The Walking Dead, "Guts": masking the scent of life

Quick Take: The Walking Dead, "Guts"
"Wayne Dunlap, Georgia licence. Born 1979. He had $28 in his pocket when he died. And a picture of a pretty girl." - Rick

glen

Review: The Walking Dead, "Guts"
(S0102) If "Days Gone Bye" established just what kind of world we will be visiting over the six episodes of The Walking Dead's first season, "Guts" introduced us to the characters who will be guiding us through that bleak world. For this show to work, it's going to have to be just as strong in the human element department as it is in the zombie element department.  And while some of the new characters we met tonight were more interesting and realistic than others, they all played one extremely necessary emotion perfectly: pure, unfathomable fear.

First we meet the man behind the voice that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) hears over the radio at the end of the pilot.  It belongs to a young Asian man named Glenn (and yes, I confused Glenn, played by Steven Yeun, with Rick's son Carl, played by Chandler Riggs in my review of the first episode... whoops) who acts as a scout, providing Rick with a route to take when he makes a run from the tank.  Rick is just able to escape and make it to Glenn's safehouse in an abandoned department store, though not before firing off a great deal of gunshots and drawing out more zombies.  

Inside we meet the rest of Glenn's fellow's survivors, including Andrea (Laurie Holden), Morales, (Juan Pereja), Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott Sales), and T-Dog (IronE Singleton).  Up on the roof with a sniper rifle is redneck Merle Dixon, played by horror film veteran Michael Rooker.  Just as Rick arrives, Dixon starts something of a coup and tries to take over the group, starting by beating the hell out of T-Dog.  Rick ain't havin' that, though, and quickly overpowers Dixon and handcuffs him to a pipe.

The zombie genre has always been ripe for social commentary (George Romero was a master in that regard) and The Walking Dead clearly isn't going to shy away from these components.  In the face of the apocalypse, both the best and worst of people emerge.  Merle Dixon is a quintessential racist redneck and frankly comes off as way too cliched for my liking.  Luckily, Rooker is a solid actor and does his best with somewhat poor material.  

With Dixon taken care of, the rest of the episode was devoted to the survivors escaping the department store (and Atlanta itself) before the now larger horde of "geeks" break through the glass doors of the store.  Realizing that the Walkers can smell the living, Rick and Glenn use the blood and guts and limbs of a dead (well, especially dead) zombie to cover their clothes.  They then walk out among the dead, unnoticed, in an attempt to reach a U-Haul type truck to aid everybody's escape.  

The trek through the dozens of zombies was legitimately horrifying.  And things aren't made any less stressful when a sudden rainstorm appears and begins to wash the gore off of Rick and Glenn's clothes and the Walkers slowly but surely pick up their scent.  A mad scramble is made for the trucks, which are reached just in time.  Rick has Glenn distract the dead who have piled up against the store by baiting them with a Dodge Charger in which they set off an alarm.  

As Andrea, Morales, and Jacqui make a dash for the exit, T-Dog goes back to release Dixon from his handcuffs, but accidentally drops the key down an open pipe.  Not wanting to be left behind, he leaves a screaming Dixon, though not before locking the roof door behind him.  They all make it to the truck just as the store's doors burst open and a swarm of zombies crash in.

It would seem like Rick's posse (with Glenn joy-riding ahead in the Charger) is headed to meet with Shane's at their rural campsite as brief moments of radio communication have been made between the groups.  This link is made in the first place because Andrea left Shane's group some time earlier to go to Atlanta, leaving her sister Amy behind.  Of course, Rick is unaware that his wife and son (and Shane for that matter) are still alive and at his next destination.  And if the sex scene during the cold open is an indication, there's a great deal of marital conflict on the horizon.

"Guts" simply wasn't as great as "Days Gone Bye," but it was still a gripping hour of television.  There's never really been a show like this on television before so growing pains are to be expected.  If it can eventually connect the quality of the human components with the quality of the dead-human components, we could be expecting more greatness to come.

Lingering Thoughts about "Guts":

  • Don't forget, Rick still has that grenade.
  • We can add rats to the list of animals zombies eat.
  • Another "human element" I didn't love: Rick's obligatory "we have to stick together" speech.
  • Was the helicopter real or imagined?
  • Those hands and feet hanging from Rick and Glenn by shoe strings... yikes.  Great, disturbing touch.
  • I liked how the shot of the camera pulling away from the zombie-engulfed tank that ended last week's episode was reversed tonight.
  • As my colleagues pointed out in their excellent round table coverage over the past week, The Walking Dead got excellent ratings its first week.  If there was any doubt that the show would be renewed for a second season, those doubts can almost assuredly be laid to rest.  No pun intended.
  • Video: The Walking Dead, "Guts"
    Check out a sneak peek from the episode, from AMC: 

    By Mike Proper

    About the author

    I work hard.  And I play hard.  

    Actually, I don't work that hard.

    Also I Tweet. Twitter.com/MikeProper

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