The Walking Dead has debuted to smashing numbers, based solely on CHUD.com’s business-altering preview piece.
kid. Frank Darabont is the man and television is the better for having
him creating horror shows for it. We will be doing Tag Teams of the show
(as we do with Boardwalk Empire and possibly more shows) as we go onward…
Episode 6: TS-19
Directed by Guy Ferland
Joshua Miller: And just like that, Season 1 of AMC’s The Walking Dead is done. Our plucky heroes gained entrance to the CDC, got shitfaced, took a shower, learned their was no hope, got angry/upset, discarded Superfluous African American Female, finally utilized that grenade, and hit the road into Season 2 to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”
Last week we made the interesting discovery that while the haters (those of us who have not been enjoying the series) found themselves suddenly liking Episode 5, conversely, the lovers responded negatively to the episode. Weird, yet also kind of logical – further proof that we are all responding to and being repelled by very different things on the Walking Dead. I’m curious how many of us “haters” have remained on board the zombie train. I for one am glad I bought a refundable ticket, cause I’m off again.
All the warm fuzzy feelings Ep 5 had engendered in me washed away during “TS-19.” It wasn’t that the episode was so horrible, just irrelevant feeling. It did not feel like anything of true consequence occurred. While the series may have ended with a literal bang, it certainly did not do so dramatically. There were no big emotional steps forward here. No resolutions. No boiling points reached. There wasn’t even a cheesy twist or cliffhanger to rope us into Season 2. Noah Emmerich’s character (Dr. Edwin Jenner the CDC dude) had a line during the episode’s (and thereby the season’s) climax that I thought carried some symbolic weight for The Walking Dead itself. In talking about his dead wife, he said “She was an Einstein. I’m just an Edwin Jenner.” I couldn’t help but empathize with our heroes. The Walking Dead is an Edwin Jenner of a show. And given that I will most likely watch some of Season 2 (because I’m a genre show sucker), I have a feeling my mind will again wander back to the symbolic words of Dr. Edwin Jenner in “TS-19,” when he told Rick that Rick would regret not just staying in the CDC and dying. There may not be any hope in Season 2.
Elisabeth Rappe: I would have to agree that “TS-19″ pretty much spent my enthusiasm. It was a screeching break of a finale, and I suspect it existed only because they felt a lot of “mainstream” viewers would check out without some kind of major scientific exposition. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t really learn anything beyond “We don’t know what causes it!” and “Yep, the rest of the world is dead, too” but I guess it will satisfy those who needed some world building. Me, I like my apocalypse to come with a bit of mystery. In reality, no one would know, and you’d just have to find a way to survive and hope there was a way to flip the switch one way or another.
Oh wait. We learned precisely what caused the bullet holes in the wall at the hospital and what Shane’s blithering motivations were. The Walking Dead — why leave any ambiguity to anything? This is Character Development!
I admittedly felt a little tension during the whole lockdown sequence, but I don’t even know why. I suppose because I’m a sucker for people crying and holding their kids. But we knew nothing good was going to come of this CDC encounter. Again, what a perfunctory episode. It wasn’t a shock when Dr. Jenner ended up being a madman bent on a humane end. We knew he’d do something kooky. Yawn.
The only thing I dug about the episode was the spiraling madness of Shane, and his attack on Lori. For once, she was in a position I could understand. Your husband’s best friend tries to rape you, and what do you do? You can’t exactly TELL him, or can you? Actual human conflict there. Believable. It’s a little late after all her silly wide-eyed foot stomping, but it’s a start. One step forward, two steps back though, because if that blood test revealed what I think it revealed, and Jenner’s whisper meant what I think it did … fuck you, writers. Fuck you for taking that awful realization away from a woman, and putting the news in the hands of men. (Not one, but two!) You should have to sit through Women’s Studies 101 for that, and then write an essay on the gender politics of Mad Men.
Oh and just to not be a negative nancy, let me bring the conversation to an awkward halt and say Mmm –Rick in the shower.
Renn Brown: When it comes to any kind of story involving mysterious events, I always give the show/movie credit if they can do one of two things: either present an ambiguous scenario with enough interesting elements to let my imagination have fun, or if the mystery must be cleared up, do so with a clever or unique explanation. This is a choice that every zombie story has to face: explain the outbreak, or keep it unexplained and closed in. Walking Dead’s finale managed to drag the series somewhere in the middle, in another poorly judged move that has ensured you won’t have to hear my nitpicking next season (unless of course I’m required to do so, in which case my need to eat will trump my annoyance with this show, and your annoyance with me).
