The first season of The Walking Dead ends with a bang.
Let me just say that one of the biggest signs that a show is really good is that you feel this sort of emptiness when the season is over. Like, “Oh man, now I have nothing to do next Sunday night…” This is how I feel right now. The Walking Dead, in just six episodes, has become a weekly ritual for me. Damn whatever miserable fates there were that decreed this season to only last six episodes. I now salivate for this show. I cannot wait for this next season. Hell, how can I not after this first season had zero bad episodes. Speaking of which…
Ah, the season finale. The point that all story-driven shows build up to. This is the culmination of all this season’s plot points. Well, all but one. There’s still no Merle. This is disappointing. I wanted to see what happened to everybody’s favorite handicapped racist. Ah well, something for the next season I guess. Anyways, last episode left our group of survivors heading into the light as Rick had led them to the Center for Disease Control. A large, locked, safe building with lights and hot water and soft beds. Holy crap guys, we can live like human beings.
So, the first part of this episode is seeing our survivors decompress, letting loose and releasing their stress as they realize that they are, for the first time in weeks, completely safe. We see them take showers, have a meal, and talk with each other. We get some great character moments out of these episodes. Dale tries to comfort Andrea as she continues to mourn for her sister and grapples with the futility of their continued existence. Shane and Lori share a moment as Shane tries to convince her that he really didn’t know Rick was alive. Oh, forgot to mention this before. The episode starts with a flashback that show Shane trying to protect Rick when he was helpless in the hospital. Turns out, Shane really did believe Rick was dead. So, he isn’t quite the bastard we thought he was. Then, he gets drunk and tries to molest Lori. It just shows that Shane is one of the most interesting characters in this show.
Of course the quiet moments don’t continue on for long. Dr. Edwin Jenner shows exactly what happens when a person becomes infected with the zombie plague. We learn that there is no cure for zombism. We learn that there is no more government or structure to the world. Everything is gone. There is no hope of this just stopping. Then, Dale disturbingly points out that there is a countdown mechanism going on in the main control room of the CDC. Of course, he asks what the countdown means. Sooner than you can say, “Oh, I totally didn’t see that coming!” the friendly CDC guy goes crazy depressive and lets them all get locked in with a bomb about to go off. After all, if things go bad at the CDC, as they indeed have, you don’t want things getting out. So, now, we have the survivors pleading to a man who has lost all hope, trying to convince him that there is a chance out there. Yet, crazy pants Edwin really does have a good argument. What is the point of living on in a world that is dead? To make matters worse, there are some in the survivor’s camp that agree with the good doctor.
This scenario showcases once again the great strengths of this show. There are barely any zombies in this episode. This is all about the people. Why would you want to carry on in this world? At what point does a person give up hope? Do they have that right? Does anyone have the right to stop them? Plus all the smaller moments before the whole bomb scenario make you appreciate all these characters. And when you see who decides to stay and who decides to go, you can’t really argue one way or the other. Of course, none of us know how we would react in this type of situation, but can we really condemn or condone these character’s actions in this situation?
One of the things I find funny is that, for a show based entirely around death, the ending gives one the sensation of hope. Yes, some people give up. Yes, the world is well and truly screwed. But some have chosen life. Some people chose to go on, fighting for themselves and their families and for the future. This isn’t really an ending, it is a to-be-continued. In a world where virtually everything else in our lives is over, that’s pretty much the best you can get. Not a happy ending, certainly. Just a, “We’ll see where it goes from here.”
Myself? I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.