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.

Thwunk! Take that zombie skank! (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

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). 

Dude. Seriously. (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

 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. 

Glenn and Daryl vs The Vatos (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

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!

The pre nana standoff (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

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.

Fuck your fish fry! I want brains! (Photo: Courtesy of AMC)

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.


  1. they decided Merle had taken it. Why did they decide that? I missed that! Was there a cogent reason for determining that? Help, please.

    I don’t think you missed anything. They just made that leap without any additional discussion. None of them questioned it despite the lack of any actual evidence.

    At least, I’m pretty sure of that.

  2. Great ending to the episode! Chaos and death! Finally!

    That whole standoff in the nursing home had a vein of humor to it but it was so cringe-worthingly bad. I found myself rolling my eyes with Glenn alarmingly stating “he’s having an asathma attack!” Seriously? You were hanging from the building before with a bag on your head!

    I still don’t understand why Merle didnt just cut the pipe the cuffs were attached to. he did make a nice clean cut of his hand though. Commendable.

  3. The final scene with the Zombies at the campfire resulted in me not getting quite so much sleep last night. It helped to form a nice bridge to the initial scenes with the sisters chatting and buddy digging his holes.
    Daryl was the star of the show this week. The parts that din’t go over so well were the dramatic shift of the Vatos from being gangland scum to…..nursing home attendants???? It also seemed a bit off that Rick and the gang apparently ran all the way back from Atlanta to the campsite,….they couldn’t find not even one car to swipe??? in a city where there are abandoned cars everywhere??? That looked like one long jog from Atlanta, especially when you think stinky-rotten Merle might be out to seek revenge. All in all though, it’s my favorite show on TV. Can’t wait for next week’s episode.

  4. Someone had a line that said the hacksaw must have been too dull to cut the pipe or the chain.

    As for why everyone suspects that Merle stole the van, we don’t know for sure. (We don’t know for sure that he did, for that matter.) Part of it is human nature, I guess — we tend to see everything as connected, making that a seemingly more reasonable explanation than coincidence.

    My guess? It probably takes some specialized knowledge to steal the van. Particularly, the knowledge of where the keys are. It wouldn’t make sense to carry them with anyone, to keep them from being lost when the carrier is killed. So they’re probably hidden somewhere near the van. If the group has a standard hiding spot, Merle could have checked there, found the keys and drove off. At least, he could as long as the van didn’t have a manual transmission.

  5. What made their assumption that Merle had stolen the van illogical is that they had just come from a building full of living humans, including living gang members who I presume would count hot-wiring a van amongst their skill sets. If they thought there were no other living humans in the city, then their assumption that it was Merle would make sense, but they know for a fact that that’s not the case.

    But, assuming they’re correct, and assuming they’re also correct that Merle is driving back to the camp, what I want to know is how did they make it back to camp on foot faster than he did in the van? Unless Lee Hester is right, and Merle used the van to transport/lure some zombies to the camp, and was just sitting back somewhere watching.

  6. FINALLY some zombies-munching-on-human action! (And there was much rejoicing.)

    Good to see the zacks taking some of the survivors down— all them shotgun to the brains, arrow through the skull, machete/baseball bat beatdowns had really been one sided! Good to see WALKING DEAD being “fair and balanced” in depicting Zombies ON Humans violence. About time. ;)

    And QUITE surprised at the amount of brain-popping violence AMC allowed.

    Not so good were the scary Hispanic gang turning out to be elderly hospice defenders—complete with cute chihuahuas!— seemed obviously a Darabont edict on series creator Kirkman’s script. I’m guessing that they’ll be even more created for the series, “zombie fodder” for future episodes. With any survivors joing Rick’s group… in a sort of
    Diversity injection to that group’s racial makeup?

    (Come on— they’re in Metropolitan Atlanta: shouldn’t there be MORE Black survivors? Bring back the father and son from episode 1… or bring in Michonne quicker!)

  7. I liked the nursing home part. One of the reasons I stopped reading the title was that it NEVER depicted meeting any “good” live folks — everybody was a criminal, despot or psychopath.

