“Got bit. Fever hit. World turned to shit. Might as well quit.” — note from unnamed hanged man turned zombie
[some spoilers within]
The first two episodes of the newest season of The Walking Dead sees Rick and his group of survivors on the move after the events at the CDC which ended season 1. Their convoy to reach what they think as the safe haven of the US Army base at Fort Benning doesn’t get them very far as they come across traffic snarl of abandoned vehicles and wrecks on the main highway. Its during these first two episodes that the group begins to show signs of cracks in the group dynamic which could lead to a permanent splintering of factions. It doesn’t help that two young kids in the group have either gone missing or gets accidentally shot by a deer hunter’s bullet.
We also meet a new group of survivors in the form of the Greene family led by it’s country vet doctor in Hershel Greene, his eldest daughter Maggie, their ranch hand Otis and a few others. Its from the Greene farm that the previous spent most of it’s time though it did show some choice scenes back at the RV and the group searching for Sophia in the forest. We see another cliffhanger end the second episode with Shane and his new partner in Otis as they make their way to the local high school where a FEMA camp had been set up as a refugee center before it became overrun. While they got the necessary supplies needed to save Carl they soon find themselves besieged by a horde of zombies with just a security gate and a lose bolt keeping them at bay.
“Save the Last One” marks the third episode of this 13-episode season 2. Except for a brief pre-credits scene of Shane shaving his head and looking intensely at his reflection off of a steamed up bathroom mirror, the episode takes up right after the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode. Shane and Otis are running through the hallways of the high school they’ve gone into for safety only to have the zombies outside chasing in after them. This part of the episode is just one of four parallel subplots which includes Daryl and Andrea continuing into the night in their search for Sophia in the woods, Dale and Carol back in the RV and the rest of the group over at the Greene farm waiting to see if Carl will get the necessary he needs to survive.
The decision to cover all four threads in this episode was an interesting decision which doesn’t pay off for all. It would be the Shane and Otis section which would get the most action during the episode, but it would be at the Greene farm that we get some soul searching from the Grimes about whether its the best if Carl was just to die if just to save him the horror of having to try and survive in a world where something is always around the corner to tear into him. Andrea and Daryl has a conversation during their search that sounds just as similar though not as depressing and downbeat as Rick and Lori with theirs. We get more personal musings about faith, God and the need to live instead of just surviving.
Some of these dialogue-heavy scenes work like the ones between Andrea and Daryl. With each passing episode Reedus continues to make Daryl Dixon a well-rounded character beyond the racist redneck his initial introduction made him out to be. His Daryl shows much more than just being a badass in the show but also one who is more observant about those around him than he lets on. He sees how much Andrea is still hurting from Amy’s death from season 1 and understands the feeling of just ending it all though he doesn’t see it as the best option. The same goes with how Rick still remains optimistic about the world as it stands now and gives a wonderful speech to Lori about why Carl should have the chance to live instead of letting him die. Both Rick and Daryl seem to have much more in common than we realize though they each go about their optimistic viewpoint in their own particular way.
“Save the Last One” weaves too many concurrent subplots that at times they break some of the stronger scenes between Andrea and Daryl and those between Rick and Lori. Then there’s Shane and Otis in their attempt to escape the horde of zombies after them as they try to make it back to the Greene farm with their medical supplies. the episode tonight could easily have saved some of the scenes with Carol and Dale for the next episode since it looks like Sophia will remain missing. But all in all, tonight’s episode still moved the series forward despite the series still remaining static in terms of location for the group. While it didn’t hit on every note the show did bring up some of the more interesting themes from the comic book.
Despite the episode tonight having been uneven due to the juggling of several subplots to the main story it was fully redeemed by the ending which did a major deviate from the comic book source material and do so in a truly shocking way. I understand why the character in question made the decision that he made, but it still was one that sends this particular character past through the looking glass, shattering it and coming out changed on the other side and most likely not for the better. Plus, it was quite ballsy of Kirkman and the rest of the show’s writer to take out a character sooner than expected if one followed the book. If any episode really hammered in the point that the show will be going very far off the beaten path created by the comic book source material then it would be this one. “Save the Last One” is definitely one of the episodes in this show’s brief span, so far, that will be talked about for months to come.
- It’s interesting to note that both Andrea and Dale has so far been written quite differently for the show than in the comic book. Will the writers continue to make them different from their comic book counterparts or will they gradually work them into finally becoming the characters fans ended up loving.
- So far, the rules as to who can and who doesn’t become a zombie has remained vague outside of the survivors thinking it’s a virus transmitted by bites and injuries caused directly by the zombies. The comic book followed the Romero rules that any sort of death will result in the body returning to life as zombie as long as the brain is intact.
- The episode being set mostly at night really made some of the scenes at the high school and at the RV look very dark that at times it was hard difficult to figure out what was going on.
- Glenn got a bit more screen time in this episode and his interaction with Maggie Greene was good to see as these two would become quite integral in the group moving forward.
- Lauren Cohan also got a bit more time during the episode to help flesh out her character as someone who seemed more well-adjusted to the new world than either Lori, Andrea or Carol. Though after finding out what had happened to one of her and her family’s oldest friends showed that deep down she’s as damaged by the zombie apocalypse as the other ladies.
- I’m all for Sophia being found alive and all, but this season has put too much energy on this particular part of the storyline for far too long. They need to figure out a way to end this part of the show’s second season soon and do so in a way that makes sense or it would’ve been a wasted exercise in storytelling that took up almost a third of the season if not more.
- Even with the episode set at night with minimal lighting the zombie make-up effects by co-executive producer Greg Nicotero and his band of make-up wizards at KNB EFX remain one of the highlight’s of the show. Example in point: legless zombie in the high school gym.
- It’s been awhile since we’ve seen someone shown getting torn apart by zombies on this series, but tonight did a great job at showing how savage and brutal a death at the hands of a horde of zombies could be especially if the person in question being torn apart was still alive to experience it.
- Some may think the season has been slow-going so far, but I like how it’s not all action. If there was ever one thing which always made zombie apocalypse stories very fun to read and watch is how they don’t just show gore and death, but also explore some heavy themes and ideas about faith, living versus survival and whether allowing the most helpless to remain surviving in such a terrifying world is such a good idea to begin with.
- The episode’s title definitely played on the idea of saving the last bullet. Whether the episode means saving it for oneself as the final option out or to use it for a darker purpose to continue surviving would be up to the each individual to decide.