Episode 4 of “The Walking Dead”

Highlights of Episode 4 of \”The Walking Dead\” from AMC website

Lil' Redneck Emotes!!

Tonight’s episode is named “Vatos.” In case you don’t know, it’s like calling the episode “Dude” in Spanish. It suggests that there will be some Latino gangsta zombie action, which is awesome.

“Que paso, vato?” “CHOMP.”

Sidenote: while using Babelfish to try to get the right accent marks and punctuation for the Spanish (sue me, I’m lazy), it told me that the English translation for “Que pasa, vato?” is “That it happens, I beat?” It actually means “What’s up, dude?” roughly. DO NOT TRUST BABELFISH, especially when it comes to colloquialisms.

The episode starts in a gorgeous quarry and the two blonde sisters are in a boat, fishing. There’s some babble about what kind of knots their dad taught each respective sister. Apparently, they’re about 12 years apart in age, so the older sister, Andrea, was taught Very Serious Fishing, because when she and dad were fishing, it was to put food on the table (much like the sisters are doing now), whereas Amy was taught some other fishing. I don’t know fishing; it didn’t mean much to me, except there’s sisterly bonding, and some quiet weepiness about Mom and Dad, who are elsewhere and presumably zombie chum. “No crying in th boat.”  “Dad always said it scares the fish.” Sniff.

Cut to Old dude on Winnebago, whose name apparently is Dale. He’s watching some male member of the camp up on the ridge, chopping the hell out of the ground. He’s digging the hell out of some graves. Did someone die, I wonder? Ed, the archetypical woman-hating he-man that Shane beat the hell out of last episode? You can see what’s supposed to be Atlanta in the background. Huh. They’re a lot closer to the city than I thought they were.

Aaaand, we’re back in ATL, on the roof of the building Merle was chained to. Mmm. Handsaw blood. I mean, hacksaw and blood. And a hand. Merle’s hand.

There’s standoff between Little Redneck Brother and Rick with this discovery. Daryl draws down on Rick, and Rickget right back  right back up in Daryl’s face with his peni– I mean,his firearm. “I won’t hesitate. I don’t care if every walker in the city hears it,” says Rick, cool as dammit, as Daryl pants and looks all wild-eyed and desperate. Boy, Lil’ Redneck is a firecracker. But Rick is a flinty Southern Family Man. And a badass.

Daryl backs down, of course, but in a big WTF EW? Lil’ Redneck saves the hand, wrapping it almost tenderly in a clean blue handkerchief. Is he going to put it on ice? Because I don’t think there’s a lot of hope of sewing it back on, even if Big Redneck is still alive. Maybe he would throw it at a zombie as a distraction, in case he gets cornered. He sticks in it in Glenn’s backpack (without ASKING! Manners, people! A zombie apocalypse is no reason to be rude.) Glenn looks thrilled to be hauling around Merle’s severed hand on his back. I don’t blame him.

Dale’s precious tools, left behind last episode, are captured! YAY! Tools set us apart from animals. Kind of. Rick &  Company follow Merle’s blood trail.

Back to camp, and sweaty dude digging graves frantically. He is filthy, frenetic and looks a little psycho. Dale wants him to drink some water at least, but sweaty dude doesn’t say anything, and keeps on a-digging. Dale walks away, looking disturbed.

Back to Atlanta. AWESOME GROSS LADY ZOMBIE with guts coming out of mouth! POW. Arrow in the forehead! At least Daryl’s a good shot. The guys are still following Merle’s blood trail through the building; Merle’s managed to kill two zombies, even with a newly-minted hand-stump (which, yeah, is fairly impressive.)

Merle, I’d like you if you weren’t just a racist asshole, and isn’t that getting to be one of the themes of the show — at what point, if any, does survival competency trump social norms? When do people overlook values like fairness and equality in favor of not dying? Which characters will make what choices in this regard?