    The zombie attack, on the other hand, was a gaping plot hole, which is saying a lot in a series that’s riddled with plot holes. Shane is depicted as obsessive about security, but he lets everybody sit down to dinner without posting guards? A horde (not just one or two) of zombies manages to sneak up on camp (no growls or shuffling feet) and nobody notices? And yeah, I get the whole “zombie as metaphor backdrop against which we show human drama” but you have to try for a little verisimilitude or it throws you right out of the narrative.

  8. I thought last nights episode was down right boring, until the final 12 minutes. The whole “Vatos gang as nursemaids” seemed forced. Seriously, if they were badass gang members, they could have easily killed Rick, Daryl and T-Dong. They only outnumbered them 20-25 to 3? That said, I really thought Gillermo was cool. For a second, I thought he may be Tyrese, and Zombies would attack and kill all the elderly and force the few survivors to join up the Rick and Co.

    I thought, based on the dimensions, it was pretty obvious that Jim was digging graves. I thought that was why it was scaring the kids.

    Daryl and his crossbow are quickly becoming my favorite character(s).

    I think that the group just assumed that Merle took the van. Even though they just encountered a gang of survivors, I think they are the only survivors, and the zombies aren’t going to drive a van. I don’t think for a minute, though, that Merle loaded up the van with zombies to take back to camp. In the comics, remeber, Shane and Rick argue about moving the camp specifically because they are too close to the city.

    I also thought it seemed like a big plot hole that they couldn’t steal another car. Is there a limit to how many times they can do that?
    Also, it was a big plot hole that there was no one on Dale’s RV on lookout. Also, didn’t they have tripwires with cans on them to rattle for a warning, or was that a preview of what is still to come?

  9. I think they stole a car but it wasn’t written in. They left it to the audience to make a lot of assumptions this time around.

  10. I think they stole a car but it wasn’t written in. They left it to the audience to make a lot of assumptions this time around.

    Agreed. Otherwise there’s no way that wandered from downtown ATL, got over to I-85, and got out of town on foot quickly. The distance involved is just too far.

    I’m curious about where they’re supposed to be hiding. It looks like the Stone Mountain area, but that’s in the wrong direction.

  11. @ Bryan L: “One of the reasons I stopped reading the title was that it NEVER depicted meeting any “good” live folks — everybody was a criminal, despot or psychopath.”

    I dunno. It’s always been my assumption that, should there ever be a complete breakdown of society, it will mostly be criminals, despots and psychopaths who thrive and survive. Choices would have to be made in the “end times” that your average decent Joe & Jane just won’t be able to make… and if they do make them, they’ll find themselves on the path to one of those undesirable categories.

    But, maybe I’m just too much of a pessimist. Hopefully we’ll never find out.

  12. Fair point, Oscar. But the fact that Rick and crew are around certainly suggests that some other ‘decent’ folks survived.

    Actually, I have other logistical problems with the show (and book). On the macro scale, it seems unlikely that ALL civil authorities were overcome, particularly since zombies aren’t that formidable against people who are prepared for them. I think the show erred in showing the overrun tanks and machine gun nests, for example. I can buy that the “zombie plague” turned large segments of the populace abruptly, and nobody had time to mount a coherent defense. But if they did have time, some should still be around.

    Frankly, I think the show should amp up the zombie threat a bit. Show some of them running, climbing, using simple tools (all of which, actually, they’ve already done, but it hasn’t been emphasized). Yes, badly damaged ones shouldn’t be fast, but largely intact ones should be able to move around much better. It eliminates a lot of the implausibilities.

  13. @ Bryan L: “One of the reasons I stopped reading the title was that it NEVER depicted meeting any “good” live folks — everybody was a criminal, despot or psychopath.”


    I’m not sure how far in you read the comic book. Rick and Crew meet lots of good folks fairly early on…Tyrese and especially Hershel and his family. Hershel was in no way a criminal, despot or psychopath.

  14. “I still don’t understand why Merle didnt just cut the pipe the cuffs were attached to. he did make a nice clean cut of his hand though. Commendable.”

    I think you should take it as a compliment from the writers that you would react differently from a methed out redneck who has been handcuffed on a roof in the midst of a zombieocalypse.

    Also, as someone else pointed out, they said the saw was dull.

  15. I think he’ll get better at writing TV as he goes along. He’s certainly bound to have many more chances now.