Though we left last week in tension, we open this week on serenity. Amy and Andrea fish in the middle of the quarry lake. The water is a gorgeous green-blue, the rocks are a warm yellow, the women are outlined in sun and water. They argue about the kind of knots you’re supposed to tie to fish, if you throw back the fish or keep them, reminisce about the lessons their father taught them. We learn that Andrea is 12 years older than her sister and doesn’t seem to have been around when Amy was growing up. It’s a touching scene and the actors sell it; this quiet conversation about all the things they lost in the apocalypse that they can never get back. But they have this quiet space to remember.
Later, the two women bring back an impressive catch of fish for the camp â€“ everyone marvels at how good they were at it. See, Ed? You’ve been wasting their talents making them scrub your delicates.
While the ladies fish, Jim (who is Dale’s friend and not his relative, like I thought last week) is furiously digging holes in a field. We don’t know why at this point, but it’s a safe bet he’s not looking for the Kissing Bandit’s gold.
Back in Atlanta, Daryl is understandably pissed off about his brother wandering around the zombie infested city while missing a hand, which leads to yet another gun standoff. There’s going to be a lot of these, people. Just accept it. Roll your eyes and wait for the one where someone finally pulls the trigger.
Merle has helpfully left a trail of blood behind. It’s more reliable than breadcrumbs and more cinematic too. While all we’ve seen of Merle so far has been his stereotype â€“ ignorant racist redneck â€“ he’s kind of a badass. He saws off his own hand, finds the other door to the roof that both the walkers and the survivors had no idea was there, bashes in the heads of two walkers (with one hand!), then cauterizes his stump with some steno and a sandwich press, busts his way out of the building, and is apparently still tooling around the city. Credit where credit is due. Some jackasses are just too ornery to die when they should.
Showing some semblance of sympathy, the rest of the group agrees to help Daryl look for his brother but only if they go after the dropped bag of guns from episode 1 first. Glen impressively layouts out a map and an argument for a one-man bag retrieval, which even earns grudging respect from Daryl. But retrieving anything from the streets of a walker-infested city is going to go wrong, sometimes in ways we don’t expect. Our intrepid heroes are waylaid by other living survivors and in the skirmish over the bag, Glen is kidnapped, but Daryl gets one of theirs in return. And no one gets eaten by any zombies at all.
The hostage takes Rick and Daryl to their hideout, which is an impressively zombie free cluster of rundown warehouse space. The vatos want the gun bag, Rick wants Glen, and no one seems to really care about the hostage, much to his dismay.
Back at Camp Fear, most of survivors trudge up to the ridge where Jim’s been digging holes all day. If you look at the long shot, all the series regulars are arranged in front, and flanking out behind them are a group of people who have literally never been on screen before, so we should just expect them to die shortly and violently.
The ridge is full of dozens of grave shaped holes. Everyone takes a moment to process this. Jim is unable to explain why he’s digging the holes, or is unwilling, and just wants to keep doing what he’s doing, because he’s not bothering anyone who isn’t concerned that Jim is going crazy and might murder them in their sleep. Basically, everyone, especially the kids. Shane must once again forcefully wrestle someone to the ground â€“ Jim â€“ which makes me wonder what kind of cop he was Before. Everyone else seems to notice Shane’s willingness to resort to force to keep Camp Fear in line, but it’s only the people on the receiving end of it who are willing to say something about it. As Jim’s face is pressed into the dirt, we get to hear his survival story â€“ he had a family, kids and a wife, and they were killed by the walkers. He only got away because the zombies were too busy eating his family to chase him. Bleak stuff.
These handful of words highlight what the show is really good at â€“ giving these tiny glimpses into the survivor’s lives that in a couple of lines, or in the short scene with the sisters, really drives home what’s been lost. Some horror films/shows only rely on the blood and guts to be the â€˜horror’–but for my money, hearing Jim talk about losing his family is more terrible than the exquisitely crafted zombies or the highly realistic wounds they inflict. For all I make fun of the overreliance on the great Western Hero archetype, this is what makes me keep turning into the show. If the creators are smart enough to pull off this kind of exchange and the actors can sell it, I have hope that they’re going to give us more depth to the various stock characters they’ve peppered the cast with.
Jim gets tied to a tree, for everyone’s safety. He babbles a little, burnt by the sun and suffering from heat stroke, apologizing for scaring the kids, and saying he had a dream the night before and woke up knowing he needed to dig the holes. â€œCassandra!’ I cried, from my couch.
Rick, Daryl, and T-Dogg decide to take Glen back by force, leading to yet another scene where a bunch of people tensely point guns at each other, make threats, cock hammers or whatever you do to prime guns â€“ and this is a welcome change, get threatened with death by dog (â€œI picked them up at Satan’s yard sale.â€) â€“ until the situation is diffused by the appearance of an elderly woman, who offers to lead everyone to where Glen is. No one, even the 20 odd guys the show wants us to think are marauding gangsters, wants to get in a firefight in front of an grandmother, so all the guns are lowered as the old woman leads the boys through the complex.
Which ends in a nursing home. I did not see that one coming.
The â€œgangâ€ is a mishmash of survivors and former workers from the nursing home, who stayed to protect the old people after the doctors and the rest of the staff abandoned them during Atlanta’s evacuation. See what I said about having a little faith in the writers?
Rick and the group’s leader split the guns and ammo. The next we see of Rick et al, they’re on their way back to the truck with no discussion of why they’ve called off the search for Merle, which even Daryl doesn’t seem to be complaining about. Except there’s no truck, and the likely thief is Merle. This is Bad, in some bigger way than everything else that has happened so far is Bad.
So they jog back to camp. No, really. There’s a huge abandoned bus right there and a highway full of cars to steal, but the most efficient means of transportation back to the camp is brisk jogging.
Which, all in all, is good if poorly executed decision, as all the shit is about to hit the fan at the camp.
Ed is still hiding, sullen, in his family’s tent. Given that his face looks like a grilled cheese from Shane’s beat down, this isolation is understandable, just like we know Ed’s hiding because his ego is more damaged than his face. When the walkers attack the camp, Ed is the first one to go, chomped on by a female geek. I see what you did there, Walking Dead! The guy who hates ladies gets eaten by one (well, what’s left of one).
Despite whatever precautions the survivors have taken, the walkers surprise them, swarming the camp and killing a number of people beside Ed, some of whom we don’t know, and one important one we do â€“ Amy. Her last words are â€˜We’re out of toilet paper’, which is more tragic than funny, as Andrea has to watch her last family member die in the dirt.
Rick, Daryl, T-Dogg, and Glen managed to arrive in time to help destroy the last of the walkers and keep the casualties from being worse, but the damage to the group looks pretty bad.
As we get a look at the extent of the damage, Jim remembers why he needed to dig all those holes.
Next week: Camp Fear goes on the road.
Predictions for next week: They wait too long to destroy Amy’s brain and traumatically need to rekill un-Amy. More people die. Merle hits someone with the truck. People regret not picking up crossbows when they had the chance.
Predictions from last week: The men will be manly. (check) People will be impressed with Rick’s quiet bravery. (check) Merle and Ed will get theirs. (half-check)