My usual day-after Walking Dead piece, in which I document the grossest moments of the hour, isn’t exactly relevant to last night’s finale, the clean, clinical and almost zombie-less “TS-19.” Yes, we are all heartbroken about the loss of another Grossest Moments slideshow, but we will get through this together. Like Grimes said, there is always hope.
But once Grimes and gang entered the Hatch CDC for their all-important hot showers and brainscan-lessons, was there really hope for last night’s episode as an exciting finale to the (too-short) first season of The Walking Dead? Nope. Nah. Not really. Sorry. As far as “final episodes of my new favorite zombie apocalypse TV show, The Walking Dead” go, this one was definitely my least favorite so far. It had its moments, but it was mostly, as Glenn would say, “such a buzzkill, man.”
If you haven’t watched “TS-19,” stop reading now, because I’m about to spoiler all over the place.
I understand that in the universe of The Walking Dead, nobody here had ever heard of a zombie before this apocalypse occurred. Zombies as a cultural phenomenon do not exist for these people. That’s why they call the undead “walkers” and “geeks,” and nobody is ever like, “Oh, don’t worry, you guys. I know what is happening. It’s called zombie apocalypse. I’ve seen Shaun of the Dead like 500 times. Got it on Blueray. Follow me.” That would just be SILLY.
But you know what else is silly? How we were supposed to be surprised and appalled when Dr. Jenner (whom we should probably just call Dr. Downer, RIP) made his big reveal to the group about how the human brain dies when it turns into a zombie. “When one becomes undead, it’s like being dead, but just slightly more … un.” We get it. If this whole lecture was actually leading to a big revelation about how the epidemic started (Dr. Downer: “Bacteria? Virus? Hell if I know, honestly.”) or how it could be stopped (Dr. Downer: “I got nothing. Not even a theory. More wine, anybody?”) this little lesson about synapses may have worked for emotional build-up. Instead, all it did was build up to the non-surprising, non-relevant news that TS-19 was Dr. Downer’s wife.
On the plus side, I did like Dr. Downer’s little speech about how she was way smarter and better at science than he is. But honestly, after watching him cryptically flounder around for the better part of the hour, feeling sorry for himself and forcing the computer to answer even the group’s most basic questions about what the hell was going on around there, it wasn’t hard to believe that ANYBODY is better at science than Dr. Jenner.
There’s no way of knowing how any of us would react to the trauma and stress of surviving a zombie apocalypse, but I spent the better part of “TS-19” feeling frustrated with the way almost everyone was reacting to almost everything:
- Like Dr. Jenner deciding to lock a bunch of clueless men, women and children inside an oven that was set to explode in an hour, and refusing to answer their questions about that.
- Like everyone getting so monumentally wasted and carrying bottles of wine around like the CDC is their freshman dorm–and Dr. Jenner letting them do it! “Maybe if they’re drunk they won’t notice the huge red clock counting down to our collective demise. Because if there’s one thing that is important to me, it is leaving this world as a mass murderer due to my withholding vital information until the last possible second.”
- Shane is starting to lay it on so thick with the hints about his and Lorrie’s affair to the point that we must now conclude that Grimes, our hero, is more than a tad bit slow. (Grimes: “Oh, weird scratches on your face, Shane. I’ve never seen you do that before. You must have dreamed you were a tiger! Why are you always looking at my wife that way? No, you know what, clearly not imporant. More wine!”)
- Where the crap is Merle? And why doesn’t Daryl care anymore?
- And Morgan and his son? Remember them? The Walking Dead doesn’t.
- We’re all sad about Amy, Andrea. But at a certain point (I think it’s the 2-day mark) your debilitating sorrow becomes self-indulgent and obnoxious. EVERYBODY’S EVERYBODY DIED. You don’t see them hugging their knees in the shower and quietly resigning to suicide and being such a total Andrea about it.
- Speaking of showers: If you didn’t laugh at Shane melodramatically drinking wine straight out of the bottle during his, then get your brain scanned, because maybe it’s undead.
- Ed’s wife was keeping Grimes’ grenade in her purse the whole time? THE WHOLE TIME? What a terribly unsafe and weirdly secretive decision for a mother to make. “Here, I’ll just keep this sensitive explosive safe and warm next to my checkbook and not tell anybody about it. Just in case!” Deus ex machinas in zombie apocalypse scenarios are, by definition, allowed to get pretty implausible, but they probably shouldn’t make me laugh so hard.
- Whoever programmed the CDC’s end-of-days decontamination protocol clearly majored in Overkill at Drama Queen University. I understand that The Walking Dead wanted to “go out with a bang” for season 1, but watching a building self-destruct in such a massively overzealous way made me go out with a laugh, not a gasp. It was such an obvious “wipe the slate clean, go back to square one” move that made all that time we just spent inside the CDC effectively useless. They didn’t learn anything. They didn’t gain anything. All they did was lose Jacqui (RIP Jacqui!) and get hangovers. It’s hard to imagine that even Grimes believed it when he said there’s always hope. The CDC building clearly disagreed, and it knows everything!
With all the time it spent on wine and hot showers and the withholding of vital information for dramatic but illogical reasons, “TS-19” felt more like a middle-of-the-season, catch-your-breath-and-regroup sort of episode, not a final episode in an otherwise impressive first chapter. Not that I can blame the series for that–six episodes simply isn’t enough time to build up to a finale.
For all my sarcastic nit-picking, I still think The Walking Dead is one of the best new series of the year, and I have reserves of hope stored up for season 2. Maybe a clean slate isn’t a bad thing. I actually prefer it to spending more time with Dr. Downer in the CDC. Still, all these character problems in “TS-19” left me less curious than I’d like to be about the season’s final questions: Where will Grimes and his gang go now? What did Dr. Jenner whispered to Rick? Will Rick ever find out about Shane and Lorrie? I care, and I will tune in The Walking Dead season 2 in late 2011 to find out. But I’m feeling a little bit Andrea about it.
What did you think of “TS-19”? Did you like it more than I did?
What do you hope to see in The Walking Dead season 2? Theories on what’s to come in 2011?
(Image courtesy of AMC)