S1:E4 For the past three episodes, The Walking Dead has been fairly easy on us. The group of survivors we've come to know have acted as an isolated group. It's been a fairly easy war to understand: the living versus the living dead. Now, it's time for Rick and company to realize they aren't the only ones. The show also spared us the anxiety of full-on zombie attacks and bouts of ravenous, flesh-snacking (at least in a brutal, up close and personal sort of way), but those times are over, as are the times when characters with actual names and plot lines are safe. Up until this episode, we’ve kind of assumed that everyone we’ve come to have an opinion about would escape in the end (even Merle) but in episode 4, it gets real. Zombies don’t care if you have a storyline, dudes; all they care about is your tasty, tasty flesh.
The episode opens on Amy and Andrea fishing on the lake, reminiscing over how their father taught them to fish. When Andrea was a kid, they were fishing for dinner but when Amy was a kid, her father taught them to throw the fish they caught back. When they realize that their father catered his lessons to his daughters’ distinct personalities, they weep together and Amy asks about Florida and if it’s a better place. It’s almost like she’s talking about heaven instead of another state. Then the camera pans up to the camp, where a few survivors are keeping watch and another digs a slew of unmarked graves. Foreshadowing, anyone?
In Atlanta, Rick and crew are still on the roof. Merle’s brother threatens T-Dog with a crossbow in anger over Merle’s disappearance and Rick aims his silver pistol at Daryl, threatening to end him if he pulls the trigger. Daryl puts it down, wraps Merle’s hand in a handkerchief, and seems to regain his ability to think rationally. They follow the trail of blood spackles that dripped from Merle’s severed wrist in an attempt to find him, screaming his name as they walk down the stair well. Have they learned nothing? You don’t walk into a blind situation and make a ton of noise, that’s a death sentence in city overrun by walkers. Luckily for them, Merle managed to mow down most of the walkers lurking in the building (not that much of a surprise; the man cut off his own hand, I think he can handle a few groaning green guys), save for one undead girl whose entrails are drooping out of her mouth as she groans towards them before taking an arrow between the eyes. The trail leads into a kitchen where they find evidence of homemade wound cauterizing – the guy may have rage and tolerance issues, but he knows what he’s doing. They realize that Merle probably left the building, this of course starts another fight between Daryl and Rick over how to proceed. Daryl’s clouded by his anger bur Rick assures him the only way to success is if they calm down and work together.
Andrea and Amy bring back quite a catch; enough fish for the entire camp. Dale comes back to camp and tells everyone about the gravedigger, Jim. He sees no problem with his chosen activity, but Lori points out that it’s scaring the kids. Is he digging graves in anticipation of more walkers reaching the camp? Shane tells him to stop but Jim throws Shane’s violent incident from the last episode (beating Ed to a pulp) in his face. Shane subdues him and forces Jim to take a break from his disturbing activity.
Rick and company set a plan to venture outside into the city streets to find Merle and Rick’s bag of ammunition. We find out (those of us who haven’t read the books, anyway) that Glenn used to be a pizza delivery boy, and all jokes aside, the guy knows Atlanta like the back of his hand. Glenn and Daryl are chose to venture into the streets to grab the guns, but walkers aren’t their only obstacle. Glenn grabs the bag but not before more survivors find Daryl – and they aren’t so friendly. They grab Glenn and the guns after they beat Daryl with baseball bats (and he’s miraculously able to stand up immediately) and jump into a get-away car as walkers swarm the street. Daryl manages to close the gate to the alley just as Rick and the others run out to see what all the noise was about. Here’s a bit of “reality” for you, if you regular joes found a way to survive, don’t you think that there would be other groups too? I wouldn’t have guessed they’d be violent gangsters, but that’s why this show is great. The walkers are just the assumed backdrop for the real drama between the survivors as they learn how to navigate the world they’ve been thrust into.
