The Walking Dead continues its first season on LOVEFiLM Instant with Guts. It’s a suitable name for Episode Two – it’s full of the stuff. And sadly, not that much else.
After literally riding into town to save the day, only to hide from the undead hordes inside a tank, Rick (Lincoln) is trapped. He’s alone. He’s doesn’t know where his family are. And he left his bag outside. But while the zombies devour his horse, Frank Darabont sends Glenn (Steven Yeun) to the rescue. Dashing across rooftops with a walkie-talkie, he’s a strong sidekick to Lincoln’s silent type – and the first of many new characters.
There’s T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Amy (Emma Bell) and Morales (Juan Pareja). And then there’s Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), a guy who fails to live up to the awesomeness of his first name. Merle, you see, is a racist. We find this out when he does racist things on the rooftop of a department store. And that, it seems, is all there is to his character. Why would the group, including T-Dog, let this guy hang around with them up until now? With no gradual development of his views, Merle seems more a stock plot point than a character – an antagonist to provide short-term tension.
But while most of the episode seems to be short on the nuanced grey matter that made the first episode so compelling, director Michelle MacLaren makes sure we get enough red stuff to make up for it: one sequence sees Rick and Glenn smother themselves in blood and intestines in an attempt to camouflage with the zombies. It’s a nail-biting demonstration of original thinking; the kind of creative flair that makes The Walking Dead such a breath of fresh undead air. Combined with some fast-paced running and shooting, the action on display is classy stuff, made even classier by its grubby presentation and the judicious use of an axe.
Lincoln remains a likeable and intriguing hero, growing into the part of determined leader. Sometimes, he even takes his silly hat off. A dab hand with a gun, his stoic presence is a great counterpart to the bursts of gruesome violence. The rest of the ensemble may not have quite the same depth, but Merle’s two-dimensional hatred prompts an fascinating, unexpected reaction from Rick – one that leaves you groaning for another mouthful of dark, fleshy drama. It may be light on brains, but The Walking Dead Episode Two has lots of Guts. And it knows precisely how to use them.
The Walking Dead is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
For other seasons, see Where can I watch The Walking Dead online?