The Walking Dead: While You Were Sleeping (Part 2)

Welcome back for Part 2 of The Walking Dead: While You Were Sleeping, and to those of you just tuning in…thank you for doing so. It’s been a little longer since my last post than I originally intended, but life is like that and at least I’m back now.

Anyway, it’s day two of Rick’s newly zombified existence, and now that he’s had time to sleep on it, one of the things we’re going to be dealing with is his fuller initiation to this new life, starting with killing his first zombie–but not, of course, before clearing it with Morgan that the zombies are actually dead.

The act of baseball-batting the stray zombie to death is, on a basic level, a way of looking forward. So it’s significant that in the next scene we see not just Rick but the rest of the group looking back. It’s a surprise moment of emotion, really; Rick is explaining why he thinks his family left, and it turns out it’s because of the photos, and then Morgan starts getting emotional as he remembers his wife.

Morgan

There isn’t much going on in the scenes at the police station. We get a friendly reminder about the things we don’t have in a post-apocalyptic world via the hot water episode and Duane gets a pep talk about how guns aren’t toys. Well, come to think of it, that was probably a good bit of context to have for the audience members who aren’t very familiar with gun use (meaning myself as well). After all, picking up a gun and blowing off some zombies’ heads is a lot harder than I just made it sound.

The real kicker is when they come outside and find zombie-Leon. The second zombie that’s someone we know, the first one that’s someone that Rick knows–and Rick is the one who decides to kill it. And I must say that he does a terrific job.

What happens next is an excellent example of intercutting scenes for juxtaposition. You can do this kind of thing in prose, but it’s not nearly as subtle, so I think it works better on film. And speaking of things that work better on film (this falls under the heading of “show, don’t tell”), it was a nice touch that Rick put his sheriff’s hat on when he went to look for the gross cut-in-half female zombie. It wasn’t something I was consciously tracking on the first time I watched this episode, but it’s a pretty neat cue that he’s essentially re-claiming his identity as a sheriff, as someone who helps people, in terms of what that means in this new life.

Rick and zombie

And let’s talk about the fact that it’s the same zombie from before, Rick’s first “definite” zombie. No, seriously, let’s talk about this. Because continuity takes many forms. Sometimes it’s a loose plot thread that’s introduced near the start of the season and doesn’t get tied up ‘til the finale, and sometimes it’s a little thing like this to let you know how much circumstances have changed within a single episode. This thing started out as the unknown, something to bike away from posthaste, no questions asked. Now it’s a physical reality that not only has to be dealt with but has to be dealt with in a humane, compassionate way. Which means putting a bullet through its head. The world is very strange.

This aspect of Rick’s character is thrown into sharp relief by the concurrent actions of Morgan. He sets out determined to put his zombie-wife down, knowing full well that it’s the right thing to do, but in the end he’s unable to do it. Maybe the fact that her pretty face has miraculously survived the decaying process has something to do with it. (Okay, that was mean, although I am right.)

Wife in sights

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Rick’s mercy-killing of some random zombified stranger is nothing, emotionally, compared to what Morgan is trying to accomplish. But it still serves to highlight the trajectory of both characters. Morgan is still “frozen in place,” as he said, while Rick is moving psychologically as well as physically–to Atlanta.

Again, I haven’t yet watched the rest of the series, but I hope Morgan and Duane come back sometime. There’s definitely room for more of their story.

The group of survivors in the RV represent another common image from this genre, similar to the flipped cars at the beginning of the episode: a small group of men, women and children camping in a field, hopefully far away from any danger. It’s definitely neat that we get to see Shane again so soon, to see how his character acts in a different context.

Shane and Lori

The apocalypse has made him fall in love with his friend’s wife, apparently.

The revelation that this woman is Rick’s missing wife leaves me with some questions. Where are she and the others? Why did she leave Rick behind, exactly? And why did she get together with Shane knowing that her husband was probably still alive? I want to find out. I want to find out so badly that I may even keep watching the show! Well played, writers; well played.

Things get graphic pretty quickly when Rick stops to ask for gas. It would have been easy for the writers to just make this an abandoned house, not unlike Rick’s place and the place where Morgan and Duane decided to hunker down, but no–there’s a fly-ridden shotgun suicide victim and the phrase “God forgive us” written on the wall in blood, Chamber of Secrets style. Details, man. Details.

Rick talking to the horse is what we call an adorable silver lining moment. If I had been paying just a little bit more attention I probably would have figured out that the horse wasn’t going to survive the episode. In any case, as a Texan with an extremely small amount of knowledge of horsemanship, I’m grateful for the throwaway line “I haven’t done this for years.” For accuracy’s sake, it’s nice to know that this isn’t Rick’s first time riding a horse.

Okay, I acknowledge that the audience has information that Rick doesn’t have at this point (I believe this is called “dramatic irony” or something) and that he never got the chance to be warned that Atlanta isn’t the save haven that he’s been led to believe it is, but the multitude of cars that were apparently trying to leave the city should have given him a hint.

Highway

“Wow, no traffic or anything! How lucky!”

Once he’s in Atlanta, the incident with the zombies on the bus establishes that outrunning zombies is an attractive option when there’s just a few of them. And the crows getting into the dead body on the tank establish that we have a quick and easy way to tell if something is actually dead. If the vermin are getting into it, it’s not a zombie. If they aren’t, watch out.

Not that this is going to save Rick from the giant zombie horde coming towards him, but it might have let him anticipate the dead guy in the tank trying to kill him. Pay attention, Rick.

But all isn’t lost for our main character. The episode ends with a radio message from someone who doesn’t seem all that concerned–oh, and some catchy pop music. While the zombies cluster around the tank and the dead horse like ants at a picnic. That’s a cliffhanger for ya.

So wrapping up here, this seems like a really neat show, and if the pilot is anything to go on, I can understand why it’s so popular.