You may not be aware of this, but Fear the Walking Dead didn’t air last weekend. I guess that was the only way they could think of to make the unfolding end of civilization happen a little slower. What’s a recapper to do?
I seriously thought about just making up an episode and seeing if I fooled anyone, by the way. There was gonna be fireworks and a scene at a candy factory and some porn gone horribly wrong.
Nah. Instead– because God forbid I give up my prime Saturday morning posting position just because the show I’m recapping didn’t actually air— I thought I’d go back and watch the series premiere of The Walking Dead again and recap that. So. Here we go.
We open on… a road. A cop car drives up. There’s a car, flipped over. And also the front part of a big rig. The.. uh… rig, I guess. A cop gets out and puts on his hat, then grabs a gas can.
More cars. These aren’t so much flipped over as set on fire, and I’m abruptly reminded of how easy it is to flip cars over in this show.
The cop keeps looking for gas, and finds what looks like the remains of a big camp instead. There are mouldering bodies inside of a couple of cars. (Knowing what I know now, I look– and both of them have a clear head wound.)
NO GAS, says a helpful sign on the nearby gas station.
(This is all delivered over damn near complete silence, by the way, to the point where I make sure the speakers on my computer are working– I use a really clicky keyboard.)
The cop looks under a car for some reason, and sees a pair of feet shuffle by. The feet stop near a teddy bear, and the little girl (it’s obviously a little girl) bends over to pick the teddy bear up. For, uh, reasons.
The cop– screw it, we all know it’s Rick– comes out of hiding.
“Little girl?” he says. “I’m a policeman.” “Don’t be afraid, okay?”
Leaving aside her somewhat un-zombielike shuffle and the teddy bear thing, it’s a really effective reveal. It was the first episode; I’ll allow it.
He lets her get within a few feet, backing up the whole time, before he puts a bullet in her head. And you can see it in his eyes: the first little bit of Rick Grimes’ soul has just died.
We come back to two Georgia cops eating lunch in their car and complaining about women. Hi, Shane! Turns out he was always a misogynist asshole, as he’s griping about either his girlfriend or his wife. Shane tries really hard to get Rick to gripe about his wife, a temptation he almost manages to resist for all of a minute or two before waah waah she’s always mad at me comes out.
I gotta admit it, though, they’re sort of adorable in a pre-post-apocalyptic sort of way. Anyway, they get a call and off they go.
Amazingly, the show has actually resisted making the two criminals they’re after be black. Rick and Shane hop out of their car and toss a spike strip across the road, then back up. They meet two other cops and get ready to shoot somebody.
The car hits the strips and flips insanely, making me feel like maybe spike strips ought to be illegal even given Hollywood intervention. The first suspect inside crawls out and manages to put a bullet into Rick before getting the hell shot out of him. The second comes out and doesn’t get anybody before he gets shot.
There’s a black cop, by the way, and I’m amazed that they resist the urge to kill him off. Rick’s busy insisting he’s fine when the third guy they didn’t know about gets out of the car and shoots him. This time it’s bad, and the screen fades to white. Hallucinatory images of Shane talking about flowers. And boom, he’s awake. And he does not look good.
Rick yammers insanely about vases and spoon collections and then calls for Shane. Shane ain’t there. I try not to read anything into him calling for Shane and not Lori or Carl. The flowers are dead. Rick’s a bit confused. The clock on the wall is stopped. (Really? Those batteries last a long time.)
Naturally, he tries to stand up, which doesn’t go well, then tries to call for a nurse, which also doesn’t go well, and in the next shot he’s managed to figure out walking and is hungrily gulping water from the still-running faucet in the bathroom. He gets into the hallway, which… uh… has seen better days. He staggers down the hallway and finds a phone; no luck. The power’s still on, by the way, at least in some places, although a moment later he’s lighting a match for some reason.
There’s a mostly-eaten corpse on the floor behind a door. Showing uncommon sense, he does not approach the body (which, btw, appears to lack a head wound) and instead goes the other way.
