Posted on November 15, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
So, by a show of hands- who would have thought that there would ever come a time, in the history of television, when the total evisceration and down right general defilement of a shambling corpse would make for great, if not EPIC, television?
I know what you’re thinking and no, obviously not me, because if it were me then the first sentence of this little diatribe would be a little misleading. Was it you? I couldn’t see your hands if it was, so I’ll take that as a no as well. But that’s exactly the way it was last Sunday when I watched the second episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. It was a painful and intimate event, one that even I, one of the biggest fans of the so called “Survival Horror,” genre couldn’t watch without thinking, “Holy crap on a crap cracker, that was intense.” Don’t get me wrong there were other scenes that were down right creepy and down right hilarious and if I say down right one more time, I am sure one of you is going to hit me, so I won’t. But the scene that I am going to go into with more depth, after I spoil the episode for those that didn’t watch it, is the one that I think most people will really be talking about in the morning.
So here’s the recap, ready, set, go.
Warning Plot Spoiler, if you haven’t yet watched, well, you should.
We find our main protagonist, Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes, sitting in the belly of the beast, the beast this time being a Tank, he’s been contacted by a voice, which we find out later is that of Glenn, played by actor, Steven Yeun, from somewhere outside. Glenn then advises him on how to go about getting himself out of the area and over to a possible safe location. After the two escape from a massive amount of zombies, Glenn takes him to a group of survivors who have been hiding out in a sealed up, though not securely for some reason, department store.
The assorted other survivors are actually part of Shane and Lori’s, Rick’s former partner and wife, who have as of this time no idea that Rick is still alive, group who had gone into the city of Atlanta either looking for supplies or other survivors. With no clear leader they bicker among themselves and emotional tensions begin to run high when, Merle Dixon, played by Michael Rooker, (who is better known to comic and general geekdom as the father of Brandi Svenning, Mr. Svenning, from Kevin Smiths’ Mallrats) becomes upset and unhinged by the fact that he’s being given orders by people of non Caucasian descent, read he’s an F-ing racist, and then tries to gain control of the group.
Rick issues a beat down by allowing Merle to blather on about who’s in charge after he proceeds to seemingly beat the living hell out of the majority of the group’s males. Rick then handcuffs him to some sort of large pipe and issues him a warning about what kind of world they now live in. The group is upset at Rick for bringing the so many of the city’s zombie population to their doorstep. They decide to leave and then comes the really insane part comes after Rick and another of the survivors has a conversation about how the zombies can see and smell the difference between the living and the dead, and then Rick along with Glenn, who can’t handle it and pukes, decides to smash open dead people like piñata’s and wear the gore to throw the monsters.
The trick works, and there’s a brilliantly hilarious scene of Rick and Glenn stumbling down the streets among the dead, at one point Glenn whispers that “it’s not going to work,” and is approached by a female zombie, which he then rolls his eyes and moans at, giving it his best impression of itself. The two make it to a box truck and a Dodge Avenger. Glenn takes the Dodge, whose alarm is shrieking like a banshee on crack and Rick takes the box truck to rescue the survivors.
Merle, all the while, is still handcuffed and begins to try and cut a deal with one of the fellow survivors that he had beaten earlier. The man shows good faith and moves to release him, but trips and loses the key to the handcuffs down a drain pipe. Too bad Merle, karma’s a real fickle gal aint she, boy?
The group escapes and is headed, obviously towards the rest of the survivors, Shane, Lori and of course Rick’s son. The episode ends with Glenn pushing the Dodge Avenger to it’s limit down the open highway into the sunset.
And now, for something completely made up.
I have to say, I don’t think there happens to be anything subtle about hacking up dead bodies. I don’t think there’s some grand illusion or metaphor or underlying meaning out there for those in the pop culture intelligentsia community to really have their way with. Yes sometimes a spade is a spade and you dig with it, sometimes it’s a spade and you have to hack at dead people’s guts to rescue random strangers with it.
This is one of those times, and that scene is one of those truly horrifying and morose realities that everyone who has ever thought or asked themselves, “What would I do in a zombie outbreak/apocalypse” normally glosses over. The “Do you have it in you?” question, I don’t know if I could.
There’s fight or flight and then there’s something completely different. This was the something completely different that slams you in the middle of the dark alley and forces you to watch what the world is really like. And I’m glad that AMC didn’t skimp out on the event. You could have seen this as being one of those, “Well it works in the book, but maybe not so much in the series,” sort of teachable moments in the fine world of television production, a moment which man fan-boys, such as myself, would have been complaining about the next night all over the internets. But AMC didn’t flinch. They walked right up to the edge and then said, piss on it, stepped over it and basically gave you the middle finger while doing it. A move I highly commend them for. Because without these moments there isn’t anything to care about, I mean there’s the whole mankind battling against hordes of flesh starved monsters. Yes, of course there is, that’s kind of the premise for the story.
But the real meat and potatoes of this series, and indeed the comics, in my semi pedantic opinion, was/is the reality of the characters and their actions in that situation of extreme duress. The “Guts,” scene was simply the flash fire portrayal of that reality. And it made many normal people, people not predisposed to that sort of candor or grit in life shrink back in their seats because it was raw and seemed real and shocking and was totally brutal; much in the same way that life generally is. It showed you the lengths that some men will go to move themselves closer to their goals, be it of finding their loved ones, escaping from a department store surrounded by zombies or even, if you’ll allow me, to move their collective destiny’s forward. The will to power, is a will too strong sometimes and nearly costs Rick and Glenn their lives, but also the risk is often worth the reward, or some such other cliché and allows the group, sans Merle, to make their escape and leave. The Gut’s scene is also a nice way to juxtapose the vileness of Merle’s character, who even in the apocalypse still believes that mankind is separated by skin color. With ripping open the dead to reveal the insides of a human being you see that not even the dead can be separated from the living, we’re all still human, even if some of us like to consume people instead of Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers.
Damn, I’ve gone and done it. I wrecked that whole thing. I guess there was some sort of mystic, buried tidbit of universal wisdom in that scene. It just took a good bit of hacking away at it to find it.
Review by Eric Pollarine