The Walking Dead 1.04: Vatos

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Broadcast Date: 21 November 2010
Director: Johan Renck
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs, and Steven Yeun


© Copyright AMC Studios

© Copyright AMC Studios

Jim: “I remember my dream now, why I dug the holes.”

As I was watching “Vatos”, a thought occurred to me: maybe the series’ title (that’s The Walking Dead for those of you with short attention, uh, whatever) doesn’t refer to the zombies; maybe it refers to our heroes, the last vestiges of humanity. I mean, for all their posturing, Shane, Merle, and the others are pretty much dead men walking, or so Jim’s subconscious would have us believe. Why else would the man dig empty graves right next to camp? That wasn’t a premonition. It was despair, and the feeling started to creep on me.

Fortunately, it stopped when Rick explained why he wouldn’t leave Glenn behind. His whole speech strikes me as a fair bit of poppycock, of course. Deputy Grimes has a tendency to dismiss his downright epic devotion to his fellow man as a vague series of personal debts, but we all know he’d have rescued the “Korean Chinaman” no matter how they met. As an aside, I’m thinking of putting together a line of “What would Rick do?” tee-shirts and bumper stickers. Anyone interested? Let me know.

Back on topic then. Human connection is a major theme in The Walking Dead. “Days Gone Bye”, for example, introduced us to two versions of Rick: the scared, broken shell lost in a deserted town and the compassionate hero fuelled by the knowledge at least one family survived. By the same token, “Tell It to the Frogs” hinted at what would happen if Shane lost his role in the community. It wasn’t the end of his affair with Lori that did the man in, but the thought he wouldn’t participate in Carl’s upbringing.

In “Vatos”, Rick’s sense of duty is presented as his salvation. Simply put, caring for others gives his life purpose, which, in turn, provides him with the strength and will to keep going. The same goes for Daryl in regards to his missing brother and, of course, Guillermo with his elderly charges. In contrast, after losing his family, Jim literally spends his days with one foot in the grave, and Ed gets turned into turkey stuffing mere hours after pushing his wife and child away. Symbolism kicks rump, yo.

Want more? All right, consider Amy and Andrea’s conversation on the boat, my favourite scene in the series so far. It tells a lifetime in a handful of minutes. Two sisters, twelve years apart: one gentle and unwilling to kill, the other driven by (emerging theme alert) duty and purpose. When they were young, their father bent the world to their respective natures. He could afford to. Now that the world’s gone cold and rigid, guess which sister gets to fight another day and which ends up zombie yum-yum.

Despair is creeping again…

Daddy Would Have Gotten Us Uzis

If I have one qualm with this episode, just one, it’s the internal logic of the Quest for Merle subplot. Don’t get me wrong. I got a kick out of the whole “Without a Trace meets Saw” vibe as our heroes tried to reconstruct Merle’s actions, all of which revolved around self-mutilation. Daryl is quickly growing on me too. The man’s a natural team player, and, unlike his brother, he seems to understand the new world has little place for old prejudices. Plus, crossbow equals cool.

The thread left me with a few questions though. If Felipe is such a nice bloke, why did he beat the living tar out of Glenn instead of just taking the bag? Why did he kidnap Glenn instead of just taking the bag? If Guillermo trusts Glenn enough to let him walk around the hospice willy-nilly, why wouldn’t he trust the man’s word that Rick is a good guy? Alternately, why wouldn’t Glenn tell Guillermo that Rick is a good guy? Even if he was bluffing, why didn’t Guillermo tie Glenn up for show like he did the first time? Given they know of other survivors in the city, why did our heroes assume Merle took their van? Why didn’t they steal another vehicle instead of running such a long distance? Why do I want to smack Miguel so bad?

© Copyright AMC Studios

© Copyright AMC Studios

Bits and Pieces of Campers

  • Bonus symbolism: when Jim advises Lori never to let Carl out of her sight, is he warning her about an eventual zombie attack, or is he identifying the child as her reason for living?
  • Glenn’s facial expression as Daryl puts the dead hand in his backpack is priceless.
  • On a related note, Glenn carries a big round thing on his back; he grew up in the city; he’s quick, agile, and a master strategist; his mighty powers are tied to pizza… Oh, my God, Glenn is Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
  • Guillermo ought to be very attentive to his charges. If even one of them dies of old age while nobody’s looking, his community may end up fighting a zombie invasion from the inside.
  • I guess the rock tower didn’t cover the fire too good. How did the walkers know to step over that rope with the tin cans?
  • Death toll so far: at least five, though, let’s face it, only Amy mattered.

Quotes

So many good lines this week:

Shane: “Nobody’s going to hurt you, okay?”
Jim: “That’s a lie. It’s the biggest lie there is.”

Amy: “He knew we were so different. He knew that you needed to catch the fish, and I needed to throw them back.”
I just heart this scene so much.

T-Dog: “Guess the world changed.”
Guillermo: “No, it’s the same as it ever was. The weak get taken.”

Daryl: “Hey, kid, what’d you do before all this?”
Glenn: “Delivered pizzas, why?”

Glenn: “Admit it. You only came back to Atlanta for the hat.”
That hat thing was so Indiana Jones.

Guillermo: “The people here, they all look to me now. I don’t even know why.”
Rick: “Because they can.”

Daryl: Them guns are worth more than gold […] You’re going to give that up for that kid? If I knew we might get Glenn back, I might agree.”
Notice how Daryl never calls Glenn by his name whenever he wants to leave him behind or put him in danger, as if he was trying to distance himself. The shift in that last sentence indicates he’d made up his mind about helping Rick before he even knew it.

Daryl: “How long do you think they’ve got?”
Rick: “How long do any of us?”

Some problems with the plot mechanics, but the character moments more than make up for it.

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Category: The Walking Dead, Verdict: 4.0 | Tags:

          
Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."