The Walking Dead - Episode 4: “Vatos” TV Episode Review
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Robert Kirkman
2010, 45 minutes, Rated TV-14
Episode premiered on November 21st, 2010
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes
Jon Bernthal as Shane
Sarah Wayne Collins as Lori Grimes
Laurie Holden as Andrea
Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale
Steven Yeun as Glenn
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
Emma Bell as Amy
This week saw AMC’s The Walking Dead enter the second half of the first season. It came out swinging with "Vatos", written by Robert Kirkman, author of the Walking Dead comic book. Kirkman’s stories are built on drama and this episode was no different. Rick and his group searched through Atlanta for Merle and picked up the bag of guns along the way. They also encountered a not quite tough-as-nails gang claiming the city as their territory. Meanwhile, the camp grows unsteady as Jim digs a few holes for no apparent reason.
Spez: First off, a smile crept on my face the moment I saw Kirkman’s name pop up on the screen as the writer of this episode. I was looking forward to his episode and this one did not disappoint. There’s a reason that The Walking Dead is one of the most successful comics that Image has ever published. It’s a great story and Kirkman is a great story teller.
Alien Redrum: I couldn’t agree more. I did not realize Kirkman had written this episode until prepping for this discussion and found it fitting that he penned it, considering this was my favorite episode of the season so far. This one had everything: zombies, suspense, drama. The prior shows in the series had a formula of mostly suspense, not as much zombies or drama, but less of the other two. Yet here, in “Vatos”, there’s action and suspense in the city, drama back at the camp and zombies everywhere. Things are definitely picking up.
Spez: Rick continues to take charge in this episode. When Glenn is captured by the Vatos, a gang of hispanic youths roaming the city for supplies, he sees that he not only has a debt to repay to Glenn but that he needs to save him just because that’s what’s right. What I found odd about the situation though was how Daryl reacted when the Vatos abducted Glenn. He didn’t seem to care about Glenn at all until he got kidnapped. It’s not like the gang got the bag of guns too. What’s a “chinaman” to Daryl anyway?
AR: I’m digging the development of Daryl’s character. He’s obviously a redneck, there’s no getting around that, but you don’t feel the racist hate seeping from him like you do his brother Merle. It’s almost as if Daryl is being a racist because it’s expected of him or he’s doing it for his brother’s sake. This is interesting, too, since there has been zero interaction onscreen between Daryl and Merle, but Norman Reedus is doing an exceptional job as conveying his side of the ‘brotherly love’ aspect. I’m very curious on where they will be taking this character.
Speaking of which, damn if Jon Bernthal as Shane isn’t starting to grow on me. I’m really starting to like Shane, flaws and all. When Jim was digging holes for no apparent reason, Shane’s handling of the situation provided a deeper glimpse into his character. It’s not forgivable for what he told Lori about Rick being dead and all, but he’s losing that douchbag image that I have had of him since the beginning. This is a guy who wants to do the right thing, but his emotions make his actions questionable.
Spez: See, I’m the complete opposite on Shane. He has this totalitarian rule over the camp and when Jim is being subdued and handcuffed he says what everyone’s thinking. What gives Shane the right to say what’s right and wrong in the camp? Yes, he was a cop and he knows a thing or two about survival but he’s like a dictator. So Jim was digging some holes. As he pointed out, he wasn’t hurting anyone.
AR: It could very well be that Shane got the leadership role by default. I don’t believe he went in and just took over, but rather people came to him because he’s a cop — or used to be. In a time like this — the zombie apocalypse and all — people need an authority figure, and he was right for that position. I agree, he is heavy-handed with it, but it goes back to what I was saying about his emotions. He can’t control them and it affects his leadership. This will lead to dissension within the camp (which there is already signs of). There’s no doubt the group will turn to Rick as the new leader once he gets settled, and Shane is either going to accept that or not. Time will tell.
And, back to Jim for a moment, how awesome was his last line in the episode? About remembering why he needed to dig the holes? Absolutely brilliant.
Spez: I both liked and hated how the gang story was handled. I liked that the whole thing was an example of not judging a book by its cover in that the gang had a rough image on the outside but they were doing more than just pilfering the city, but I thought the comic relief inserted by this juxtaposition was pushed a little too far. It’s one thing to have a grandmother come in and break up a fire fight before it can get started, but to then show little dogs was a bit much. Rick definitely saw a bit of himself in gang leader, Guillermo, though.
AR: The dog scene really bothered me because it felt so out of place. It was easily the worst scene in this episode, and perhaps the series, because it was so incredibly forced and contrived. It really took me out of the moment. It wasn’t cute. It wasn’t funny. It didn’t belong. The entire shot just felt like something a producer or higher up demanded. “Hey guys, this will be funny and my daughter really likes dogs! Everyone likes cute dogs!” In the grand scheme of things, it seems small, but in the context of what was going on in the episode, it was unnecessary and hurt the moment.
The remainder of the “book by its cover” subplot, though, was terrific. I have to admit, I was pulled into judging these young men as the filmmakers wanted me to. Director Johan Renck certainly baited me and I bit, and when that turn came, I was damn near ashamed of myself. Not that I thought the gang was one way, but I actually fell for it. Well done.
Note: The remainder of this review has spoilers, so if you have not seen this episode, we suggest you stop reading, watch "Vatos" and come back. We'll be here waiting.
Spez: I have a feeling that Rick and Guillermo will meet again down the road. At least I hope so.
The end of this episode is what will probably have a lot of people talking. Kirkman took the characters and just shook them to the core. They all thought they were safe in their little camp outside the city when suddenly they’re attacked by a horde of zombies. Are we all assuming that the zombies were led there by a vengeful Merle? I think that’s a safe bet. The camp takes some casualties. Granted they’re all pretty minor characters with the exception of Amy and to a lesser extent, Ed, but it was shocking nonetheless. Yes, Amy dies in the comic in the same way but the page doesn’t provide the kind of emotion that we saw on the screen. Andrea’s reaction was just devastating.
AR: I realize I keep gushing over this show, but this writing is so strong, you already have a hatred for a character, Merle, that was in but one episode (thus far) of the four aired. And, realistically, he has probably only had what? 15 minutes of screen time? But already we, the viewers, not only despise him, but are also assuming he is the cause of the zombie attack on camp. Of course it’s not just the writing here, but Rooker’s command performance in that brief time he was seen. You know there is going to be hell to pay for the folks back at camp, and Merle is the devil himself coming to collect. If it does, in fact, turn out to be him as the catalyst, I cannot wait to see the repercussions.
Spez: If Merle really did lure those zombies in, he’s being set up to be an impressive villain for the first season. Plus he’s a character that wasn’t even in the comics! He’s completely made up for the TV show! I’m glad that Kirkman is rolling with it and is able to weave this story in the direction it’s going. No one is safe in the comic and that’s something that has been made pretty clear time and time again. I hope that the same is true for the TV show and we have a LOST-like relationship with these characters as the show progresses. None of them can get too comfortable because they can be dead in the next episode.
Video, Audio and Special features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a TV episode.
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