The Walking Dead debuted yesterday to smashing numbers, based solely on CHUD.com’s business-altering preview piece.

We
kid. Frank Darabont is the man and television is the better for having
him creating horror shows for it. We will be doing Tag Teams of the show
(as we do with Boardwalk Empire and possibly more shows) as we go onward. Here’s our first:

Episode 2: Guts
Directed by Michelle Maxwell MacLaren

Nick Nunziata:
The second episode of The Walking Dead flew across
the ionosphere into our homes last night after breaking records in
its first week. I’m not surprised it did. It was as well marketed as
any television show I can remember (save Shasta McNasty) and it was
the perfect Halloween weekend programming fare. I was disappointed
in the show, but since I find the comic leaden I suppose I shouldn’t
have been surprised. I’m way in the minority though.



What did surprise me was that in the span of one week the leading
character went from bland to serviceable to pretty damn good. What
also surprised me was how in a week the show has pretty much
guaranteed that the gore and adult content isn’t going to be an
issue with its heaping grue and copulation action. This was a very
aggressive episode in terms of gore, profanity, and sex (with people
literally risking their lives to get laid) and it pretty much kills
the ‘Is AMC up to the task’ argument.



I liked it more but still have qualms but you were right about
Lincoln, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Rappe: I love being right!

But I too was delighted with where they took
Rick in this episode.  He has to prove himself a capable leader to the
viewing audience (Kirkman’s characters just literally said “You’re the
leader!”) and I think this episode did it believably.  Rick may have
been in a coma, but he’s a quick thinker. We saw glimpses of that in the
pilot (under the tank — into the tank). Here he proved that once he
knows the rules of the walker world, he can survive, and bring others
along for the ride.  He isn’t just going to sit and cry like the rest of
the red shirts.


I was seriously pissed at what they did with
Lori and Shane though.  I liked Lori a lot in the books, and I’m a
little disgusted that Darabont’s idea of “enhancing” the material was to
give her and Rick martial problems, and then have her hop into the arms
of his best friend.  “Unhappy wife” is a cliche of a characterization. 
Kirkman’s Lori was refreshing because she was just a normal woman,
genuinely missing her husband, and who had understandably sought comfort
with Shane. Once. Not eagerly and repeatedly, the zombies take her kid.
Yuck.




Alex Riviello: I’m not quite so sure they gave them marital problems though. They just
had a fight- every couple does. Leaving off on an argument the night before Rick gets knocked into a coma seems
to have made things worse, on both ends. Agreed about the “it was one mistake” thing
feeling like a better character decision in the comic, but I’m still curious to see what they do with the whole situation here.


Otherwise, who else was surprised by how different this episode felt?
Wordy and action-packed compared to the first’s slow burn. I’m a bit
concerned that with all these characters to introduce (including a bunch
that are new for the show) we’re not going to get to know or care about
any of them nearly enough- not like we already know Frank, Morgan and
Duane, for instance. But Glenn is already a champ and The Rook is obviously having a blast with his dirtbag character.


Agreed with Nick about the gore content- Darabont’s promise to make
Breaking Bad “look like pussies”  has been completely delivered. I can’t believe what channel this is on.

Joshua Miller: Goddammit. I WANT to like this show so much. It is making
it very difficult for me though. At the end of the pilot I had hoped
the show just needed to work through the growing pains of a familiar
set-up before it could start clicking, but I liked Ep 2 significantly
less than my already middling reaction to the pilot. I won’t go so far
as to say the series shit the bed already, but there was definitely a
little sprinkle of urine in the sheets here.



