By Combat Jack
Ever since I watched George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead when I was four years old, frozen in terror as I viewed the black-and-white death tale unfolding on that Zenith screen, I've loved zombies (and been effed up in the head). I picked up the first black-and-white issue of The Walking Dead back in 2003, and it was nothing less than banana bread and horse meats, meaning very dope. I've been bigging it up since way before it became AMC's hottest show ever, and when the Complex boys—for whom I spilled true stories about classic rap songs—peeped my zombie swag on Twitter, they invited me to do a weekly review of the show. So here I am, getting all up in your brains. If you're not watching the series, go kill yourself, come back to life, then kill yourself again. Or just catch up and walk with me as I walk with The Walking Dead...
PLOT: Rick, Daryl, T-Dog, and Glenn are back in the city of Atlanta, searching for Merle as they hold onto his hand. At the campsite, Amy and Andrea fish on golden pond, reminiscing on days past and their good old pops who taught them a bunch'a shit. Lost in a daze, Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) digs body-sized holes and scares the rest of the camp. In the city, the group, in the process of recovering the bag of guns that Rick left in episode two, encounter a gang of Vatos (I'm not kidding). The Vatos kidnap Glenn and our group end up with Noel (Anthony Guajardo). The two groups end up doing a hostage trade and we see that these group of Latin Kings led by Guillermo (Neil Brown Jr.), affectionaly referred to as "G," aren't really bad guys, just some boy scouts protecting the elderly at an abandoned old folks home. Having made friends and given some guns to the Vatos, Rick and crew discover that the vehicle they drove into the city has been stolen, most likely by Merle, who apparently cauterized his bloody stump and, they presume, is headed back to the camp to exact revenge for being left out on the roof. Making their way back to camp on foot, Rick and crew make it just in time to see the campsite overrun by a horde of "walkers." Shit pops off, zombies go to town, and we finally get to see, for the first time in this series, a few of the living getting murked by the walking dead, including wife beater Ed and Amy, who buys it by way of well placed zombie bites to the arm and throat.
I'm a bit torn (heh). I'm feeling a lil tired at all the corny dialogue, the hokey kind of scenarios that our merry band of survivors are encountering. The whole Vato thing seemed like a time waster to me, especially when Abuela (I wish I were joking) makes her grand appearance. We get it, the zombie apocalypse hasn't done anything to improve human to human relations, and in a case where the bare necessities become scarce (food, shelter, guns) no one can be trusted at face value. The inclusion of the Vatos seemed more like a moral episode for some kid's show in which young viewers are taught the value of not judging a book (the Vatos) by it's cover. As this episode was written by Robert Kirkman, author of the original source material, he seemed to steer the end of the show back in its proper direction, it being all about horror, action drama and whatnot. I understand that this season is a short one, only six episodes (2 to go) and what we're watching was completed before AMC decided to pick it up for season two, hence all the character development, but at this point, it's time to kick shit up a notch. Kirkman does that at the end of this baby. Still, as much as I love the book, Kirkman reminds me that, especially during the earlier issues, how his dialogue on paper came off a bit cheesy, as it does here on screen. At the same time, I'm liking that, as it gets busy, horror returns to the forefront as zombies duff out humans.
ACTION: Lots. Glenn artfully dodges some roaming zombies, upon their first encounter with the Vatos, Daryl plants an arrow in an ese's ass, Glenn gets whupped on by a couple of Vatos all Menace II Society/Boys n the Hood style. I thought the guns would bust during the Rick and crew vs. the Vatos "Mexican" standoff, but they decided to hug that shit out. We get served a full plate though, when the zombies surprise attack the campsite. Gats pop, bats swing, zombies bite, arrows fly, and we get a grits and glory gangfight between the living and the dead.