Lil’ Redneck keeps running his mouth, talking about how tough his bro is. And the guy did chop off his own hand, and, you know, NOT PASS OUT and lay there moaning for hours. I will give him the “Cutting off your own limb” cojones award. I get why little brother keeps yammering, because no matter how much of an impetuous, violent jerk Daryl is, he loves his asshole brother and is worried about him. Rick keeps giving him calm face, and saying sensible things to kinda cushion the blow, should Merle be dead.

Back at El Rancho Apocalyptico, the sisters come to camp with a whole mess o’ fish. Dale comes up to the group, all worried and sagacious-looking, and says, “I don’t want to alarm anyone but we may have a bit of a problem.” Yes, it appears that a member of our Merry Troupe is digging mass graves, quite possibly to stick our bodies in when his crazy hits critical mass, and he kills us all in our sleep tonight.

Back in the ATL:  A bloody belt and an open flame on a gas stove. It looks like ol’ Merle had the sense, and the sheer fucking pain tolerance, to cauterise his own hand. “What’s that burned stuff?” Daryl asks. Dinner, dumbass. No, Rick says, it’s your brother’s charred manflesh. Mmmm. That’s good eatin’. Merle’s left the building — no, really, broke out a window. T-Dog and Glenn are shocked and think it’s pretty stupid for him to be wandering the byways of Zombietown when he could pass out any minute. Daryl’s still pissed at them all, and sneers in Rick’s face “You couldn’t kill him. I ain’t so worried about some dumb dead bastard.” They are very close. Homoeroticism YAY.  Daryl’s gonna go after Merle, but Rick pushes him back. “Get your hands off me!” he snarls sexily, but Rick grabs him by his sweaty shirt, and pulls him clo — Um. Ok, that didn’t happen.

Rick lays some empathy (but nothing else, sigh) on Daryl, saying that he knows how he feels, Merle’s his family, and Rick walked through hell to get to his own — but they gotta stick together, man! Daryl appears to listen to this, but I get the feeling Lil’ Redneck is gonna stab Rick in the back.

Crazy grave digger, whose name is Jim, apparently is getting an intervention. From the most of the whole damn camp. Including the kids. Now, I see Shane and Dale going to talk to him, with a couple of capable adults for back-up, but why risk escalating the possible psycho mass-grave diggin’ dude by surrounding him and getting all up in his grille about the crazy?

Shane:“Why’re you diggin’?”

Dale: “It’s a hunnerd degrees out here. Don’t you want some water?”

Jim is silent and still digging like a badger on crank.Lori: ” They’re not going to say it, but I will. You’re scaring people. You scarin’ my son. And Carol’s daughter.” (Nice move, ladies, bring the scared kids real close to confront the guy they’re so afraid of.)

Jim: “They got nothing to be scared of. What the hell, people, I’m just out here by myself; why don’t y’all just go on and leave me the hell alone.” And as crazy as the mass grave digging is, he seems sincere, just exhausted, driven and kinda sad.

Shane keeps up with the reasonable, talkin’-to-crazy-people tone they teach you in cop school:

“We think you need to take a break, ok? Just take a break and give me the shovel.”

“Or what?”

“There is no “or what.” I don’t want to take it from you.”

And then Jim, in a moment of AWESOME, stops and looks at Shane: “And if I don’t, then you’re gonna beat my face in like Ed Pelletier, arentcha?” OOOHH, you go, Jim!  Shane looks ashamed. “Who voted you king boss?” Jim continues.”I’m not here to argue to with you.

SHOVEL FIGHT. Between Shane and Jim, of course, although it would be great if say, Dale and Carol started randomly beating each other with shovels. Shane takes Jim down, pretty easily and gently. (SHOVEL FIGHT consisted of Jim swinging his shovel at Shane’s head and missing.) Once Shane has Jim down, it turns out that Jim’s sad because the zombies ate his wife and kids. “The only reason I got away is because the dead were too busy eatin’ my family.” Everyone looks horrified. Dude. Let the man dig some holes. That’s some fucked-up trauma there, and there probably ain’t a large number of therapists certified in PTSD running around the Georgia woods.

