Episode 6 - TS-19
13 October 2011
Synopsis: Jenner asks for a blood sample in exchange for the survivors moving in to the CDC. They enjoy the food, drink and hot water but also have questions. Jenner explains why he is alone and how he has lost contact with everyone else. Shane confronts Lori about all he did to help save her. Rick confesses to Jenner that he sees no hope for the future. Jenner admits that the fuel for the generators has run out and that the CDC will go into full decontamination procedures. Jacqui decides to stay with Jenner and die now while all the others escape.
The Good: This was another strong episode which engaged my emotions from start to finish.
The opening teaser sequence was excellent as we see Shane doing everything he could to try and save Rick from the hospital. The breakdown in society was good to see as the military panicked and began gunning down anyone suspected of being infected. In the lawless chaos Shane had no other choice than to leave Rick and run for it. That scene filled in a very important gap in the story. In the present a drunk Shane tries to force Lori to admit her feelings for him. We now know that Shane didn't lie or exaggerate. He makes the excellent point that had he not told Lori that Rick was dead she would have rushed to the hospital and died trying to save him. In his drunken state he is desperate to regain the love that had kept him going amidst all the grief. The show hasn't been strong on the characterization of the individual survivors and this was the best scene we've had so far. You could understand and sympathise with where both were coming from.
As in the pilot the simple pleasures of food, alcohol, warm showers and soft beds were well exploited in the opening scenes. I liked the way Jenner treated the survivors and the way they thanked him. Looking back he had no reason to care about them using up his supplies, he knew this was his last supper. I liked that most of the survivors saw the CDC as a potential new home where Andrea saw it as evidence that there was no hope left. The different perspectives of the characters made sense, especially in this case where parents looking after children would feel different to someone who has just lost their only family.
Jenner was excellent throughout. When Rick confessed to him his loss of hope you could see he was unused to and uncomfortable with this intimacy. He managed to convey all the sadness and numbness he had been through in his time there. As a character he maintained his humanity by letting the survivors leave despite making a compelling case that "This is our extinction event." Here is a man whose life was dedicated to preventing diseases which could wipe out the human population. He had lost everyone and only kept going for the sake of his dead wife. The fact that she had been the source of his best tissue samples was doubly tragic.
I really enjoyed his walk through of the images showing the Walker infection taking over the human brain stem. It managed to convey both the expert knowledge the CDC had gathered while also demonstrating that they know nothing. It was exactly the scene we have been waiting all season to see. The Walking Dead isn't about what started the disease. It's about people surviving a world with no hope. Despite it being fairly obvious this wouldn't be the end for Rick and company the episode still felt tense from then on. The survivors were all good once more at conveying desperation and trying to reason with Jenner or smash their way out. The decisions of Jacqui and Andrea to stay helped add a sense of consequence to Jenner's suicidal desires. I like that Jacqui died, again it added to the sense that Rick's group is fluid, some people join, some leave. The use of the grenade Rick picked up in the tank was a nice bit of continuity to provide them with a way out.
I very much liked the explanation for how the CDC still had power.
The Bad: I know nothing about the CDC technology but Vi the friendly computer who can helpfully respond to questions seemed like a stretch. She did add something to the dramatic moments though.
The only downside to this episode is that it felt a little rushed. So much could have been done with the CDC had the show had more episodes to work with. We know nothing about Jacqui and so her death doesn't mean much. Rick's confession that he sees no hope also felt out of place considering he was the lone voice of hope in the previous episode.
The Unknown: What did Jenner whisper to Rick? That was quite the nice little cliffhanger. The most obvious suggestion would be that he saw something in their blood work which Rick needed to know about. However it could be almost anything at this point.
Best Moment: There were several to chose from but I really enjoyed Jenner's long explanation of how his wife's brain was taken over by the infection. The show has been wonderfully gritty and brutal so far. For a science fiction fan it was a delight for this kind of long technological based exposition to be a break from the norm. There was something powerful about the scene for me. As if this was the end of our civilization, the last scenes of advanced existence before the brainless Walkers take over for good.
Conclusion: The first season of The Walking Dead has been really good TV. The show is rough around the edges. The characters aren't yet well developed. But at no point has the show slipped up in its presentation of a world with only a tiny bit of hope. Four of the six episodes so far have been gripping. There is great promise for the future. Although this episode burnt through a lot of promising material (pun intended) it also served an important purpose. There is no more hope for America. Rick and the others are on their own. The only way forward is a way these survivors can make for themselves. No one is coming to the rescue. I can't wait for season two.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.