To put it blandly: our characters suck. I like Rick just fine.
But
the rest. Ugh. I feel like it is just blah archetype after blah
archetype. While The Rook (I like this nickname, btw) of course nailed
his performance as always, I’m frankly disappointed to see him wasted on
such a cliche racist character. While the show is definitely delivering
on the zombies and the gore, it is failing miserably (for me at least)
in the one area I was sure Darabont would succeed – the characters and
dialogue. Everything our characters do and say feels forced. The show
isn’t taking the time to earn its conflicts, so much as just throwing
them out there and hoping they stick. Like Laurie Holden attacking Rick
with the gun when they first meet. What a trite moment of manufactured
tension. Worse yet, the dialogue is wooden and unnatural too. Maybe my
expectations have just been too high. I don’t know. It probably didn’t
help that I watched this and Boardwalk Empire back-to-back, but doing so
certainly showcased what cardboard dramatics The Walking Dead is
working with. The characters all behave like characters, not people. And
don’t even get me started on Rick’s wife. A perfect example of being a
character, not a person. Taken as a character, I guess I’m supposed to
find her strong-willed and compassionate – hence why she followed Emma
Bell’s character off when Bell wanted to go save her sister, giving
Shane the stinkeye for being pragmatic. Yet, taken with a spoonful of
reality, all I can think about is what a fucking horrible mother she is,
constantly wandering away from her small child when they could be
attacked at any moment. When the world is ending, that is exactly when a
mom would get batshit crazy in her attempts to keep her children safe.



I did enjoy Rick’s plan to cover himself in zombie slime (though the
moment where they check the corpse’s wallet made me groan, and not in a
zombie way). The series shows that it excels when it can focus on
action and zombie shenanigans, so I’m still holding out hope that once
the writers have waded through all the character set-up (which they’re
proving incapable of cleverly handling) that maybe the show will find
steady ground. But the outlook isn’t great thus far. As is, the show is
really dropping the ball for me.




Elisabeth Rappe: As much as I liked Rick, the rest of the characters really didn’t gel
for me.  But you name a racist character Dixon, and give him the
dialogue of Mel Gibson (“Sugertits!”), and I really stop believing in
the entire world for a moment. It was weirdly clunky for Darabont. He
gradually moved into that “man, people SUCK” territory with “The Mist”,
here it just felt perfunctory.


At least half of them will probably get eaten, right?

Jeremy G. Butler:  Yeah, I think we’re slipping into bad territory
here.  We all forgave a lot with the first episode in terms of tropes
and cliches because the writers had space to supplement with nuance and
characterization and, even though it wasn’t perfect, there was a lot of
that.  This week though?  Not so much.



Which isn’t to say it was a bad episode, but it certainly felt more
like a generic DTV zombie movie than anything worth championing.  I
agree with everything said so far about Rick’s wife – she’s in a
position and is saddled with enough drama that she could easily become
one of the strongest characters on the show, but the writers are
scuttling all of her potential away for all the reasons already listed. 
I’m also having trouble buying that this group of rag-tag stragglers
was who the base camp sent in to the Big City as their partnerships only
served to create those little moments of stereotypical drama.  “Blah
archetype after blah archetype” indeed.



That’s not to say there weren’t good things.  I dug the “blend in
with zombie guts” plan and even though some people have criticized it
for being stupid what with the “rain is washing the smell away” device, I
kinda saw it more as their reactions to the rain being what caused
their cover to be blown – though that may be just me.  At any rate, from
that point on the episode got pretty much great and made it worth
sitting through the previous 45 minutes or so of bullshit.  I like that
Rick gave Glenn point on the sewer job and I love (LOVE) that Glenn got
the Big Hero Moment in the final few seconds of the show.



I also like that it seems like we’re gonna get a big gruesome set
piece every week.  Even though it wasn’t as much of a visual feast as
the Torso Zombie, the corpse dismemberment was a delight.  What I hope
we DON’T get is an eye-rolling dose of unearned
sentimentality to go with all of these big gruesome set-pieces – I wish
they hadn’t traded the nuanced “I’m sorry this happened to you” for the
ham-handed wallet bit. 




Joshua Miller: “I’m also having trouble buying that this group of rag-tag stragglers
was
who the base camp sent in to the Big City as their partnerships only
served to create those little moments of stereotypical drama.”  Totally!
And why was Laurie Holden so pissed off at Rick when they first met?
Weren’t they all aware that Glenn was rescuing him from the tank? Or did
I miss something there.



Earn yo’ shit, Walking Dead. Earn it.