Back at the office. Glenn wants to get the guns alone, and he’s got this map of the streets drawn on the floor, and is running down this well-thought-out plan with exits and backup plans, like something out of Sun Tzu and “The Art of War.” Good strategist. I thought he was just the archetypal geek, but maybe he was Army Intelligence or something. Lil’ Redneck looks at him with respect for the first time and is all “Hey kid, what you do before all this?”

Glenn: “Delivery of pizzas. Why?”

The plans are laid, Rick and T-Dog go off to be Plan B, and Daryl and Glenn head out. Daryl’s going to back-up Glenn with his crossbow, while Glenn makes a run for the guns.

Daryl: “You got some balls for a Chinaman.”

Glenn gives him the sidelong stinkeye: “I’m Korean.”

Daryl (of course):”Whatever.” And sadly, this prejudicilicious exchange actually indicates some fondness Daryl is gaining for Glenn. Glenn makes a run for the guns, snags them AND RICK’S HAT. That was so nice, Glenn!

All of a sudden, there’s some random skinny kid in the alley with Daryl, and he’s yelling “Don’t shoot me!” and something in Spanish, and Daryl’s like “Shut up! You’ll bring the geeks down on us!” which prompts a quick, hilarious mental image of either the Nerd Herd or a bunch of 1930’s circus freaks chowing down on chicken heads thronging through the alley, looking fer blood, man.

Daryl whacks on the kid, and then there’s some cholo-looking guys who start to beat on Daryl; Glenn runs up with the bag o’ weapons, the guys yell that he’s got the bag,  and then they hit Glenn, who drops the it. Daryl shoots one of the guys in the ass with his bow, but the dudes hustle Glenn into a car and drive off. Rick and T-Dog come pelting up. They collar the skinny kid, who has tats on his neck and says “puto;” ergo, Latino gang member, right?  HE’S A VATO!! GET IT?

Jim’s tied to a tree, while the kids do some homework and give him the occasional suspicious glance. Were there some kid-sized graves? I don’t know. I don’t blame the kids. Shane’s all nice to him, gives him some water, and Jim’s chilled out plenty. He apologizes to the kids for scaring them, and Dale asks Jim why he was digging all those graves; Jim looks all sad and tired.

“I had a reason. But I can’t remember.Somethin’ I dreamt, last night.”

He starts talking to Carl, Rick’s son, and Carl’s worried about his dad. No shit, Carl. Your dad has morals and a gun, and that’s a dangerous combination when the world starts coming to an end. Actuary tables give him til….oh, yesterday to live. Jim starts giving some reassuring talk about how awesome Rick is, and how tough, and how he’s not gonna let anything get in his way from coming back to Carl and his mama. Poor Jim. It sounds like he idolizes Rick a little, because Rick was able to do what Jim wasn’t able to do, i.e., keeping zombies from chawing down on his family. The kids get hauled away from the crazy guy tied to a tree to clean fish, which is the post-apocalyptic version of Wii or something.

Is Jim psychic? I haven’t read the graphic novels, so I don’t know anything other than what I see each week. But I’m thinking he’s either got some precog abilities, or is going to snap and massacre everyone from PTSD-inspired dreams tout de suite.

Rick and the boys are back at the Office of Strategy, interrogating the skinny kids about who took Glenn. The kid’s not saying much, until Daryl, in a truly inspired (yet fucked up and gross) move, says “Wanna see what happened to the last guy that pissed me off?” and he tosses his brother’s hand in the kid’s lap! The kid jumps like…well, like a dismembered, bloody hand just landed on his testicles, and takes them to his crew’s HQ, where he starts blathering about “Big G.” Turns out the kid runs with this crew, and Big G is Guillermo, el jefe, a real bad mother– SHUTYOURMOUTH!