I do want to start off with what I noticed in the positive realm- there weren’t any baffling moments where the entire cast of characters did something irrational (and by “irrational” I mean “poorly written,” not “they’re enduring the apocalypse and they’re stressed out so who knows what they’ll do!”). In fact, a few scenes like the confrontation between Lori and Shane actually played really well for me. I have no sympathy for Shane, but I can pretty much buy how another viewer could, and when Lori was finally given something to do other than her two “incredulous emoticon” and “scary happy” faces, Sarah Callies was definitely up to the task. The flash of action at the end was well done, and the typical standouts like DeMunn and Reedus were still strong (even if the editors have got to quit relying on cutting to the biggest facial expressions they can find- half of DeMunn’s screentime has to be made up of single-shot cutaways to his wide-eyed look of concern, the same with Reedus raising a thing to hit a person with said thing). Really, the cast did some of their best work here often with little material, and in spite of the fact the show had to get them all drunk and in fairly normal settings to do much with them.
That brings us to the episode itself though, which I simply can’t find much that redeems it. Conversations on the message board and the comments below each review we’ve done have made it very plain that I’m not going to convince supportive viewers that the plot of the show is trite and silly. Frankly, if the big climax in the future-building with the voice-command computer, CSI-brained technology demos, the unoriginal Zombie science lesson, and the self-destruct system aren’t signs that this is kid’s show-level writing, then not only are we not on the same page, we’re not even reading the same book, in the same language. What’s worse is that many of the technologies that the show used for it’s redundant and valueless biology exposition actually exist! …and yet the show exploited them with the grace of one of the later Brosnan Bond flicks.
I’ll let someone else have a go before I continue with my thoughts, and tell the story of the time I called the CDC about a zombie show.
Nick Nunziata: Where’s the love for Noah Emmerich? This guy almost solely saved the episode for me. I could watch an entire season of a show in this environment if it were compelling enough and with Emmerich there was a very real, very human, yet still mysterious character who did a good job of carrying the suspense. This was a pretty good episode, though I am so tired of Shane it isn’t funny. Horrible. One-note. Annoying. There’s enough male ID without him and at least Norman Reedus takes his one-dimensional character and owns it. I’m so tired of the bipolar Shane and frankly wish they’d all hung out and blown up.
As usual, Jeffrey DeMunn was awesome. His unintentional racism at the end there by ignoring the black lady’s sacrifice in favor of the prettier and WHITER Laurie Holden’s sacrifice. The argument no one seemed to care about was that if they truly were a handful of all that’s left, their suicides dilute the melting pot even worse. I suppose they could have adopted their CDC friend’s fatalist view, but there’s a certain obligation to further the species, no?
Except for Shane. He needs to leave and take everyone that looks like him too.
Also, is anyone else as baffled as I am that Michael Rooker didn’t show his beautiful face?
Jeremy Butler: What’s there to say? This episode pretty much sucked. It had some decent moments – I really liked Bernthal in the rec room and everything that came after. There was more than just “I’M DRUNK AND HORNY” in that performance, I really bought that it hurt him that she thought so little of him. I was actually really impressed with it…until he turned into Grabby Sam. At least to THAT degree. That kinda sank the entire scene as a whole. And then, of course, once he left, Lori stretched those eyelids out and shoved her fingers into her hair again. I mean I get it, I get what she was TRYING to convey there, and she did a decent enough job of it, I suppose. But, at least to me, that’s the same face she makes anytime anything gets stressful and I just expected to hear Piper Laurie screaming “THEY’RE ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU,” so in the end even THAT proved to be a wasted scene overall.