There’s a lot of blood on the floor the other way. And the most famous bad typography in TV history:
The door, chained shut, starts moving slowly. Then not so slowly. Then the hands start coming through. Zombies’ fingernails keep growing, apparently.
Rick, now in full panic, flees. Into the emergency stairs, which may not have been super bright and where the lights are out. He makes it downstairs by matchlight.
The parking lot outside is full of bodies. All wrapped in sheets. And all with head wounds. The flies are everywhere. Rick’s out of his damn mind. We get a long shot. There are hundreds of them. And the hospital has been attacked. Rick flees into a nearby field, discovering an abandoned helicopter and then a military encampment. And it becomes clear that rockets or grenades were used on the hospital at some point.
Later, he’s barefoot and still walking. There’s a body nearby. An old woman, with no legs. Which rolls over and starts crawling toward him. It’s another iconic moment– the first actual zombie he’s seen– and he steals the bike and flees.
He gets home. Nobody’s there, but there’s evidence of packing and no blood anywhere.
Carl is not in the house.
Back outside again, and there’s another person walking around. He waves. While he’s waving, another shape approaches behind him. And then whacks him in the face with a shovel. It’s a little kid, who crows to Dad that he got him.
Dad shoots the other person in the head– that one was a walker– and then interrogates Rick about how he was wounded. Rick, completely gone at this point, passes out instead of answering. Hi, Morgan! Commercial break, and Rick wakes up in bed. Morgan’s son is nearby holding a bat, and Rick’s tied to the bed.
Morgan’s back to interrogating Rick about whether he was bitten, which makes no sense to Rick at all. Morgan checks him for a fever, which he doesn’t appear to have, then shoves a knife in his face and threatens him a bit and then cuts him loose.
“Come on out when you’re able,” Morgan says to him.
I skip over a couple of minutes of exposition. I assume everybody knows about the zombie apocalypse by now, yes?
(One interesting detail: this is not Morgan’s house. They just found the place empty.)
They’re sitting in the dark talking, Rick still wearing a blanket (dude, there are clothes in that house somewhere) and a car alarm goes off outside. They look out the window, and there are dozens of them walking around outside.
“She’s here,” Duane says, and promptly loses his shit, just as a black female Walker comes up the steps and looks in the peephole, then tries the door. This aspect of early Walkerdom– the idea that they haven’t quite lost their humanity yet– has been completely abandoned, near as I can tell. Morgan sobs to Rick about how he should have put her down. There is also no mention of a widespread flu prior to the apocalypse; you’d think this might have come up. He talks about fever, but he’s talking about after being bit. Meanwhile, she’s still fiddling with the door.
The next morning, Rick beats his first walker to death with a bat. I guess he convinced himself they weren’t alive any more. He hits the ground afterwards, but he recovers quickly. They raid his house, and Rick notices that photos and other items are missing that likely wouldn’t have been taken by random thieves. Not missing, though: keys to the police station, which still has running water. Running warm water. Which makes everyone terribly happy. Rick and Morgan discuss heading to Atlanta. Then they grab some guns.
Outside, it becomes clear quickly that Rick’s heading for Atlanta, and Morgan and Duane are on their own again. Rick gives Morgan a radio, then realizes he recognizes a stray walker nearby. He shoots him in the head, then they both drive off before the shot attracts more.
Rick goes looking for the walker from where he took the bike. Morgan goes upstairs, telling Duane to read his comics, and spends some time looking through family photos. He tapes a glamour shot of his wife to a window then sets up a sniper’s nest with one of the rifles Rick gave him.
Rick finds the half-walker. Morgan shoots a couple of zombies for practice. Duane panics at the first shot, but Morgan tells him to stay downstairs. (Maybe you tell your kid before you go upstairs and start shooting guns, Morgan. This is kinda mean.)
“I’m sorry this happened to you,” Rick says to the walker, and kills her.
