Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thoughts on The Walking Dead Episodes 3 & 4 “Tell It to the Frogs” and “Vatos”

The Walking Dead saw an appreciable improvement in the middle two episodes this season. At the very beginning of episode three a major shift occurs when Rick is reunited with his wife and son. What we now have is no longer a story about a man searching for his family, but instead a show about society and human culture on the edge. Similarly to with show like Lost, we get to see how we would behave if modern society with all of its norms and barriers was no longer there to keep us “human.” In fact, zombies are almost an afterthought in these two episodes.

The real “baddies” in both of these episodes are the humans. We see the tension and danger that comes from people interacting with people, whether it be an abusive husband with his wife, racists force to confront their stereotypes as people, or two threatened groups of people competing for resources.

For now it looks as though Rick’s wife was acting under the impression that he was dead, and that no betrayal had occurred beforehand. This leads to one of the best moments in the season so far, where she tells Shane that there will be nothing further between them. In this moment, with all of his anger and pain still fresh, he has to stop a man from beating his wife. In this new society that is forming after the apocalypse, there is nothing holding him back from taking out his anger on the man and justifying the level of violence he employs. It is as disturbing as any police brutality case, but there is no higher authority here to stop him.

Another great moment occurs in the next episode, where Rick and company confront another pocket of humanity in the city. This begins as almost a cliché of post-apocalyptic fiction, and we prepare ourselves for the just use of violence to help our heroes survive. Instead, the whole moment is unexpectedly diffused and we get to see “the enemy” in a whole new light.

Two thirds of the way through the season, the climax to episode four reminds us that we are in a world plagued by zombies, but are they really the source of this latest attack?

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