* I feel like this episode had the highest percentage of good-to-strong material yet. Jim’s departure was well staged, right down to Daryl’s unexpected nod of the head. The approach to the CDC was good and creepy, and I appreciated how minimal actual zombie shots were in it — they were more menacing because they were treated as an inevitability, rather than a clear and present danger. Shane’s near-snap may have been played a bit heavily, but the way he got all huffy-puffy was weird enough for that not to matter. And I was particularly struck by Amy’s resurrection, which was, of all things, sensual and beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen zombie fiction treat coming back in that way and I’d love to see more curveballs of that sort.
* But this episode was also a clear illustration of why I probably shouldn’t expect them. Of course Daryl’s the guy who says “I say we kill him now and shoot the dead girl in the head while we’re at it.” Of course the abused wife can’t stop once she starts hitting her dead husband in the head with a pickaxe. Of course we have someone who can’t let go of their dead loved one (cf. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead) and someone else whose inevitable death we have to deal with sooner or later while debating whether we do things like that or not (cf. Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead). Of course the CDC couldn’t stop it, there’s only one guy left there, he’s breaking down, and the grounds are littered with dead soldiers. I mean, I read The Stand too. And of course when the door finally opens up, everyone’s silhouetted in enough white light to recreate that Golden Girls episode where Sophia goes to Heaven but Sal tells her it’s not her time.
* Point is, if there’s a zombie/post-apocalyptic trope or cliché, they’ll hit it, as hard and as dead-center as they can. If they have time to do some stuff differently, great, but it’s not where their bread is buttered. I don’t know if this is due to a lack of imagination on their part, or one of ambition. That is, are the filmmakers just kind of pedestrian, or do they not trust the audience enough to get up the gumption zig where they’re expected to zag? I was glad to see that Curt Purcell used similar terms to talk about the show’s decision to address the pseudo-science behind the outbreak, something the comic has hardly ever done — in fact, Robert Kirkman has said he will never reveal the origin of the plague. The last thing The Walking Dead wants to do is risk alienating the audience with mystery like Lost or Battlestar Galactica did.
* Fortunately, I’m not too disappointed at this point. I said I was going to do this last week, and sure enough, I seem really to have recalibrated my expectations so that The Walking Dead is for me what The Vampire Diaries is for my wife, say. I went into tonight’s episode thinking “Oh boy, I can’t wait to see some good zombie attacks” — not much more or much less than that. I am at least enjoying the show on that level. When the “more” comes along, great! When the “less” comes along, oh well, it’s only The Walking Dead.