This week’s episode seemed more subdued compared to last week’s fest of grotesquerie. Considering the majority of the episode focused on the human emotions of the camp and their dynamics it was a more cerebral episode with a distinct lack of zombies. In fact aside from two scenes there was little mention of the “geeks” this week which was interesting but did make the episode feel a bit depressing.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) comes back to Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and his son Carl but it ends up putting Shane (Jon Bernthal) in a tight spot. Rick also learns about Merle’s (Michael Rooker) crazy brother Daryl (Norman Reedus) who insists the group goes back to save him. The rest of the camp is introduced Ed (Adam Minarovich) and his abused wife Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride).
Tonight’s episode, entitled “Tell It to the Frogs,” had the most unsettling opening of the series. Opening up with Merle talking to himself, he has a moment of remorse when the zombies start opening the door and begins to pray. Unfortunately Merle knows it’s all moot to him and starts cursing God while trying to reach for a knife. The tension between Merle, switching from praying to condemn God, and the zombies opening the door is frightening because anyone in that situation would feel just as helpless. Yes in last week’s episode Merle was a jerk but I doubt anyone would wish the fate of waiting to die at the hand of a zombie horde on their worst enemy. A frightening and fantastic opening that really sets the mood despite the lack of zombies in this episode. As for the rest of the episode it focused, quite literally, on the human element of the series. With Rick settling into the camp and reuniting with his family, you see how despite their safety the camp members are all unhappy. From the division of labor being foisted on the women, to Lori realizing that Shane lied to her about Rick’s death, everyone has some secret pain they’re forced to confront along with the zombie apocalypse. Shane and his bonding with Carl was also sweet and interesting to watch because regardless of his lies Shane truly loves Carl and Lori which should lead to an explosive showdown once Rick learns the truth about their relationship. The rest of the episode focused on introducing the rest of the group and seeing the Lord of the Flies aspect that’s bubbling. The ending, culminating with Shane taking his frustration out on Ed and the reveal of Merle’s death, was just the tip of the iceberg and expect a lot more to boil over in the coming weeks.
“Tell It to the Frogs” might not entice fans of the zombie genre just because of the lack of the title characters. The opening and the zombies eating a deer are the extent of them this week, more to focus on the characters, and that does seem to make the series slow down. Yes it’s nice to meet the rest of the group but with no zombie presence it’s hard to feel their fear and frustration aside from just disagreeing with each other.
This week was by no means a terrible episode; I’d consider it a stellar achievement in the show’s writing and presentation of drama. The problem is the lack of actual “walking dead” which is the selling point of the series. With only three episodes left in season one it’ll be fun to see who learns the true secrets in the group and how they plan to square everything up.