Some big double doors to a warehouse open up to reveal Big G and a mess of badasses, all cholo’d out. Obviously, Rick and crew have run into the remnants of Atlanta’s Latin Kings or something, and they have Glenn. Everyone draws down on everyone, but Rick’s all cool — “We just want our man back, and you can have yours. Coo?” But Big G ain’t having that; he’s all, “Um, the hillbilly beats on my little cousin, says he’ll cut off his feet, and Felipe gets shot in the ass? Uh-huh.” Big G doesn’t agree to the switch, which doesn’t thrill the skinny kid much, and demands the guns. They argue about whose bag of guns it is, and G says why don’t we just take those guns now? Rick points out that T-Dog up there has a line on your head with a rifle, so suck it. Big G counters by having Glenn hauled out to the edge of the roof of the building, blooking scared shitless. Big G is cold as ice, and has the upper hand here. And he’s kinda funny in a dry way. Did I mention his crew outnumbers Rick’s by at least 10 guys, most with guns?

Rick et. al. back away, keeping skinny guy and go back, supposedly to get the guns. Daryl’s all, “Why are you going back for Glenn? Those guns are like gold; they’ll keep your family alive! What has he done for you?” or some such.

Rick’s all, “He rescued my hat.” No, he gives a stirring, yet low-key and manly speech about how Glenn saved his ass when he was just some dumbass in a tank. But he makes he clear he’s not giving up the guns, even though he is going after Glenn. Daryl and T-Dog agree to go with him. Oooh, Rick must have some well thought out plan, right, to take on a well-armed gang on their own turf? Yeah, well, this fabulous strategy turns out to be walking into the warehouse, weapons out and aimed, totally surrounded, and saying basically “You have your man, I want mine, but yer pryin’ these guns outta my cold, dead hands,” and Big G is all “I’m gonna chop up your boy and feed him to my bad-ass dogs, you dumb hijo de puta,” and everyone pulls outs guns and it’s looking like it’s gonna end up like Reservoir Dogs, when, I shit you not, some doddering old abuela comes wandering into the fracas, muttering about how Felipe needs to go and give someone medicine.

All the Latino guys are immediately rendered helpless, because one does not start shooting up shit when your grandma wanders in. Hispanic grandma’s rule the roost, man. No one fucks with Abuelita. Rick is all “BWUH?” Grandma thinks Rick is there to arrest Felipe (she’s in an elderly twilight, obviously) and asks him not to. Rick, as a Southern man, also is genetically prevented from drawing down on old ladies, and moreover, he’s a little puzzled at how the Latin Kings have a granny in PJ’s wandering around their purported casa del muerte. Rick says Felipe’s helping him look for Glenn, and Grandma’s all, “Oh, follow me then.” Big G is totally pwnd by granny.

Rick follows her through a garden, and then through what looks like a nursing home, replete with old residents being cared for. More and more puzzled, he continues to where a gaggle of old folks is surrounding this elderly dude having an asthma attack. Badass Felipe is giving him a breathing treatment. Glenn’s just standing there, unhurt and unrestrained, and T-Dog’s pissed: “Thought you were being eaten by dogs, man!” Glenn looks sardonically at three tiny yappy dogs nearby in a little dog bed.

Rick’s all “Dude. What the hell?” to Big G, and it turns out that Felipe was the custodian of the nursing home, Felipe was a nurse there, and when the staff abandoned the old folks when the zombification hit, they stayed. Other members of the crew started trickling in to check on their relatives and stayed on, forming a kind of Retirement Fortress. They thought Rick and crew were aggressive looters. “Appearances,” Big G says. Rick gets this stunned look on his face and has a total After-School Special Moment, when he’s all OMG, I just assumed they were criminals because they’re Mexican and dress like gangsters! I’ve been such a fool! T-Dog murmurs philosophically,”Guess the world changed,” to which Big G, replies, cynically and with great common sense, “No, it’s the same as it ever was. The weak get taken.”

Rick gives Big G some guns, and they hug and kiss and then there’s a fiesta and Daryl dances with the abuela, and….naw, man, they just left. They get back to where they left the van, joking about how they really came back to Atlanta for Rick’s hat… and the van’s not there. After a moment, they figure Merle found the van and is headed back to the camp. Daryl’s says “He’s gonna be takin’ some vengeance back to camp,” and to his credit, this prospect does not appear to fill him with glee.