Which is exactly what this episode was – a 60-minute wasted scene. We didn’t take anything substantial away from this. It was a complete and total waste of time, and it would have been no matter where it fell in the season (but it fell here which is a shame, but more on that in a moment). It’s fitting that the last shot of the episode was of them driving down the highway in their little convoy, as that’s the exact same thing they did before they got to the CDC. It was a detour, plain and simple and the only thing that got accomplished was that they unloaded a nameless character (turns out her name was Jacqui – thanks IMDB!). But they spent an entire hour to do that. I’m not the first here to say it, but we got no emotional closure to anything. Jenner got his emotional closure (and it was bleak as shit but that’s not an inherently bad thing), but our core group didn’t walk away from this season with anything new to chew on. I like the direction Shane’s character is headed NOW, but the fact that of the matter is, for me to fully embrace it, I’m gonna have to forget everything that came before. This isn’t a place he gradually worked up to, it’s like playing Gran Turismo and exiting the race because you don’t like where you’re at only to start a new one so you can try again. Shane got a complete reboot two episodes ago. I dig Nick’s problems with him, but I like where he’s at now, though I’d like it a hell of a lot more if it wasn’t the result of “Pause>Restart.” Andrea would have had a better arc had she stayed behind, because there would have been an emotionality to it all – I bought her as broken and without anything left (even if Holden’s delivery was about was wooden as Little Otik – I really don’t like her) and it would have served her character better if she had stayed behind. PLUS it would have set Dale up for some interesting things next season because he wouldn’t have had anything left but wouldn’t have had the balls, as it were, to stay behind and give up. THAT’S interesting character development. That’s nuance. What we got was, as others have said, a kid’s show.
Seriously, gang, this is the finale you gave us? I said it on the boards but I’ll say it again here – I would have loved it if Jenner had never opened that door and these guys all just blew the fuck up so we could start fresh in Season 2. Not only because I’ve pretty much checked out emotionally on all these guys, but because I think that would have been a fun sandbox for these guys to play in. But alas…
OH – and Merle? It’s obvious they’re setting him up for the Season 2 premiere, but that is the dumbest thing they could possibly do. We have an entire year before this show comes back and they’re going to leave a thread like that COMPLETELY unchecked for that long? Bollocks.
Renn Brown: “Computer: Tell me what that scary ominous thing the scientist just said means. Extra dispassion please.
“How about that science lesson seemingly designed to kill any chance for the show to play with the idea of zombies retaining shadows of who they were? That wouldn’t be an original idea of course, but it’s possible for a long-form TV show to do something new with it. Little chance of that now, or if there is, an entire segment of the big finale will be rendered moot at some point.
And then the dumb bomb. Forget the big ticking timer, forget the weird timing of the Doctor letting them in a mere two days before it all blows, forget the return of the grenade that Rick left in his pants, forget the videogame cut-scene explosion that Dale and Andrea listlessly climb out of the window to escape. Instead lets just ponder for a moment, that one of the most sophisticated research facilities in the world, a joint designed specifically to deal with crisis situations, is rigged to literally EXPLODE when it loses backup power. No logical system like a facility-wide coating of antiseptic foam, or even an incendiary event that would destroy the disease inventory and any oxygen- but rather a big bomb that is literally going to explode the building, and cause a collapse to bury the labs. As if a dozen feet of broken up rubble is going to seal off the burnt up diseases better than the intact building itself, which was specifically engineered to keep these pathogens contained and withstand any kind of attack.
So here’s the thing… I figured if I kept up this criticism that an exploding CDC demonstrates kid’s show logic at best, then sooner or later someone was going to pull out some research showing that yes, the CDC does in fact have a explosive system in place in the event of a catastrophic emergency.
So I called ‘em up!
Expecting little, I actually got to speak with a media relations person that put me in contact with someone within the facility. It’s a bummer because if I had known it was going to be so easy, I would have prepared a more thorough batch of questions and actually recorded it. Since I wasn’t prepared to launch a full interview, and I wasn’t going to waste a presumable doctor or scientist’s time with questions about a TV show, I only asked a question or two. Essentially I described the scenario of the show to Chris (if I caught his name correctly- connection was terrible), who knew the show was featuring the facility, but hadn’t seen it. When I told him about the emergency system in the show, he chuckled a good bit. He did emphasize that the CDC is stocked with full backup generators, and though he wouldn’t get into detail, kind of implied the place could be indefinitely self-sufficient. He also assured me that though there were mass sterilization procedures, there was nothing resembling a “self-destruct” sequence for the building.
