Monday, December 6, 2010


Sadly, this is my last recap of "The Walking Dead" for a while. Lats night's airing of "TS-19" will be the last until next fall, and while I think it's horribly cruel of AMC to leave us all hanging for so long, I understand why they only ordered 6 episodes to start. They took a huge gamble, which paid off in their highest ratings ever (not to mention Entertainment Weekly's endorsement as "The Best New TV Show of the Year").  Oh - SPOILERS BELOW!

When we last left our intrepid band of survivors, they were about to enter the CDC, where Dr. Jenner has been contemplating suicide. The episode started with a flashback to when the military attacked the hospital where Shane was visiting the comatose Rick. Unsure what to do in the face of panicked soldiers and hungry zombies, and convinced his partner is dead, Shane blocks the door to Rick's room with a bed (thus unknowingly saving his life) and makes his escape. Back in the present, Jenner allows the group to enter the CDC with a simple caveat: "Once that door is closed, it doesn't open again." He also insists on testing them all for infection. 

During their first real meal in days, the adults get drunk and Shane presses Jenner about what happened and why he is alone. Jenner tells them that those who didn't leave right away, eventually killed themselves, bringing everyone down. Afterward, Rick seeks out Jenner to thank him for saving them and finally admits that he is worried everyone he loves is going to die. A very drunken Shane almost rapes Laurie in the rec room and Andrea becomes increasingly convinced she has nothing to live for, after the death of Amy. At a very hungover breakfast the next morning, Dale presses Jenner about why he stayed and Jenner takes them all to the command center where he screens the file "TS-19" (Test Subject #19) for them, showing them an MRI-like image of the disease attacking the brain of a volunteer who had been bitten. 

As the disease (virus, bacteria, parasite?) goes to work, the image is suddenly shattered and they realize that Jenner had shot TS-19 in the head, soon after resurrection. Dale then presses Jenner about the clock that has been counting down since they arrived and Jenner admits that it's counting down to full power loss, at which time "total facility decontamination will occur. Simply put, they're all going to die in a massive fireball. Jenner also tells them that he stayed because of a promise he made to his wife, who we come to realize was Test Subject 19. 

After angry threats from Shane and Daryl and another impassioned plea from Rick, who asks Jenner to give them a choice, Jenner relents and sets the group free. Jacqui, tired of running and afraid of becoming a walker, opts to stay, as does Andrea. Just before they leave, Jenner grabs Rick and whispers something obviously important in his ear. Using the grenade Rick saved in episode 1, they make their escape through a window, taking out a few walkers on the way back to their vehicles. Meanwhile, Dale insists that if Andrea is staying, then so is he. Andrea finally relents and the two make their way out just in time to avoid the massive fireball that engulfs the CDC (and takes Jenner and Jacqui to their rewards). Devastated by what they've all been through, low on fuel and without any food, the caravan pulls away from the burning CDC and heads out into the unknown...

And so we are left hanging, not knowing where Rick; Shane; Laurie and company are headed. Not knowing what became of Merle or what Jenner whispered to Rick. Not knowing a whole lot more than we did at the beginning (except maybe the French are still looking for a cure). Like every good season finale, "TS-19" supplied both a satisfying ending (just why are giant explosions so satisfying?) and a cliffhanger or two. Now we just have to wait 10 months for it to come back and it sucks.

If it help ease the pain, here's a terrific interview with The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman, thanks to my good buddy Sean at Just a Jeep Guy. I also wanted to address the rumor that Frank Darabont has fired the entire writing staff, which producer Gale Ann Hurd has categorically denied, calling the idea "absurd."  With writing this good, why would any director be so foolish?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "The Walking Dead" is the new "Lost;" episodic TV with characters about whom you really care, facing outrageous obstacles and situations which are totally beyond their control. Showing us the Human Condition at both its best and worst; "The Walking Dead" may well be the most human drama  on the air. Brilliant stuff. 

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe I've never heard of this show until this week.
That was a great commentary Brian.
I'll have to check it out.

Prospero said...

No fair, Anonymous... you know my name, but I don't know yours...