Back at camp, Shane has tied Jim to a tree because he fears Jim’s putting the camp in danger. Jim blames his behavior on sunstroke, but Dale needs to know why he was digging. Jim says he had a bad dream, but he can’t remember it. He asks Carl if he’s worried about his dad and continues saying he’s got a feeling about Rick. He’s “tough as nails” and there’s nothing that will keep him from making it back to the camp. Lori stops to talk to Jim and it’s clear that he’s not divulging his whole dream; he tells her to keep Carl close. It must have been one hell of a dream.
Daryl brings back one of the gangsters (the one who acted a whistleblower) to their hiding spot and threatens the scared pipsqueak with torture. The kid wisely chooses to lead them to Guierrmo’s camp (head of the survivor gang) and they walk in with guns raised. Rick tries to negotiate a trade: the young gangster for Glenn. Of course it’s not that easy. (Cue the worst acting I’ve seen on the show thus far.) Guierrmo wants the bag of guns from the street and two of his goons hold Glenn at the edge of the roof, threatening to drop him. Guierrmo says they’ll be no trade unless they come back with the bag of guns. He gives Rick two options: come back and turn the guns over or come back and armed and ready to spill some blood.
Daryl and T-Dog don’t trust Guierrmo and suggest leaving Glenn because they don’t know think he’ll actually keep his end of the bargain. Rick isn’t swayed; he owes his life to Glenn. He tells them they can leave, but they stay with him and charge the gang of survivors, guns raised (Rick’s determined to keep the guns since they were his to begin with). Guierrmo is not pleased with their choice and says he’ll chop Glenn into a million pieces. As he voices the threat, Rick looks like he’ll blow a hole in Guierrmo’s head with a shotgun right then and there, but just then a little old lady comes running out asking her grandson to stop the violence and asking Rick (who’s donning his cop uniform) not to arrest her grandson. She kindly leads Rick to Glenn, where he’s been helping a group of elderly people. It turns out the whole gang operation is actually a front to protect an abandoned old folks home. Guierrmo was the custodian and Felix was a caretaker, and they selflessly work to protect the elderly and their supplies. Now that Rick knows the truth, he divides the guns, leaving half for the set at the old folks home. Glenn thinks it was a dumb idea, they won’t last long there, but Rick rationalizes that they don’t really know how long any of them will last. They return to the spot where they left the van, but it’s gone. Daryl says Merle took it and that he’ll be returning to the camp with a hell of a lot of vengeance. Rick is naturally concerned, he’s not sure what Merle will do, but he only just got his family back and now danger is headed right for them.
Andrea’s digging through Dale’s RV looking for any shred of wrapping paper. It’s almost Amy’s birthday and she’s determined to keep things as normal as possible, refusing to give a gift unwrapped. The camp has a community fish fry and Ed’s daughter brings him some food in his tent – his face is still bruised, yellowing and scabby. Around the campfire, a couple of the survivors mock Dale for continuing to keep track of time and dates. It’s the end of the world, what does he need to keep track for? He quotes William Faulkner (or tries to), using a bit about how keeping track of time allows you to waste less time worrying about it. Amy runs off to go to the bathroom by herself – never a good idea. On cue, the two people without chaperones or buddies – Ed and Amy – are attacked by walkers, who gnaw into their flesh ripping through skin and allowing the blood to drain all over their faces and their victims. Just then Rick and company arrive from Atlanta with ammunition and blow the brains out of the walkers (seriously, mushy brains spewing everywhere) as they swarm the camp. Another great thing about this show is that no two walkers are the same; the creators are a little more imaginative. Instead of droves of matching “Thriller” cast members, the walkers range from almost human looking and clothed, to those with decaying faces and body parts, to naked, emaciated Skeletors, but they all have the fierce hunger for human flesh.
After successfully taking out walkers, Rick finds Carl and Lori and Andrea stays with Amy, crying uncontrollably as the vicious bite wound on her neck claims Amy’s life. Suddenly Jim remembers his dream and why he dug the holes as the camera pans over the camp, showing the piles of bodies cluttering the hillside camp. Maybe Jim should start keeping track of these sorts of dreams before he forgets them; premonitions are no good if you don’t use them as a warning.