Back at camp, Andrea’s looking for wrapping paper in Dale’s Winnebago, because Amy’s birthday is tomorrow. She’s got her a necklace. They’re getting ready for the fish fry, and Jim gets cut loose by Shane. There’s no hard feelings. Carol and her daughter try to get Ed, whose face is seriously messed up — Shane did some major damage there — to come to the fry. Ed’s pouting, but wants his daughter to stay and “keep him company.” Ew. Carol’s all “Hells naw!” and Ed rolls over and sulks, cause he got the shit whaled out of him because he likes to beat women.

Everyone’s chillaxin’ around the campfire, enjoying the fish fry, chatting. There’s some random chatter about the futility of marking time and Faulker-quoting by Dale.  Ed’s sleeping in his tent. We see a shadow on his tent’s wall, and  and some scratching, and of course, it’s Merle, with his stump dripping black blood, and vengeance in his heart!

Except it’s not. A zombie lurches at him and starts gnawing its bloody way into his neck. It’s a lady zombie, so there’s some poetic justice feminist payback for your misogyny, Ed. Or something.  Since the fish fry was such a big-fun party time, none of these dumbasses set up a perimeter guard, and the slow, shambling dead, who have the stealth skills of water buffalo tied to tin cans, march right into camp and start slaughtering people. Amy, off for a pee in the Winnebago, gets her birthday necklace, all right, except it’s a necklace of arterial blood.

Shane tries to keep the women ad children safe; he at least kept his gun to hand, even if he gets the Line of Duty Epic Fail for being the military guy in charge who forgot to set a guard because of some fucking fried fish. Andrea sees Amy get chomped, and runs over to her, freaking the fuck out, as well she might. Amy’s a goner, even without the gushing neck wound, because she’s been infected. I’m not sure how long it takes in this ‘verse for the dead to reanimate, but I do know my husband was flailing his hands around madly and screaming, “Get the fuck away! You idiot!” and generally being pissed off at Andrea’s stupidity. I had the same reaction; I understood why Andrea was distraught over her sister’s imminent demise (and she won’t live to see her BIRTHDAY! That just ain’t right! WAHHH, emotional manipulationcakes) but even if Amy wasn’t going to gasp out her last breath and then attach her teeth to her sister’s hovering face, Andrea was being dumb as hell for dropping to her knees and turning her back to a horde of fucking zombies.

Dale’s shooting, and Jim’s kicking some zombie ass with a stick or something, and Shane’s trying to herd everyone to the Winnebago, when Rick, Glenn, T-Dog  andDaryl run in and start deadeyeing the zombies. Just BAM BAM BAM and they start going down. Rick is terrified for his family, and once the zombies are all dead, runs to Carl, who is freaking right the hell out, and who can blame him. Shane looks horrified, slightly shamefaced and is still wildly jealous about Lori. Amy dies. The actress who plays Andrea does well with the ugly grief-face. Real grief isn’t pretty. The survivors stand in the carnage, numb, shocked.  Jim, with his profile to the night, face splattered with blood, says dreamily “I remember my dream now…why I dug the holes.”

And there we end, my friends! With two episodes left in this mini-season, I am having a hell of a good time with this show. Sure, it has its moments of WTFuckery, but they’re few and far between, and I appreciate a show that can kill off a bunch of people in the third episode, and really give you that feeling that, yes, the world as these characters (and the audience, by extension, since these people are US, basically) is gone. No one is safe. Any time you place people in a survival situation, the tension comes, yes, from will they or won’t they make it, but The Walking Dead is also more of a character drama, where tension also comes from seeing how people react, how the civilized facade that some people have sloughs off…or doesn’t.

Rick is the Everyman in this drama, and I feel that a lot of the development is going to come from seeing how he changes as he has to react to this new world. How well will his basically rule-oriented and moral nature deal with the pragmatic concerns that are likely to come at him? This ep starts to delve into that theme, and also the fact that preconceptions of people aren’t necessarily accurate. You can’t gauge who is going to have what skills or what motivations (Glenn, Big G and Felipe) that will allow them to to survive in this new/old world, or to act, well, human.

As long as it continues to be interesting, and of the quality it has been, I’ll be on the couch, yelling at the screen and enjoying myself.

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