Review: The Walking Dead 1x02, "Guts"

By Karen Moul

The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead was back this week with another great episode. It was perhaps not as excellent as the pilot but still worthy of an A-. At first look, "Guts" seemed to offer slightly less action than last week's episode, but that was mostly due to time contraints. The pilot was 90 minutes, and this week we had to settle for a normal one-hour show. But that hour gave us fast-paced storylines, great effects and very creative use of zombie guts.

The worst part of the episode? Nothing ruins an opening scene like seeing your two most hated characters having sex in the dirt. Ew. Shane's not an unattractive character. His conversation with Rick in the pilot made me think he is a jerk who doesn't like women all that much, and he seems to rule his little band more by bossiness than true leadership. And during a zombie apocalypse he thinks it's funny to sneak up behind someone and scare her? Very funny, jackass. He's lucky Lori was unarmed. Of course she's not too attractive either, she abandoned her comatose husband and she seems pretty into having sex with a jerk. So thanks writers for the sex scene, but I'd prefer to look at that zombie eating the rat.

Michael Rooker's performance as Merle Dixon, the "dumb-as-shit inbred white trash fool," was the highlight of the evening (although it's hard to believe that his character could use the word "parlay" correctly in a sentence). Rooker did a great job of making the guy so hateful, and yet at the end I felt sorry for him trapped on the roof. And for those of us who didn't feel sorry for him, Merle reminded us why we should. He shouted, "You can't just leave me here, it's not human!" No matter how bad a person he is, that was an uncomfortable moment.

Loved the scene that followed, the awkward silence in the back of the truck. Nobody likes Merle, and he is clearly a huge liability and danger to everyone, but everyone kind of expected that T-Dog would free him, because that's what a good person, a person with some humanity, would do. But you also have to do what you need to do to survive, and staying on that roof with a hacksaw probably would have meant death for both of them.

With only six episodes, the story is moving fast and Rick is already changing a bit. Last week he had his choice of all the clothes in his house and he chose to wear the sheriff's uniform. This week it's clear he no longer considers himself a lawman. We don't know much of what Rick saw on the way to Atlanta, but he's learned that the old rules do not apply anymore. On the roof he tells Merle he's no longer a cop, just a man looking for his wife and son "and anybody get's in the way of that's gonna lose." Yet he also talks about how important it is to stick together; it's the only way to survive. How is Rick going to balance his attachments and the well-being of the group against his own survival? And in the end which is more important?

A few more observations:

  • While inside the tank, Rick took a grenade, but never used it. We all know what Chekov said, so expect to see that grenade again soon.

  • Twice in this episode Rick used the word "if" rather than "when." While he's reading the dead zombie's driver's license, he says ,"If I ever find my family, I'm going to tell them about Wayne Dunlap." Later, when he and Glenn are heading to the construction site, he says, "If we make it back, be ready." Last week Rick was so sure his family is alive, but he has seen a lot in the last few weeks and it seems he's quickly learning how unlikely anyone's survival is.

  • I can't wait to see what happens when Rick catches up with Shane, how each interprets his role as a leader and where each draws his line for acceptable behavior. And I can't wait to see how far Shane will go to hold onto Lori, if that is even possible once she sees Rick. But mostly, I can't wait for this little love triangle to be over, it is just not compelling compared to the show's more weighty themes.

  • Why did T-Dog lock the roof? Ostensibly, it was to keep the zombies out and spare Merle that fate. However, it also possibly condemned Merle to death; even if he gets out of the cuffs he can't leave the roof, he'll die of dehydration/starvation. Of course, next week's promo tells us exactly why T-Dog did it - to set up some drama for any rescue party that might come back for Merle.

  • So Merle takes drugs. Interesting. Did he manage to stretch his personal stash all this time? I can't imagine there are too many dealers around, nor can I guess where Merle would obtain supplies to create his own lab. I hope this is not a plot point because it makes no sense. It was probably just thrown in there to make the character an even bigger loser.

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