[Editors' note: check out our ongoing TVGA Roundtable wrapping The Walking Dead as well as weekly full blown reviews. We got TWD covered from both alive and undead levels is what we're saying basically.]
I've said before that The Walking Dead is best when it's small, intimate, personal -- and "Vatos" proves the point.
Most of the episode was quiet, just people reacting to what's happened the previous three episodes. It was all very tense, of course, as every episode of this show is very tense, but better than that there was the hinted glimmer that there's something good left in the world. The vatos were probably murderously tough, but they were also taking care of all the seniors who had been abandoned and somehow weren't overrun: that's a goodness. It's not just Rick and the still not returned Morgan. There are people trying to not just survive, but to help each other. And it was an unexpected way for the conflict to have been resolved. I fully expected them to have to shoot their wayin and then out again, like most of the rest of the conflicts we've seen so far, but the writers proved to be smart enough to come up with another way that the characters didn't see coming but makes perfect sense when we get there.
None of this is to say that there was anything less horrific about this episode. Jim is cracking up slowly. Merle is on the loose, probably crazier than ever. And, whether by design or by accident, the walkers have found the camp. Their almost-home isn't nearly as safe as they thought it would be.
This is where it gets personal again. Amy goes down, and Andrea misses the rest of the battle trying to save her. There's that long reaction shot where we can see exactly what it means that she's lost the only family she has left -- and we know that someone killed by zombie-bite isn't really dead dead, and they'll have to deal with that, too.
The Walking Dead continues to be relentless. You can never let your guard down, much the way the people living in it can't, because then something horrible happens. Something horrible is already happening. A lot of this show reads as a post-apocalyptic piece: the scavenging through the wreckage, the attempts to get things going again, the need for survival balancing out any other needs, but in reality, this is a during-apocalypse story. This particular apocalypse is still going on, and these people have to live through it because there's no other choice. Whatever has already happened will either drive them forward like it does with Rick, or it will undo them entirely, like it's doing to Jim. The multifacetedness of the continued unraveling of our world is amazing.
Here's a new best part of the show: nothing is trivial. All anyone has in this world is what they brought with them when they left their previous lives, and the tiniest things -- an inhaler, wrapping paper, toilet paper, school for the kids, all of it means you're still alive and all of it can be taken at any moment. Those who don't pull together are the first to go down.
Although it was really gratifying to see Ed get the first bite.