’s too cool to kill off this way.
THE LOADING DOCK, AND THE STREETS, ETC
Outside, Glenn does his part by leading the zombies away.
T-Dog catches up to the group just as the zombies break through the front entrance. Rick backs the truck up to the dock. And the scavengers all pile in.
As Rick speeds out of town and the scavengers catch their breaths, they all realize that T-Dog did not save Merle. Off their looks, he explains that he dropped the key. Do they believe him?
Andrea asks Rick where Glenn is. And they cut to Glenn, still in the car, with the alarm still going off, gunning it down the highway away from Atlanta.
Goddamn, what a breathless episode! Pretty much 100 percent action. But they still managed to work in a lot of nice character moments and thematic elements. Props to them.
Finally, one last thing I found online this week was a discussion about the name on the side of the truck Rick and Glenn take from the construction site, “Ferenc Builders.”
I Googled, and “Ferenc” isn’t the name of any construction company I could find. Some folks out there in the interwebs thought it might be a reference to a Hungarian writer named Ferenc Máté, who wrote A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Human Existence. Haven’t read it, but from what I gather the book calls for people to live less consumption-driven lives and return to, well, simpler versions.
So, is the name on the truck an Easter egg? The subject of that book would seem to tie into the show, at least tangentially. Pretty much any zombie/apocalyptic story is going to involve characters having to return to more primitive lives. Thoughts? Notice any other Easter eggs?
Thanks for reading!