The Walking Dead: "Wildfire"

This is the next to last episode before the first season ends.  Too short!  I read somewhere that Frank “Shawshank” Darabont doesn’t plan on ending this first run with a cliffhanger – but given the circumstances, how exactly is that possible?  When you’ve got humans trying to figure out how much of the world hasn’t been taken over by brain-eaters, there’s no way to say “See ya after our hiatus!” without leaving us hanging, right?

Oh.  I’ve forgotten to mention this in earlier recaps, but this is obviously laden with spoilers.

It’s the morning after the zombie attack that made me wig out at the end of last week’s episode.  Half the survivors are dead.  Our remaining folks are separating dead zombies dead from their own deceased.  And of course, they have to deal with the freshly dead, to make sure the new corpses don’t rise with Extreme Zombie Makeovers themselves.  “Dealing” with them means smashing their heads in with various blunt objects.  We get some full-on hardcore visuals of shovels bludgeoning skulls.  Much splatter, with extra bonus sound effects -- a symphony of cantaloupe crushing.  Or maybe some nice Honeydews.  Sweet.

We learn that Grimes has been starting each day trying to contact Morgan with his walkie talkie, the guy he met back in the first episode, when he was first stumbling around trying to make sense of the new world after his coma.  Remember Morgan and his son?  Who stayed behind in the same town where Morgan’s wife is now roaming around as a zombie?  Because they just couldn’t bear to leave her?  Morgan has the other half of the walkie talkie set.  Grimes told them he’d contact them if he found survivors.  So he tries to send word out into the radio void every morning, not knowing if he’s getting through or not. 

  They lost a lot of people during the previous night’s attack.  But the saddest loss is Andrea’s little sister Amy, who was gnawed on by a zombie with a preference for white meat.  Which means not only did she die, but because she was bitten, it’s only a matter of time before she herself rises as a zombie with a bad case of the munchies.  Big sis Andrea has been sitting beside Amy all night, and refuses to anyone else come near.  Uh, hi: if you don’t do something with little sis soon, babe, you’re gonna have to deal with her all over again: borrowing your clothes, stealing your hair dryer, clawing off your face and eating it, all that annoying little sister stuff.

Grandpa Dale is the only she lets get close.  He sits with her and they have a nice little exchange where he pays his respects, saying how much he cares for the sisters.  Andrea talks about what a bad sister she’s always been to Amy, and how she wishes she’d been better.  It’s all very touching – until Zombie Amy slowly awakens in Anrea’s arms, fingers twitching, eyes all milky.  Andrea talks to her, apologizes, cries, and all the while, Amy’s reaching up and slooooooowly wrapping her fingers in Andrea’s hair.  Her mouth is opening.  She’s growling, pulling Andrea closer.  She’s hungry.  I’m cringing. 

Andrea says she’s sorry one more time, and then, still crying, puts a gun to Amy’s temple and pulls the trigger.

Goooooood morning!

Meanwhile, as campers are dragging dead bodies around, Crazy Jim isn’t doing so well.  He was the guy digging all the graves yesterday, sort of delirious.  Turns out he was bitten by a Walker in the attack last night too.  Ohhhhhhh shit.  It’s not like he’s dead, folks.  You can’t just shoot him in the head.  Or can you?  Redneck Darryl says hell yea you can.  He suggest exactly that.  After a tussle, Grimes says, “We.  Don’t.  Shoot.  The.  Living.”

Of course he says that while pointing a gun at Darryl, but whatevs.  Once again, this show hinges on the kind of decisions that you’d only ever have to make after civilization is over.  New world, new rules?

Turns out the group is facing a crossroads regarding its leadership.  Their camping spot miles outside Atlanta isn’t safe anymore.  But where to go?  Grimes says they should head to a nearby CDC facility, since it might be a safe bunker with military protection, and a possible cure.  His weasel buddy Shane, who’s looking more weasel like all the time to me, says they should head in the opposite direction towards an army base.  They can’t agree, and to Grimes’ dismay, his wife isn’t sure where her own loyalty is – although he still doesn’t know that she was sleeping with Shane as recently as 48 hours ago.  Yowzah.  That revelation’s coming, though.  You can totally tell.

