It’s mentioned in this episode that the group needs “time to mourn” after the horrific attack from last week that left the lovely Amy (Emma Bell) dead. This week’s episode, entitled “Wildfire,” is a mournful episode as the events that will propel the series into its first finale were laid down. The majority of the group we know went their separate ways, another life was lost, and a whole new world was opened with the final seconds involving the Center for Disease Control. “Wildfire” is a rather slow and simmering episode but it packed a wallop that will set up events for an explosive finale.
Andrea (Laurie Holden) attempts to cope with Amy’s death and whether she’ll have the strength to kill her sister before she reanimates. Shane (Jon Berenthal) blames Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) absence as the reason why so many died. It’s discovered Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) was bit in last week’s attack and his fate becomes a debate between two factions. In the end Rick and a small group of survivors decide to make a last-ditch trip to the CDC looking for help.
When this episode got down to the nitty gritty there was no way to look away. The big events of this episode involved Amy’s death, Jim’s bite and the trip to Atlanta making everything else a slow meditation on what to do in the long-term. The camp became highly divided into the “burn everyone” camp led by Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the “save the living” led by Rick. This concept permeated the whole episode because so many of the living were flirting with the undead, namely Andrea and Amy and Jim. At the end of this episode the concept of “us vs. them” permeated over to the unknown man at the CDC who didn’t want to save the group. The camp’s divisions were well-written and though out as the group realized they’ve lost their humanity as much as the undead and they needed to be able to rise above. The strongest story was Jim as the clairvoyant of the group coped with becoming the soon-to-be undead. His moments of insanity and seeing the dead were disturbing and terrifying as you’re literally watching him realize he’ll die soon. It would have been interesting to explore it more but it was just enough to make you feel terrible for Jim. The other amazing element of this episode was the introduction of Jenner (I believe that’s his name as IMDB doesn’t list him) working at the CDC. As the lone man trying to find a cure you see elements of similar characters from I Am Legend, Sunshine and Moon in him. His resolution to “blow my brains” was eerie and even more disturbing when he hesitates on saving the group. It looks like his has some ulterior motives if next week’s scenes say anything but his storyline looks to be good fun.
The only issue I have was how quickly everyone moved on from the attack. Yes we spend a lot of time with Amy and Andrea along with seeing Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) cope with her husband’s death but when the group split up I didn’t feel bad to see the lesser characters leave. Also it felt a bit hackneyed to spend so much of last week’s episode to Jim’s premonitions only to kill him off. It hearkens back to my gripe about the introduction of the Andrea/Amy storyline that also culminated in a death.
All in all Wildfire offered up everything we want before a season finale. The episode set up a slew of good storylines, introduced a unique character, and cut out everyone but the core survivors that we’ll probably be seeing next season. I wish a bit more time had been developed to Jim but looks like we’ll have to settle for a great death scene. Here comes the finale!