Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, "Guts," wasn't as pensive at the season premiere, but it offered up an enjoyable, panicked escape from Atlanta. We also learned that being a crazy white supremacist is an old habit that dies hard.
NOTE: For this recap, I've assumed the Pro/Con format of my colleague Meredith's ridiculously entertaining True Blood recaps. I may or may not go with this format in the future, but I owe her a tip of the editor sombrero.
CON: The episode kicks off with some forest loving with Lori and Shane. That's not a con per se, but Shane greets Lori with the most creeptacular attempt at amour. I'm not Dr. Drew and we're not living in the undead apocalypse, but I'm pretty sure the way not to get into a recently widowed woman's heart is to ambush her in the woods like the skunk ape.
PRO: We cut back to the tank. Rick is trapped inside, and the voice on the other side of the radio is — as we soon find out — Glenn. Like in the comics, he's frenetic and unimpressed by Rick's naiveté. Glad to see they kept his snarky streak.
CON: The survivors keep referring to the zombies as "geeks," which is lame. This didn't happen in the comic, and it shouldn't be happening here. If you need a one-syllable term for the walking dead, refer to them as "zoms," "bees," "zees," or "jerks." What do you think the zombies' monosyllabic moniker should be?
PRO: We meet the rest of the survivors, who are scavenging for supplies in Atlanta. And barring Andrea, they're not from the comic! Yay cannon fodder!
CON: Andrea begins acting like a downer once Rick shows up. His bullets have brought the zombies around every corner of the department store.
BIG CON: Meet Merle Dixon, resident batshit racist.
Listen, I know the end of the world leaves everybody high-strung. I know flesh-eating facsimiles of your loved ones running around brings out the ugly in everyone. But really, Merle? You're trapped on a roof with zombies swarming around you and you turn into White Power Bill? How the hell did they smuggle this crackpot into Atlanta anyway without him screaming like George Wallace on crystal meth? Wouldn't it have been more fascinating (and way creepier) to have this guy be competent but still a total asshole? The zombie apocalypse is about unlikely alliances. Teaming up with an insane hillbilly would make things tense and unpredictable. Instead we get Boss Hogg's goofy chauffeur.
PRO: Rick dubs himself "Officer Friendly" and beats the crap out of Merle. Given that Merle's used up any and all goodwill as a character, this is satisfying.
CON: Merle says "bumping uglies," a euphemism favored by middle schoolers. Ugh.
PRO: The episode then becomes a procedural — the trapped team attempts to escape the building using the sewer tunnels. That fails. They notice a truck at a construction site in the distance. Rick and Glenn decide to cover themselves in zombie offal; if they mask their living scent with the fragrance of zombie duodenum, maybe they can brave the crowds unchomped.
CON: Unartfully foreshadowed thunderheads.
PRO: The zombie autopsy was burly, and Rick's eulogy to Wayne Dunlap was some good gallows humor. "If I ever meet my family, I'll tell them about Wayne...I'll tell them I festooned myself with his Islets of Langerhans like they were a bunch of Mardi Gras beads."
PRO: One more thing — he's an organ donor." You're a card, Glenn.
PRO: T-Dog phones his home base, and Shane picks up on the other line. Ruff-row, Shaggy.
CON: Shane's reasoning for not retrieving the trapped Atlanta team is sound, but Andrea's sister Amy reams him out for practicing proper zombie apocalypse protocol. Give this guy a break, show.
PRO: Glenn's zombie acting.
PRO: The rain washes the scent off of Rick and Glenn's amazing zombie colon dreamcoats, and their charge to the construction site serves up good terror.
CON: When Rick brings the van up to department store loading dock, T-Dog has a change of heart and goes to free Merle. He knocks over the tools (foreshadowing?), but drops the keys in a sequence not unlike that scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie drops the F-bomb.
PRO: At this point, it's crystal clear that they're playing it fast and loose with the comic book's first couple issues, which is not a bad thing whatsoever. I like surprises.
PRO: Glenn tearing ass out of Atlanta with a sports car. It's good to have comic relief in the zombie apocalypse, and it's even better if your comic relief can actually hold his own. You can't bludgeon a zombie with quips.
So how did this episode stack up to last week? It was indubitably entertaining. Although it lacked the more pensive moments of the Darabont-directed premiere, director Michelle Maxwell MacLaren wisely kept the focus on the foragers' attempts to escape the department store. Merle's racism was however over-the-top and I feel like the show squandered an interesting character by making him such a looney tune right off the bat. Moral of the story? When the dead walk the earth, the most dangerous game...is man.