But for now, as Redneck Darryl puts it: “These people need to know who the hell’s in charge.”  If the group is going to keep its humanity, it’s going to need rules, and structure, and a leader they can trust.  I’m with you, Redneck Darryl.  I personally feel I’d be awesome after a zombie apocalypse.  Firm bedtimes, teeth-brushing every night.  Just ask my daughter.  I’m all about structure.

After Shane and Grimes conduct a private a penis measuring contest argument about leading the group, Shane decides to back his friend’s decision, convincing the group that heading to the CDC is the right thing to do.  Before they leave, Grimes pleads into his walkie talkie one last time, hoping Morgan and his son will hear and follow them.  He’s all, Don’t go to Atlanta!  It belongs to the dead now!  It’s actually a cool moment, because you wonder if Grimes is actually talking to Morgan, or to God, or himself, or something deep like that.  I love this show’s quiet moments.  Seriously, so well-written.

The caravan heads out at dawn.  One family, the McExpendables, decides not to join them, but to go to Birmingham instead.  Bad move.  Guess those actors were working for scale.

The group makes a dramatic departure from camp, but it doesn’t last too long because the camper overheats and they have to pull over.  Damn Winnebagos. 

This is the point where everyone realizes that Jim, laid up in the back of the camper, is not doing well.  He can feel the zombie in him taking over.  He wants them to leave him.  “My decision,” he says to Grimes, “not your failure.”  As if he knew that Grimes is having some personal issues right now.

So after a short group discussion, everyone decides to adhere to Jim’s wishes and… LEAVE HIM PROPPED UP AGAINST A TREE ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  They all say their goodbyes, even though they’re not sure they’re doing the right thing.  It’s a poignant scene, and when they drive off, Jim is resting, looking up at the sky, waiting for his Inner Zombie to come out.  Idyllic.  Brutal.

This episode is clearly about decisions.  Particularly, the kind of decisions you’d only have to make after the end of the world.

After commercials, we get a whole new situation, so unexpected I have to check and make sure I didn’t change the channel by accident: we’re in some sort of scientific facility (the CDC bunker, we learn), with a dude who’s apparently a scientist.   Yep, we’re in a whole new place.  Some sort of lab facility, where a guy in a hazmat suit is working with a tiny flap of zombie flesh in a petri dish, trying to find a cure for Zombitis.  He looks haggard and exhausted.

Ah, shit! He screws something up in the lab, and alarms go off!   He runs out to jump in the Silkwood shower, watching in dismay as the automatic decontamination unit burns his lab. 

The guy is making some video recordings, to keep track of his efforts.  He, like Grimes with his walkie talkie, is talking to no one, hoping there’s some point to it all.  As he records himself, we pan back and see  that the facility he’s in is huge.  Massive.  And empty.

“I think tomorrow, I’m going to blow my brains out.  Haven’t decided.  But tonight, I’m getting drunk,” he says to his camera.

Back outside, our survivors seem to have arrived at the CDC headquarters, which is surrounded by rotting bodies.  Grimes is totally second-guessing his decision to drag everybody here, but the group walks up to the big metal doors and starts banging.  They think it’s abandoned.  Everyone’s mad.  And getting panicked, because it’s getting dark, and ohhhhhh crap, there are zombies approaching. 

Inside, Lab Guy is watching them on the security cameras, and hoping they’ll just go away.  Outside, Grimes sees the camera over the door and starts yelling “I know you’re in there!  I know you can hear me!”  And he’s almost crying and the others are freaking out and the zombies are getting closer and the flies from all the dead bodies are getting louder and agggggggh I’m freaking out because this scientist is just going to let them get killed by the Walkers HOLY CRAP.

And the metal door opens, bathing everyone in a blinding light.

End credits.

Whew.  Next episode: The season finale, where the survivors learn from the scientist that “there’s nothing left… anywhere.”

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