Morgan finds his wife in the crowd, and can’t pull the trigger. She makes eye contact with him. She’s breathing. That’s… odd. Do they always breathe? I guess they do, to make that zombie sound they make. He tries to shoot her again and can’t make himself do it. His wife walks away.
(If you ask me, the episode should have ended here. But it doesn’t.)
Rick’s driving through the countryside talking on his radio, trying to reach anyone, but… is he not listening for answers, or what? Because hi, Dale! Hi, Andrea’s sister whose name I don’t remember! They have a radio and they’re super excited to hear somebody.
Well, that was damn lucky, as Shane’s right there, along with Lori and Carl, although I don’t think we’re supposed to know that yet. They all talk about warning people away from the city. Lori thinks they should be putting signs along the highway. Shane snaps back that nobody goes anywhere alone, and they sneak off to argue inside a tent.
Man, Shane really was a dick from the beginning. I remember The Crazy taking over with him in Season Two, but it’s clear from the first episode what he is. After the yelling, there’s kissing. Eew. Carl, naturally, isn’t where they want him to be, and didn’t stay where Shane told him to be, so he interrupts them.
A moment later, Rick finds a picture of his wife and son– wait, that was his car? That feels suspicious– and new viewers get clued in that his wife and partner, while not precisely cheating on him, certainly don’t seem to miss him very much.
The episode’s now caught up with the flashback, as Rick finds a house and tries to find some gas. He’s not nearly as careful as he will be soon. Not that he needs to be, as everyone inside is all kinds of gross and dead in what looks like a murder-suicide. It’s bad even for this show. “GOD FORGIVE US” is scrawled on the wall in, presumably, the wife’s blood.
He doesn’t go inside. He finds a horse, though. He has a nice, calm conversation with the horse, proving that Daryl wasn’t the show’s first horse whisperer after all. Not that this one’s going to have any better of a time belonging to a character on this show.
The horse gallops off into the distance, Rick trying his best to calm it down. At least he’s staying on its back. A moment later, they’re outside Atlanta, and… well, Atlanta hasn’t had a good time.
(Incidentally, as much as I love the image above, no way people don’t start driving the wrong way on the highway. Nobody cares about traffic laws during the pre-post-apocalypse.)
Helicopters. Broken cars. Scattered military equipment. Un-headshot dead bodies oh wait those are walkers. Rick decides to just ride off rather than kill them.
There are a few more.
There’s a tank.
And there’s a few more zombies. And some hungry crows.
And then there’s an actual helicopter, being flown by a person. Rick “heeyahs” the horse into motion, like, dude, it’s in the sky, you’re not gonna catch it.
And then there are all the zombies.
And then there’s no more horse, and Rick somehow manages to get away, what with the zombies having hundreds of pounds of horsemeat to eat, and he’s lost the guns, and he manages to get under the tank, which maybe wasn’t the best decision ever.
The actors on this show really don’t know how to zombie yet, by the way.
“Lori, Carl, I’m sorry,” he says to himself, pointing a gun at his head, and then notices the open hatch in the bottom of the tank. There’s a hatch in the bottom of the tank? Is that how tanks work? Suddenly suicide isn’t such a good idea.
Good news: the zombie in the tank has a gun! Bad news: the zombie in the tank is a zombie! Rick shoots it, and damn near goes deaf from the loud sound in such an enclosed area. Then he’s dumb enough to climb out the top of the tank, which the zombies notice, believe it or not. And this guy’s out there staring at him, and I swear to God I found this image by Googling “that one zombie from the first episode of walking dead.” First five images. I swear.
And then he’s back in the tank, and he’s having a Very Serious I Done Screwed Up moment, and then there’s a voice over the radio, because the radio’s still on.
“Hey. Dumbass. Yeah, you in the tank. You cozy in there?” Hi, Glenn!
The episode ends over a bunch of zombies enjoying some horsemeat. Gross, guys. There’s also jaunty music playing. This song, in fact.
Yes, that’s right. The first episode of The Walking Dead ended with a Wang Chung song.