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'Walking Dead' recap: Is this 'Lost' in translation?

November 28, 2010 | 10:05 pm


Hmmm, let's see: We have a group of survivors stranded in a remote location who are forced to overcome their trust issues if they want to defeat the mysterious predatory forces surrounding them on all sides, and now there's a lone scientist manning an abandoned underground outpost conducting possibly futile experiments while struggling to retain a slippery grasp on his own sanity after "wildfire" was declared. If a character named after a philosopher or a smoke monster or maybe a randomly generated series of numbers turns up next week, J.J. Abrams might want to consider making a few well-placed phone calls.

Seriously, though, if the comparisons between "The Walking Dead" and "Lost" hadn't been heated enough before Sunday night's episode of the survival-horror series, "Wildfire" certainly should put them over the top. Tonight, we met Jenner (Noah Emmerich), who is first glimpsed speaking directly into some sort of camcorder and finally giving viewers a better idea of just how long it's been since the world fell to the walkers. To be precise, it's been 63 days since the disease went global, though "wildfire" was declared 194 days ago (the code word, naturally, isn't explained). Though Jenner admits he's made "no clinical progress," we see him conducting an experiment, one that ultimately goes awry, triggering a computerized alarm system that engulfs his lab -- and some important tissue samples -- in flames.

Alone and pondering suicide over a glass of red wine, Jenner spies Rick and Lori and Shane on the security cameras outside the Centers for Disease Control, which is home to his bunker, and he stares in disbelief at the survivors, who are desperate to find a way inside, what with it being dusk, and they're having little food or fuel to make it through the night. Just how did they turn up at the CDC? In honor of "Lost," here's a flashback.

The action picks up with Rick on his walkie-talkie, attempting to raise Morgan, warning him to stay out of Atlanta, that the city "belongs to the dead now," and trying to guide him to where the camp is located (though he mentions that last night walkers came out of the woods, so the site has been compromised). At the camp, the others are throwing corpses on a pyre made of burning tires as Andrea sits cradling the body of her sister, Amy, who was killed by the walkers. Several people, including Lori and Dale, try to coax her to step away, but she remains rooted to the spot until Amy awakens as a walker -- and then Andrea tells zombie Amy that she loves her and shoots her through the temple. 

The bigger dilemma, though, is that Jim has been bitten by a walker. Rick argues that they should all head to the CDC, that if there is any vestige of government left, that facility, which was said to be working on a cure, must still be operational and represents Jim's best chance for survival. Shane, however, argues that they should all go toward a military base, one that happens to be 100 miles in the opposite direction. (The former partners are at odds, too, over Rick's decision to go back to Atlanta to retrieve the guns and attempt to rescue Merle Dixon; Shane tells Rick that had he and the other men been at the camp, they might have helped save lives by killing more walkers, with Rick arguing that it was the fact that they had so many weapons that helped the campers fare as well as they did against the ghouls.)

With Jim becoming feverish and delusional, they ultimately decide to head to the CDC in a caravan of vehicles, though Morales opts out of the plan and instead heads to Birmingham with his family. When the RV breaks down, though, Jim, momentarily lucid, implores Rick to leave him behind, saying that his "bones are like glass" and that he wants to be with his family. The group unanimously agrees to grant Jim his wish and leaves him sitting next to a tree, the virus taking hold of his body. Rick offers to leave him a gun -- should he desire to avoid what appears to be his inevitable transformation -- but he declines and gazes up at the sky as the others pull away, still headed, it turns out, to the CDC and what certainly seems destined to be a fateful meeting with Jenner in the series season finale, set to air Dec. 5.

-- Gina McIntyre

Photo: Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead." Credit: AMC