Last week, Rick met more survivors, including Merle the white redneck and T-Dog the angry black guy. With some fancy driving, and one unbelievably gross guts-splattering sequence, the survivors escaped the zombie-infested shopping center and lived to mutilate the undead another day. But they left Merle behind. This week, we find out what happened to him. In part.
The third episode of AMC’s classed-up zombie show kicks off with our racist cracker Merle yelling and hallucinating as he bakes in the sun, handcuffed to the roof with zombies banging on the door and a hacksaw we saw last week just this far away. Cut to the camp, where Glenn arrives in the world’s loudest car (which may or may not be a problem) and Rick happily reunites with his family. Everyone’s thrilled — except for Shane. But are Rick and Lori thrilled enough?
Rick gets his wedding ring back — the same one his wife Lori ditched while shtupping Shane in the woods. (And does she know that the kid won’t wake up while they’re having sex because she’s had sex with Shane in that bed before?) But enough of this family stuff: After having no mission in life but to reunite with his family, Rick high-tails it back into the city as a matter of principle. Did this make him seem like a bad father and husband? Probably. Even if he does feel some guilt for leaving Merle to die, and Merle is in mortal danger, it just seems fast — so maybe the show is hinting that those marital problems were caused by Rick’s workaholic righteousness in the first place, or WHAT?! Sorry — HUH? — I can’t hear you, because these crickets are roaring like monsters! (Seriously, the twacks and thonks of the human-on-zombie violence are loud, but these screeching insects just get louder every time something dramatic happens. Are they some superpowered zombie crickets, maybe?)
Anyway, we also find that in order to get into Lori’s pants, Shane told Lori that her husband was dead — and then we see him viciously beat up a man, who is simply and unequivocally an absolutely evil abusive husband, because Shane is working out some abandonment issues. (The laundry-washing women, meanwhile, seem to have more chemistry together as an ensemble than they do when paired with the men.) Meanwhile, Merle’s brother, Daryl, is a rootin’-tootin’-crossbow-shootin’ hick who seems to embody all of his brother’s bad qualities. He gets the week’s bests kill-shots with his arrows, but, unfortunately, he seems just as thinly sketched as his brother — particularly so, since this early-twentysomething tells the old man to “go back to On Golden Pond,” referencing a movie that an older guy like Frank Darabont would know, but was made in 1981, long before this backwoods redneck was born. Maybe Daryl has a thing for old movies, maybe not. The thing is, it wouldn’t be worth criticizing the script so much if there was more zombie splatter and thrilling suspense, but, honestly, aside from a couple of kills, this episode was all about the humans, who are still speaking their own unnatural language. (The eventual “rescue” was so easy it was drained of suspense; though the final reveal was half a surprise.)
Last week, we griped about the script—particularly, the scene between T-Dog and Merle. This week, there’s more overwriting and under-development. The episode begins with Merle talking to himself in clichés from the You Know You’re a Redneck When… handbook. He seriously says, “You can kiss my lily white ass…” And then there’s Dale, the camp’s wizened sage. “Words can be meager things; sometimes they fall short,” says the oracle. Later, the once-quiet, now-verbose Rick says, “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you Shane, I can’t begin to express it.” And that’s enough excuse for wise-man Dale to reheat a new version of the same bad line: “There go those words falling short again: Paltry things…” Sorry—but these words aren’t just meager and paltry, they’re corny and fake. Nobody, not even some wise old codger sitting next to a campfire in the twilight of the human race, talks like this.
On the one hand, this sloppy dialogue is worrying, especially for a show that’s supposed to be a notch above a standard zombie flick. If these people are going to struggle to retain their humanity in the face of a zombie apocalypse, the show’s writers will have to give them some more humanity first. On the other—oops, forgot, there is no other hand.