Now before I catch too much shit for some research that was more for a laugh than actual criticism of a zombie show… Yes, of course the show didn’t stick with reality, and of course it has no responsibility to do so. Calling the CDC was something I did on a whim (and to make sure my criticism wasn’t completely pulled out of my ass), but the implication is not that the show had to stick with perfect reality to be good. Disclaimer aside though, the leaps in logic they did choose to take are Lazy with a capital L, and should have been eye-rolled straight out of the second draft.
This is comic book or video-game level writing. It’s lazy and bad, and it assumes the viewer has a brain as blacked-out as TS-19′s. I really don’t mean to insult those who are enjoying the show without reservations. Zombie-lore isn’t a genre I’m very passionate about though, so I know I’m not giving the show the benefit of the doubt at all times. I have undoubtedly watched and enjoyed some silly shows, but at this level of plot-apologizing I expect to be watching a half-hour superhero cartoon, not something backed by a healthy budget, a pedigree filmmaker, and massive ratings.
Elisabeth Rappe: Did you ask them whether they had an impressive bar? I’m really worried about any CDC center that has such an infinite amount of booze. I kept thinking that would work itself into the plot (I had one too many Jack and Cokes and released a virus) but it didn’t.
I know it’s taken us awhile to piece this together, but you know what? I haven’t even thought about this episode past Monday morning. I’m not desperate to know what happens. I’m not biting my nails. Bad sign for a television show.
Jeremy Butler: That’s because there’s nothing real to know. At some point the truth about Lori and Shane is gonna come out and there’s gonna be a lot of yelling and Lori’s gonna bug her eyes out. Some people think Dale and Andrea are gonna start affirmin’ some life (is that a comic carryover?), but even that has no interesting appeal. Just saying “yawn” is lazy and a bit of a critical cop-out, so I added the rest of this sentence on either side of it.
THAT SAID – maybe I’m a perpetual optimist and don’t like to count anything out until it slaps me in the face with its lack of worth, so I’ll be back for season 2. All TV shows have potential to SOMEHOW get better and there have been enough good moments sprinkled here and there throughout the season that I have a whole “fingers-crossed” mentality, but the wait for next October won’t be in the least bit hard to deal with.
Nick Nunziata: I’m in this weird car crash place with the show. I still want it to be good. I have to watch it for work but really the main thing keeping me energized is looking forward to what they’re going to fuck up next. It’s a horrible mentality to have, but I have zero faith in Robert Kirkman’s writing and the source material (I’ve read up to trade paperback #10). And I’ve outgrown having any enthusiasm for a Stephen King miniseries. I hope next season showcases drastically improved writing, more self contained stuff that’s interesting, a stylistic tweak that maintains the bleak and hopeless worldview but a little more elegantly realized, and that any new cast members be good and interesting actors. Anything to keep focus away from the overly bland participants we’ve been given.
Keep in mind that this show went from concept to actual thing in superfast time. This show was rushed, no doubt. Some of its failing can certainly be attributed to that. But overall this season of six episodes ranks somewhere between dogshit and acceptable for me.
Alex Riviello: Definitely not the gut-punch of a finale that we needed, but it works. Shane still does it for me, his extended stay working well within the overall story and adding lots of much-needed tension. Rick’s showing his cracks a bit earlier than you’d expect but still shows that he’s a solid leader. We’re given a (heavy-handed) look at how zombies won’t be coming back, a tiny little taste of regular life for the characters that’s quickly taken away from them again. But there’s better ways to torment your characters and show them how nothing will ever be the same again- hell, the comic actually did it better with that little town they first found.
While I still dug this episode more than I didn’t, I sadly have to agree with the rest of you heathens, for the most part. This whole story didn’t seem like it needed to be told. Perhaps it exists to kill any remaining hope the survivors had, but after six months of a zombie apocalypse and watching dozens of loved ones die there shouldn’t have been much of that to begin with. But then again, there’s always the little whisper that Jenner gave Rick. (sigh)
So many annoyances here. The second shower montage. The big countdown clock that I kept expecting to *BLINK! BLINK!* like 24. The Deus Ex Grenadica. Dale only fighting for the character with backstory. It all added up to the silliest and worst episode of the short season. If this had just been a filler episode in the middle of a lengthy show, it would have been tolerable but a great finale this was not.
So who’s going to join me in my petition to have Darabont direct every single episode next season?
Nick Nunziata: If they’re like the pilot, not me!
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