In this week's episode, the survivors continue with their search for Merle after discovering the bulk of him missing on the rooftop where they left him--the hand was still there, of course. They also have a run-in with some new potential baddies, The Vatos, who appear to be a Latino street gang prowling around Atlanta looking for trouble. Back at the camp, Shane has to deal with a bit of fallout from last week's beatdown session as he deals with the frenzied Jim ( Andrew Rothenberg).
Starting off the show with a heartfelt jive session between the blonde sisters, Andrea ( Laurie Holden) and Amy ( Emma Bell), you know it's not going to end well for at least one of them. On top of that, add Jim's crazed grave digging, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato, and baby you've got a foreboding stew going! The foreshadowing of what was to come seemed a tad too heavy-handed from what I've come to expect from the show thus far, but it lent itself well to building the tension throughout the episode.
As the survivors searched Atlanta for Merle, I was happy to come around on Daryl and find he's not as awful and one-dimensional as his brother has been painted. There seems to be some humanity that Norman Reedus is bringing to the role. They could have easily made him a clone of his brother, but it's looking like that won't be the case. I also am enjoying how Merle's disappearance is at once both a cause of grief for his brother, and cause for concern with Grimes. The episode did a great job of playing this out without once even showing Merle at all.
Let's talk about the Vatos, as I had a bit of a problem with how their story played out. Given what we know from watching the episode (and if you want to avoid spoilers, you should have already stopped reading way before this) these are nice guys caring for sick old folks in a nursing home. Why would they have taken Glenn hostage when they jumped him and Daryl in the street? I get that they are tough guys, and were angling to get that bag of guns, which would help them protect the adorable elderly, but why the hostage-taking? It built up to a great standoff scene with the Vatos, culminating in a genuine guffaw from me when the Abuela came down. It really took me aback, and I'm still not sure if I was supposed to think that was funny or not?
I liked the twist, in the end, as it turned this group of thugs into endearing men. You want to hope cases like that would happen in a zombie apocalypse, right? It just seems like the whole standoff/hostage thing doesn't make any sense. Guillermo ( Neil Brown Jr) seemed pretty comfortable letting the survivors take Miguel (Anthony Guajardo). I can totally buy that Guillermo may have been posturing big time for fear of looking weak to potential invaders, but it maybe went a little far.
The final scene of the episode brought the zombie gore hot and heavy, as an onslaught of walkers stumbled into the camp and made mincemeat out of the bulk of the non-speaking actors from the group, as well as a couple of mainstays. I was happy to see the wife beater get his, and was not at all surprised that Amy would get it when she went off by herself to the bathroom. The show didn't give us a ton of time to get to know Amy, so her death (and possible zombie re-appearance?) didn't hit very hard. I will say that Laurie Holden's pure despair while Amy died is some of the best acting yet exhibited on the show, and what emotion I did feel from that scene came from the extended shot of Andrea's face as the gravity of Amy's death set in on her.
With only two episodes left in the first season, I already feel like we've been taken on one hell of a ride with The Walking Dead. Despite my couple of gripes with this week's episode, I still quite enjoyed it overall. I'm excited to see what happens upon Merle's return, as well as how the survivors will bounce back from the zombie attack. Stay tuned till next week!