“Hope, like the gleaming taper’s light adorns and cheers our way; And still, as darker grows the night, emits a brighter ray.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith
There are a couple of things that separate us from the animals. One of those vital things keeps us from rolling over and accepting fate. It keeps families together and armies strong. It turns average men into heroes. It’s Hope. As Václav Havel says in Disturbing the Peace, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” The clear message in The Walking Dead‘s Season 1 Finale was that hope is what keeps us together and makes us strong.
While “TS-19” had all the elements one looks for in a season finale, it had an overall feel of a series finale. You can tell that AMC wasn’t sure how the series would be received by viewers, and the writers and director decided to give the 6-episode first season a nice, neat ending- just in case. We are given a few things to mull over and a few storyline cliffhangers to pine over, though. Without giving too much away, the writers gave us some info on the zombie virus. After an infected person dies, the virus begins firing electrical impulses in the brain (after a variable amount of time) and brings it “back to life.” Actually, it only reanimates the spinal cord, giving the undead the most basic of functions and abilities. Mostly they are running on instinct and basic human habits. This brings up an interesting question: Are the zombies really dead since the body has to expire in order for the virus to begin working? Or are the zombies ‘alive’ since the virus reanimates the spinal cord areas of the brain? Personally, I don’t find the origin of the virus or it’s details to be a necessary avenue for exploration, since that’s not what the series is about – but it’s still interesting to say the least. (continued…)
“TS-19” gives us more on the Shane-Lori-Rick love triangle, and promises some hairy events to come. Shane (drunk) tries to force himself on Lori, hurt that she isn’t considering his feeling in this whole mess. If you remember his conversation with Rick in the first episode, Shane is a man who doesn’t give up what he feels is rightfully his, and is just a little misogynistic, to boot. The foreshadowing is spot on to lead up to the epic conclusion of this arc. Can you imagine how Rick is going to feel when he finds out that his buddy not only left him for dead (as we saw in a fantastic opening-scene flashback), but moved in on his wife, and then tried to force her to have sex after his return? I am liking the fact that Kirkman and Darabont are fleshing out this arc and giving it more room to grow. Really, “Shane” from this point on is a complete wild-card character. He has made it past a series of events that occurred in the comic, so season 2 will allow him to add many new angles to the triangle and give us a ton of juicy episodes.
Darabont and the crew thinned the herd just a little more in “TS-19.” This time it is Jacqui that ends up leaving our group of survivors. When Jenner tells everyone that the building will explode in less than an hour, Jacqui decides to stay behind to have control over when and how she dies – which I think is totally understandable. I thought that Darabont was about to do the unthinkable and kill off Andrea and Dale as well! It would have been a ballsy move, proving to the audience that no one on this show is safe – and it would have pissed off all the fanboys. Thankfully, that was not the case. Those two have many more important roles to fill as the story progresses. I keep wondering how long they will let T-Dog stick around. I hope they haven’t decided to use him as a replacement for another black lead character that has yet to be introduced. This brings me to Daryl (Norman Reedus), our cute and feisty brother to Merle. His is the only new character that I actually really like. Reedus brings a little something special to Daryl – making him very physical, and a survivor at heart. He may be a redneck, but by God he’s sure likable. Hopefully he’ll be around for a while.
This week’s episode was brought to us by Booze. That’s right – every survivor was drinking from the moment they were let into the CDC to the moment they ran out screaming. While many real survivalists may disagree, I think that it brought a nice touch of realism to the final episode. If you felt totally secure and able to relax for the first time in months – and you were offered cases of free alcohol – don’t you think you’d get pretty lit? Well, these guys did. It gave Shane an excuse to rough up Lori, and Rick a chance to show us another side of his personality. With less than half a bottle of the ‘hard stuff’ sloshing in his hand, Rick opens up and finally shows that he isn’t Officer Friendly through and through. He’s scared to death and just as real and human as all the others. Rick is a character that shouldn’t be painted into a personality corner right away by viewers. There is much more to come from his character. (continued…)
Even with all these really great little tidbits that dabble into the various subplots and story arcs, “TS-19” is still pretty neat and clean. It offered up some meagerly satisfactory open-ended conclusions, and was light on the big cliffhangers. The biggest moment from the finale that will keep forums buzzing for the next ten and a half months has to do with a little secret exchange. Jenner whispers something into Ricks ear before the survivors take off. Rick gives no facial response for us to draw conclusions. Was it a promise of hope? A warning of doom? Had he overheard Shane and Lori’s scuffle, or did he reveal the true secret about the virus that us comic nerds endear so much?
The six-episode first season really felt like one long pilot – with very little ground covered and issues that have only scratched the surface of their potential. While to some this may be disappointing, to me it seems more like a fantastic and fun way to introduce a long-lasting TV series that has miles to go and years to grow. I look forward to seeing where Darabont and Kirkman will take the series next and how they will strive to surprise the comic nerds. The Walking Dead is a lesson in hope and humanity that throws in thrills, chills, and some serious drama – and I hope they keep it that way.
I know I’ve been giving a rating for each episode so far, but I think for the finale, I’ll just rate the entire first season as a whole.
I give The Walking Dead Season One 5 “Awesome Zombies” out of 5.