Last week we had the world of Walking Dead introduced to us. We met the police officer who woke up to a broken world filled with the living dead. We saw a little bit of what the survivors had to go through in the suburbs. Now, as the second episode takes us on a trip through the big city, we find out if The Walking Dead is going to be a one hit wonder. Will it keep running strong or will it stop dead in its tracks?
“Guts” does the typical zombie apocalypse scenario. Our hero meets a group of mismatched survivors who have to band together to make it through the undead hordes. First off, yes, this is quite old hat. And, to be fair, these characters are nowhere near as entertaining as Morgan and Duane were last week. But none of that means that these characters aren’t entertaining in their own right. For example, we get to see the rather tense and heated interactions between a black man and a white supremacist who are forced into the same group only by the fact that they are still among the living. Rick eventually has to intervene and in doing so makes a really good point that, as of right now, there is no black and white anymore, just white and dark meat. See, this is the kind of stuff I love from the post-apocalyptic genre. Like I said before, it may be old hat, but it is a comfortable old hat. The mismatched survivors, the tension between hating your comrades and the need for survival, the ability to insert a wide variety of social messages into the story, all of it is great.
So Rick beats the snot out of the racist and goes from guy needing to be rescued from a tank to temporary leader right quick. This couldn’t happen at a worse time though, as Rick’s rescue drew all the zombies in the area right to the department store that everyone was hiding in. So Rick and the others have to figure a way out of there that doesn’t involve being nommed by zombies. After taking a short and creepy trip into the sewers only to find out that they’ve been infested by zombies as well, Rick comes up with one of the weirdest ideas I’ve ever seen in a zombie movie. He finds a dead zombie, cuts it up and splashes its guts on himself and another survivor so that they can walk out into the streets incognito in order to get a ride. That is either the best or worst idea I’ve ever seen in zombie related media. Either way, I want to be able to do that in Left 4 Dead 3 or Dead Rising 3 or some other video game with zombies in it.
Actually, that scene threw another one of this show’s surprising curve balls at me. Before cutting the zombie up, Rick gathered everyone together and gave a speech about how this thing was once a human. That is an idea often lost in zombie related media. Its fun to see walking corpses chewing up survivors, but we often forget that the monsters are also victims as well. This show throws that idea right in our faces. Like the first episode with scenes like Morgan aiming at his wife or Rick confronting the rotted woman in the park, this episode again brings to the forefront the tragedy of the zombie apocalypse. Once again we see that, no matter what video games may tell us, the zombie apocalypse probably wouldn’t be that fun of a place.
This episode also reveals that these survivors are working with the group where Rick’s wife and son are. In case you don’t remember, Rick’s wife probably thinks he’s dead and she’s currently sexing up his best friend. With the city’s survivor’s escaping back to their mountain retreat, all the pieces are set up for quite a dramatic third episode. And to me, that’s the sign of a really good zombie or other sci-fi related show. Its not the blood and guts and special effects I’m really looking forward to next episode. I want to see how Rick reacts to this revelation, that the wife he was having problems with before the zombie apocalypse is now shacking up with his best friend. I want to see how his wife reacts after seeing a scene where she’s in the middle of doing the dirty with said best friend when she guiltily removes her wedding ring. And even with all of this set up, we also have a cliffhanger with the racist being handcuffed to a pipe on the roof and being left behind. Guess what? He’s got an angry brother at camp.
This really felt more like a setup episode, even more than the first episode. It put all the pieces in play so that episode three can really deliver. That does work to its detriment. However, it does have some standout moments of its own. If next week’s episode fulfills the promise of this week’s, I think that will really show what this series can do when it kicks into high gear.