AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 4: “Vatos”
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Robert Kirkman
* For a review of the previous episode, “Tell It to the Frogs” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Wildfire” – click here
After an intense third episode, “Vatos” starts with sisters Andrea and Amy Harrison (Laurie Holden/Emma Bell) fishing in a boat with We-no-nah on its side. They talk about their father a little. Their age differences created differences in how they were raised, specifically how their dear ole dad decided to show them each how to fish. Completely different, almost radically to them. They’re two separate identities, which provides us insight into where they’re headed on this series. What does Season 1 have in store for the Harrison sisters? I know already. Although, it’s great fun to go back and pick up more about everything on a third or fourth watch of the episodes. Bell and Holden play well as sisters and their bond only furthers with this opener.
Up on the R.V. stands Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) on watch, looking out over everyone else like Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) whose time is spent digging holes. He looks tired. A little crazy. I imagine they’re all tired and slightly crazy, in every way.
Back on the rooftop in Atlanta there’s still more trouble. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is a bit buckwild after finding his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) gone – not completely, his bloody hand is still sitting there. Drawing his weapon on T-Dog (Irone Singleton) quickly, Daryl is savage. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) puts a stop to all that with Glenn (Steven Yeun) watching on. After things calm down slightly Daryl takes his brother’s hand and puts it in Glenn’s knapsack for safekeeping. They make their way through the building, looking to see if Merle stayed put. But no sign yet.
Dale checks on Jim, who as I said is pretty tired. Or something. He isn’t well. Dale’s worried he might “keel over,” going too hard at the digging. I suppose everyone has their way of dealing with a terrifying world after the zombie apocalypse comes raining down. Only Dale brings Jim and his behaviour to the attention of everyone else, believing they’ve got a new problem on their hands. When Shane goes to Jim, everyone at his back, things become awkward. This prompts Jim being tackled to the ground and restrained by Shane. At least it sets the place at ease a little while. Or does it? Jim makes a shocking confession and puts everyone out of comfort once more.
“Toughest asshole I ever met, my brother. Feed him a hammer, he‘d crap out nails.”
On Merle’s trail, as well as looking for the guns, Rick, Daryl and the others try to stick together. They try to make a plan, one on the fly as usual. Glenn offers to make a run for the bag of guns. He draws up a little diagram on the floor, giving everyone their orders. When Daryl asks, almost admirably, what Glenn did before this he gets the reply: “I delivered pizzas. Why?” Amazing. Such a wonderfully written scene. Even better after when Daryl says he has “balls for a Chinaman” to which a wittier reply comes from Glenn: “I‘m Korean.”
They run into trouble when a bunch of Mexicans run them into a trap. Daryl is beaten down and Glenn gets taken hostage. The group is split. Only they’ve also got themselves a young Latino to hold hostage on their side.
At the camp, Jim is now tied to a tree. He may as well be on trial as a witch. But this is another instance of Shane needing total control. Perhaps if they left Jim alone nothing would’ve come of his nonsense. At the same time, who knows? He actually apologizes for possibly scaring the children, so that’s something. He still doesn’t remember why he was digging, though. “Something I dreamed last night,” Jim tells Dale.
“You know, the only reason I got away was ‘cause the dead were too busy eating my family.”
Trying to make a trade, Rick and Co. go to see the Mexican crew in the city who took Glenn. Their leader is a man named Guillermo (Neil Brown Jr). He’s willing to talk, a little bit. Rick and Daryl attempt to deal with the men. They’re after the guns in the street. Sheriff Grimes lays claim to the guns, but Guillermo and his people want them: “I‘ll take what‘s mine,” he says to Rick. But Rick is ready, if anyone ever was. He stands toe to toe with them. He says he owes Glenn and won’t back down.
Making the trade-off, Rick sends the young Latino back over to Guillermo. Though, the man steps to Rick viciously instead of acting sensible. Guns cock and the place is almost ready to light up. Out of nowhere, an old woman comes out into the bunch of men pointing guns at one another. Seems there are a ton of old people in there, all of them relying on Guillermo. Now, things have changed. The old woman who wandered into their fight brings everyone together in a moment of heart among the cold world of the undead outside. Genuinely love this whole scene, as it shows us compassion hasn’t completely gone out the window right away. Not in certain corners. And it goes to show, these Mexican guys are willing to put their lives at risk to keep these elderly people safe and healthy for as long possible. Even when the living dead have pretty much infested the world. Nice commentary thrown into the writing, which is always present when you take on zombies. Robert Kirkman does great things in that sense, over and over. The archetypal zombie story is perfectly poised for throwing in socioeconomic and political commentaries, so I’m glad the show has those bits and pieces instead of focusing solely on the horror. Further than that, we watch the characters grow. Episode by episode, like any other series. These characters, though? They’ve got a lot of growing to do in the new, shattered world.
We see Rick make a deal in mutual admiration of Guillermo after they talk: he gives them some guns. A nice choice in an ever hardening life. Afterwards, Rick and the crew head out and find their van gone. They assume it’s possible Merle did it and “took his vengeance back to camp,” as brother Daryl puts things eloquently.A nice evening by the fire has Dale quoting William Faulkner, and pretty well I might add: “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire… I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”
Quickly, the fun’s interrupted.
In his tent, Ed is bitten by a zombie. Worse still, Amy gets a bite, too. The entire camp is overrun, as Rick and the others just make it back. Everything is chaos, with baseball bats flying, skin and organs being eaten. Gunfire sounds everywhere. With Rick and the others back things clear out, but the damage is done. Lives have already been lost. One thing we can be sure of is that The Walking Dead will tug at the heartstrings. In her arms, Andrea watches Amy die and the episode finishes as Jim says: “I remember now— why I dug the holes.”A very tough, equally as excellent episode with lots of developments. Digging this watch-through so much. Noticing things I didn’t the first couple times, finding more characters enjoyable in different ways. “Wildfire” is next.