Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead "Tell It To The Frogs"

     Opening this week's episode with Merle Dixon had me immediately worried. Not that I hated his character, I just didn't particular care for him. But Rooker played the scene well as a man who's clearly going a little crazy as he remains handcuffed to a roof waiting for death. He goes from a babbling madman, to a man asking for God's forgiveness and then eventually to a man damning God and he handles the transitions quite well.
     We then rejoin Rick, with fellow survivors who are still headed to the campsite. Back at the camp, Lori, Carl and Shane are talking about hunting and frog legs and the sort. The chemistry between the three of them, especially between Lori and Shane was undeniable. Shane is clearly a very charismatic man and the banter he shares with Lori was what I was looking for in episode two. As the survivors return led by Glenn (car alarm still blaring), we get a nice little reunion between Andrea and her little sister Amy. But the real meat of this scene is the reunion between Rick and his wife and son. The look Shane has when he sees Rick step out of the car is priceless. It's a extremely complex scene with many difficult things happening on an emotional level, but it's handled beautifully.

    Day turns into night and we find the group by the fireside as Rick tells the story of when he woke in the hospital. Shane sits quietly there the whole time, clearly unhappy with how things are. He had a perfect little world (except for the whole zombie thing) going on before Rick arrived and now that's over. After Rick tucks Carl into bed, Lori and him lie together and have a nice little scene. It's clear Lori feels guilty for what has happened since Rick's been gone and you can see that regret in her eyes. Rick comforts her (as he still doesn't know the truth) and they share a nice long scene where they eventually get it on. Just like the reunion scene from earlier, the moment was handled with a certain degree of grace that I appreciated.

     Morning comes and it's not long before we meet Daryl Dixon (Merle's younger brother) played by Norman Reedus of Boondock Saints' fame. Daryl is a more toned down version of Merle which was nice to see. The group eventually confronts Daryl about his brother. He doesn't respond well to Rick telling him he left his brother handcuffed to a department store roof. After a tussle between Shane and Daryl, the group eventually is able to calm Daryl down by letting him know that there's a possibility of Merle being alive. Rick's conscious is clearly bugging him about leaving Merle there and he knows that he's to blame for the whole situation. So, he agrees to accompany Daryl and he also convinces Glenn to join him. Glenn is reluctant about it but Rick is good at convincing him. T-Dog also agrees to go since he feels it's partially his fault. Rick convinces Lori that there's reason to go since he left all the weapons, that they need, back in the city. He also tells Lori that he left the walkie talkie there and wants to try and contact Morgan and his son (from the pilot episode). They are the reason why he's survived this long, after all.
     Once they leave, we find Shane and Carl back at the creek, and Shane is teaching Carl how to hunt frogs. It's clear Shane isn't quite ready to let his relationship with Carl go. Lori arrives and takes Carl from Shane and scolds Shane to leave his son alone. She's ready to move on and clearly wants her life to go back to the way it was, before their whole affair began. This tears Shane up and I can't say enough about Jon Bernthal's performance. Shane, from the comics, was presented as somewhat cold-hearted, but his character from the show is so much more developed. Bernthal's acting and the writers should be commended for that. Andrea, Amy, Carol and Jacqui are also at the creek, cleaning clothes and sharing some fun girl talk amongst themselves. Andrea and Carol joke about how they miss their vibrators. These are the character moments I wanted in the second episode and was happy to see that this episode featured those moments in abundance. Carol's abusive husband Ed eventually shows up inquiring about what's going on and things start to get out of hand. This allows Shane to get some of that aggression out as he defends Carol and eventually bashes Ed's face in.

     We return to Rick and company as they're making their way through the department store. When they arrive on the roof, Daryl immediately breaks down. As the camera pans back, we expect to see Merle's dead body. But all that lied there was a bloody sawed off hand and empty handcuffs. It was a great cliffhanger to end the episode on and it left me wanting much more.

     This third episode was the best of the three and it's what I knew The Walking Dead had the capacity to be. I was excited about getting to know these people and the third episode filled the void that the second episode left. Shane's deterioration and complexity was absolutely fascinating and just made a great episode that much better. The greatness that was expected, has arrived.

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