EFFECTS: Like the prior episodes, The Walking Dead keeps it gully. Blood looks like blood, Merle's slowly rotting and decomposing hand looks like a slowly rotting and decomposing hand, Ed's face looks like he got caught up in an authentic LAPD initiation session, bodies (both alive and dead) look like they're really sustaining the damage that's being inflicted upon them. Not beating around the bush, there's no childish CGI effects here (not that I see how computer generated effects would fit into this show), everything looks authentic effects-wise. There's this one particular scene where Daryl encounters a chick zombie with her mouth, jaw, chin areas all fucked the fucked up, standing under a well placed framed portrait of some white gentlemen sitting at a table in Godfather/Goodfellas fashion. The fuckedupness of said zombie chick's mouth, jaw, chin areas is a work of art. There's also an emaciated shirtless zombie that pops up during the campsite attack and snuffs out some random Latino-looking human character that I initially thought was Morales (Juan Pareja), the random Latino fellow we were introduced to back in episode 2. In zombie movies, we usually get to see fully clothed zombies with effed up faces, but the detail The Walking Dead places in highlighting the bodies of the dead, like the emaciated zombie dude, or the "bicycle girl" girl zombie from episode one takes the genre up another level. Since Battlestar Galatica has run its course and is no longer on air, I'd say the special effects of The Walking Dead >>> than anything else playing on tv these days.
GORE: As the dead finally go to town, we are treated to a shopping cart full of gore. Merle's hand in the beginning is just a tease The aforementioned zombie chick's jaw chin looks delish. Going back to the original Night of the Living Dead flick, we know zombies love to tear through flesh like black people though McRib sammiches (it's OK, I'm black, people), seeing zombie teeth tear through flesh like hot extra cheese pizza is something that will always remain near and dear to me, we get that here, mad teeth-to-flesh action. I was also pleased to find out that Amy is a squirter, like, from her neck though (you pr0n heads, cut that out). Speaking of black people, we get a lovely close up of some random black chap we never saw before getting his back meats ate up all Rick Ross on crabs fleaux. I like the progression of the series with regard to meats, horse meats begat rat meats begat deer meats begat random black chap we never saw before meats. Steady progression is a good thing. In real life, I'm wondering what the zombie actors are actually chewing on.
SCARINESS: It's still not topping the first episode, which remains the creepiest as fuck episode of the bunch, but I could feel the scare tension racheting up as all the drama played out. This show is about zombies, and their campsite sneak attack is just what the doctor ordered. Still, towards the end of this season or in the upcoming season, they really do need to work on the whole creepy, scary, "oh fuck no" moments of this show. Basically, I'm not scared yet.
CHICKS: Just when I was getting warmed up to Amy, they subtract her. I think in future reviews, I'm just going to ignore this category. Unless our gang of merry survivors end up being in a Salma Hayek From Dusk Til Dawn or Bordello of Blood type scene, I'm pretty much giving up hope on expecting anything greater than butterfaces from this series.
COMICS VS. SHOW: It's great to see the creator of The Walking Dead write on this episode. The whole Vatos/old folks home/"where's handless Merle Dixon?" thing is a complete deviation from the book. Amy getting ate out until she squirts is taken directly from the book, but in relation to where the group of campside survivors are in the overall story, not so much. As the Ed character doesn't exist in the book, it was good to see Kirkman permanently remove him here. The reveal that Glenn was a pizza delivery guy before all this zombie fuckery ensued was true to the book. Jim the grave digger looks spot on like the character Jim from the book.
COMBAT JACK'S FINAL ANALYSIS: "Vatos" was all over the place. Part American Me, part love-hug fest, part zombie flick. As the zombie tale has never been played out in such fashion as a television series, the character development is taking way too much of the center stage, but I remain patient. That being said, this was a great mix of drama, horror, and action. Being loyal to the brand, I will ride this series out, only because I know how brilliant the book is, how superb it becomes. I'm liking that we're getting to know the cast better—and that anyone can buy it at any moment, especially since the show significantly deviates from its original source material. I'm also expecting the missing Merle to bring it something terrible to our cast of survivors somewhere between the next two episodes.
BONUS: Not so much of a bonus, but I'm trying to figure out where/what that mafia themed looking portrait is from. The first of you readers who correctly shares with me via the comments section where said portrait is from will get mentioned in my review of episode 5.
• Combat Jack Reviews The Walking Dead Season 1, Episode 2 "Guts"
• Combat Jack Reviews The Walking Dead Season 1, Episode 3 "Tell It to the Frogs"
• Complex's Interview With "The Walking Dead" Creator Robert Kirkman
• The 15 Best Ways To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse
• Combat Jack Presents: True Stories Behind 25 Rap Classics