Walking Dead Recap: Don’t have a fish fry during a Zombiepocalpse
Season 1/Episode 4: Vatos
Last week’s Walking Dead saw what’s left of the survivors’ families ripped apart by severed limbs, interrupted wife beatings, and hastily put together racist rescue missions. So it was fitting that the fourth episode started off with hottie sisters, Amy and Andrea, fishing in the quarry and waxing nostalgic about their fisherman dad. But it was also kind of a boring and disorienting way to start things off after last week left us hanging by the anxious thread of Merle Dixon’s wrist gristle. It didn’t help matters much that the next cut was to Dale watching a maniacal, gone to crazy town Jim digging up holes in the dirt for no apparent reason.
And thus began the first Robert Kirkman penned TV episode of The Walking Dead. I had high hopes for this one and, while it ultimately delivered, it was often ponderous and labored far too much on the details of survivor interaction for what amounted to failed attempts at poignancy. Thankfully, there were also several well-scripted action scenes that kept things moving along.
Like the first scene with the Merle Dixon rescue crew! The fun starts there when Rick pulls a gun on Daryl after he threatens to shoot T-Dog for what he did to Merle. Daryl stands down after facing Rick’s manly moral certainty. Then he picks up Merle’s severed hand with T-Dog’s doo rag, puts it in Glen’s backpack, and leads the rest of the crew down the stairs yelling for Merle.
After several jarring cuts back and forth to the RV camp where Jim’s digging is getting worse and the sisters return with a school of dead fish, Daryl crossbows another ugly zombie skank as the rescue crew follows Merle’s bloody trail through the corporate offices of the department store to a broken window. Daryl, of course, wants to comb the streets of Atlanta looking for him but they all agree they should get the guns first.
But first it’s back to the RV where the camp, led by Shane, confronts Jim about his obsessive compulsive hole digging. Shane doesn’t want to take the shovel away from him but it’s 100 degrees out so, obviously, he has no choice but to overpower and handcuff him (which we now know is Shane and Rick’s version of bitch slapping a fool who needs to get in line).
In the first of yet another series of uneven cuts back and forth between the RV camp and Atlanta, Glenn draws up a strategic battle plan to retrieve the guns on a white board. He offers himself up as the zombie diversion martyr in the whole plan, causing Daryl to remark, “You’ve got a lot of balls for a Chinaman.” But when the two head out to the street to carry out the plan, Daryl proves he’s not just a racist. He’s also a pretty pragmatist and a good fighter when they run into a gang of “vatos” after the guns. He clocks and fells a teenage vato and shoots another one in the ass with his crossbow before they can get the bag.
Unfortunately, the vatos get Glenn but, before we can find out what happens to him, we’re returned to the RV where Shane’s got Jim tied to a tree. And he’s going to keep him tied up till he’s not a danger to himself or others – or at least until he’s not so damn sunstroaked that he’s scaring the kids.
In Atlanta, the crew interrogates the teenage vato. Rick convinces him to take them back to the vato clubhouse so they can negotiate the teen’s life for Glenn’s, with Daryl warning, “One wrong move – you get an arrow in the ass.” Yeah! I heart Daryl. Two episodes in and that guy and his crossbow is my fave. At the vato clubhouse, their leader, Guillermo, has Glenn tied up and duct taped. If they want him back, they’re going to have to return with the guns. Of course, Rick’s nobility won’t allow him to leave Glenn behind, so they return for him only to face another Mexican standoff that looks dire until… DUN DUN DUN! The vatos’ nana shows up!
What a cutie. She takes them to Glenn and a bunch of senior citizens. Turns out the place is actually an old folks home and the vatos are actually nice boy saps taking care of their elders. Awwww… The Zombiepcalypse – bringing out the best in petty criminals. After Rick witnesses the old people love fest, him and Guillermo have a leadership bonding moment and Rick gives him half the guns. Then something happened but unfortunately I don’t know what it was! Can you help me out here, people? I’m sorry to say that when the Merle Dixon Rescue Crew returned to the van and found it gone, they decided Merle had taken it. Why did they decide that? I missed that! Was there a cogent reason for determining that? Help, please.
The survivors are helping each other out at RV central. They’re frying fish and untying each other and such – everyone except for mean old misogynistic wife beating Ed that is. He’s hiding out in his tent rejecting the whole fish fry party scene, which turns out to be his death certificate when the zombies attack! Finally! Just when I was thinking, man – are we going to see anymore quality brain eating this episode? We did. Amy gets it, Ed gets it. Some other guy who I initially thought was Morales gets it. Shane starts blowing them all away and the rescue crew returns just in time to finish them all off.
The episode finished with Jim saying all crazy-like, “I remember my dream now. That’s why I dug the holes,” which is of course, also why Kirkman’s narrative kept returning to Jim digging the holes. I suppose in retrospect that was clever but it could’ve been a little better executed. All in all, while I’ll eagerly watch the next Kirkman authored episode, this was my least favorite episode so far. What did y’all think? Am I being a negative nancy ugly skank zombie hater? Have I been too forgiving of Darabont but am I not being forgiving enough with Kirkman? I will say this, I did thoroughly enjoy Kirkman’s characterizations. While he tends to write fairly simple people with fairly simple motives, he’s not given to tropes and clichés the same way that Darabont is. At least I think so. Now you tell me what you think.