Original Air Date: February 12, 2012

Five things [SPOILERS]: 

1. A pretty drab first 45 minutes… – Man, that was some seriously slow television.  There were some high points, like when Andrea had to fetch the arm that mysteriously fell off the dead zombie, but there really wasn’t a lot going on.  [Note to creators: No more close-ups of Andrea’s arms.  They look bad in HD.]  With these ~12 episode seasons, I expect more from each precious hour.  The show did remedy this problem at the end of the episode (as we’ll see below), but TWD has fallen into a bit of a pattern: dull for 40 minutes then exciting finale.  The challenge for the creators is to make the whole show as taut as the ending.  Watching Rick and Shane yell at each other and seeing everyone decompressing over Sophia’s death was dull because we’ve seen it before and it makes the characters seem one-note.  We get it!  And Sophia may have been a major loss to the characters, but the audience barely knew her because she was only on screen for about 5 minutes.

2. Shifty eyed new people. – But, hey!  What a way to wrap the hour, huh?  This is where TWD needs to hunker down and find it’s sweet spot.  Apocalypse stories are never really about the zombies or the superflu or the nuclear mutants. They’re about humans trying to survive and reform some semblance of what they had before.  And part of that is dealing with other groups of survivors.  So, seeing these two dudes come swinging into the strangely unlooted bar was a BIG advancement for the story and makes me feel that the creators “get it.”  Put yourself in Rick’s shoes.  Clearly the group could be stronger with more people, yes?  But how do you know who to trust?  Especially, do you trust newcomers around your children or your wife?  That’s the analysis that Rick has to make on the spot because those guys would clearly have followed them back to The Farm.  I LOVED that Rick and Herschel (and Glenn) immediately closed ranks about NOT bringing those dudes back to the farm. They’d been kinda arguing two seconds earlier but they both saw something in those new dudes that they didn’t like.  No need to huddle up privately and discuss.  And, these new guys probably illustrated to Hershel that Rick isn’t that bad.  Hell, Shane seems a saint compared to those dudes.  On the other hand, Rick killed them both because he basically didn’t like the look of them.  I think that shows a LOT of movement towards the comic book version of Rick who has his people and he’ll kill anyone who threatens his people.  The only bummer is that Michael Raymond-James (the chatty one who also played the villainous Rene in Season 1 of True Blood) would have made a great Governor.   Wonder what happened to the rest of their group?  Are they really bad?  Will Hershel now think that it’d be nice to have some members in his camp that can shoot?

3. Nicely filmed episode. – As I was taking my notes, I had to step back from the events and note just how nice TWD looks.  The look and feel of this show is quite well-done.  Scenes are always well-captured and they aren’t afraid to put the cameraman in unusual places to get the look they’re going for.  It’s easy to take this stuff for granted and IF you do, go watch some 1980’s hour-long dramas on Netflix.  We’ve come a LONG way.

4. Chicks are always doing something besides driving the car. – Well, I guess if you’re Lori and your cell phone doesn’t work and there is no make-up, your hands might be a little jittery having nothing but the steering wheel to hold onto while driving.  Thank god the MAP is there to calm your nerves… Just kidding, ladies!  That was slightly sexist of me.  Anyhow, I’ll be curious to see what has become of Lori next episode.  I’d love it if the show did something completely unexpected like have Rick, Glenn and Hershel find her overturned car and just as the audience expects her to be injured, it turns out that she died in the crash and is now a zombie, but is seat-belted into the car and Rick has to “put her down,” and then he has to tell Carl that his mother is dead.  But, I fully expect that the creators won’t have the balls for that and we’ll get “Lori with sprained ankle limping away from zombie in the forest until Rick shows up to save her.”

5. Enjoying the Maggie/Glen relationship. – So glad that they’re using the Maggie/Glen relationship this season.  Those two are so important to the TWD mythos over time because they show a HOPE for a better tomorrow.  Sure, there may be zombies all over the land, but young people can still find each other, fall in love and begin a life.  As Dr. Malcom says, “life will find a way.”  This pair can illustrate HOPE so much better than Rick/Lori/Carl can, where so much of the focus is on “protection.”

Conclusion: A boring first 40 minutes that is salvaged by a taut and gripping ending.

Grade: B+ (C for the first part, A for the last)

– Dean Stell

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