Jeremy Butler: Ostensibly it’s because he led the “geeks” to them by firing off his gun
all the way down the alley.  It rang hollow though, obviously,
especially once they got on the roof and she just stood there helpless
while The Rook beat the hell out of T-Dog.


Also – I kept waiting for him to make use of that
hand-grenade as they made a point to show Rick putting it in his pocket.
 I figured that’d be the Big Distraction he and Glenn ran off to make.


Alex Riviello: You definitely missed something there. Rick’s little tank adventure was
what led them all there- do’nt you guys remember how empty the city was
until he got there? The group was being all sneaky and quiet until he
came there and fucked anything up, getting them all ravenous and leading
them right to them. Laurie Holden’s character getting freaked out and
pulling a gun on him because she was so scared herself makes perfect
sense. Everyone’s in survival mode, after all. No one’s making rational
decisions with a zombie horde smashing in on them. Unless they see
pretty jewelry.


Joshua Miller: I know that’s what we were SUPPOSED to take away from the events. My
question was somewhat rhetorical and snarky. I just didn’t buy the
moment emotionally (or even logically).


Nick Nunziata: One thing that I’m glad about about is that the dumb
‘Hero Zombie’ who was featured so much in the spots for the first
episode hasn’t become a recurring thing. The last thing we need is
for one of these attention hogs to distract from the show. I’ve
already gotten irritated at a few extras more hungry for screen time
than brains in the first two shows.



But as far as the generic feel of the cast and dialogue, I agree
wholeheartedly. Aside from (possibly) Lincoln and the young Steven
Yeun as Glenn, no one is really doing anything to come off as
invested in the world. Michael Rooker is always good, but there’s
nothing for him to work with. When I read the comic it was apparent
that all this dialogue would require really choice performers to
make it work. So far, The Walking Dead as a television show is a
Stephen King miniseries.



Making matters worse is that things don’t look to be getting more
interesting at the RV camp.



I’m beginning to think that the effectiveness of this show is going
to rely on how much the viewer needs a show like this. If it doesn’t
start getting more effective I can see it leaking audience above and
beyond the typical culling that occurs after a splashy pilot.



I will say this: the guts scene did it’s magic. Yucky!



Joshua Miller: “So far, The Walking Dead as a
television show is a
Stephen King miniseries.” Bingo. On the nose. I also sadly agree
about people watching this show because they need it. I say “sadly”
because I am such a person. The kind of person who watched REAPER
despite its best efforts to get me to stop, and who, despite vowing that
they simply couldn’t take anymore TRUE BLOOD after this season, will
mostly likely come crawling back with sad eyes like an abused puppy when
it premieres its 4th season.


Elisabeth Rappe: Well, I’m not sour enough on it yet.  I read all the way through the
comic despite not liking zombies that much, and finding some of it
(coughtheGovernorcough) pretty absurd.  I just really, really liked the
characters and it kept me guessing. I don’t watch a lot of zombie
movies, I don’t play a lot of zombie games, so I wasn’t immediately
weary with what are undoubtedly tired cliches to Romero fans. I just
kind of dug it.


And so far, I dig the show even if I feel some
of the changes are for the poorer. I thought Darabont really deepened
the first issue with the pilot. Here, I feel like changes were made just
to make them (making Rick and Glenn part of an unwieldy group — why?)
and I do worry the show might continue in that vein.  I want to be
surprised, but the Lori and Shane thing was a disappointment, and if the
show undercuts the characters … well, then I might drop out. I don’t
need a zombie fix that badly, and I can just read the comics to get my
fix of Grimes & Company.


I half hope when Rick is finally
reunited with Lori and Carl, he really does sit them down and tell them
about the Wallet Zombie. And then Lori is all “Ok, yeah, WHATEVER” and
glancing at her watch, itching to get it on with Shane in the mushroom
forest.  Wait, that’s probably exactly what will happen.  If it does, I
hope a  zombie eats her and Shane in episode 4, and Rick is left a
weeping widower.  Andrew Lincoln is cute when he cries!


Nick Nunziata: I love having you around.


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