The Walking Dead is good on gore. It’s solid on scares. But where it’s always impressed the most has been character – specifically, its generosity of character. Not just the stoic heroics of Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), but the development of the rest of the cast, even the minor players.
Vatos, Episode Four of Season One, is a perfect example. Rick, Glenn (Simon Yeun), T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) have returned to where Merle’s hand was cuffed to the roof of a department store – only to find the rest of him gone. Daryl, naturally, gets violent, only for Rick to intervene with violence of his own.
But while you might expect that dynamic to drive the story forward, Robert Kirkman’s script takes us back to camp, where Jim’s acting a bit weird. Digging holes and wielding shovels, it’s clear that something musta spooked him.
While we’re busy wondering what that is, Glenn has got himself kidnapped by a young Latino, whose band of survivors steal Rick’s bag of weapons. Led by the menacing Guillermo (Neil Brown Jr.), they respond to the zombie outbreak with threats of a fight. This, we deduce, is how humanity deals with a gruesome crisis; turning on itself. Just when you think you have it all sussed out, though, The Walking Dead pulls the blood-stained rug out from your sticky feet – yet another display of smart, unexpected scripting, as the series remains unafraid to pause amid the fast-paced horror to focus on people.
The result is an unexpectedly compassionate entry in an increasingly doom-laden scenario; a reminder that the show can do warmth as well as chills. As for the latter, when Jim remembers his hole-digging stimulus, director Johan Renck (who’s also helmed several episodes of Breaking Bad) makes sure we get a grisly blast of terror. And, because the show invests such time in fleshing out its characters, that terror actually means something.
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For other seasons, see Where can I watch The Walking Dead online?