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'Walking Dead' recap: 'Give me the ax. We need more guts.'

November 6, 2010 | 11:00 pm


Remember Chekhov's saying about the rifle hanging on the wall at the beginning of a story? The one that says if the weapon appears, it surely must go off before the narrative's conclusion or it has no place in the tale? Well, I'm no expert dramatist, but I have to believe that if you leave a trigger-happy racist — played with extraordinary menace by Michael Rooker — handcuffed on the roof of a tall building that's being overrun with hungry zombies, chances are he's going to resurface later and perpetrate some kind of violence against the folks who left him there to fend for himself against the ghouls.

In Sunday night's episode of "The Walking Dead," appropriately titled "Guts," we were introduced not only to Rooker's easily despised bad guy, Merle Dixon, a hateful man reveling in the lawlessness of the walker-ravaged world, but also to a handful of other characters, including Steven Yeun's Glenn, who helps Sheriff Rick escape from the tank where he found himself trapped at the end of Episode 1. Glenn steers him to a department store, where he and a band of other scavengers have taken refuge, but the building has been surrounded, the walkers drawn to the site by the sound of Rick firing his gun as he ran to the location. A distraught blond named Andrea (Laurie Holden) pulls a weapon of her own on Rick when he arrives inside because she's so frantic about their situation and so angry with him for having caused it.

The other members of their small party — Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott), T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) — manage to calm her. After all, they have bigger problems: namely the gunfire coming from the roof, courtesy of Dixon, who's shooting walkers in the head, attracting even more attention and wasting precious ammo.

After an altercation that has Dixon using the "n" word — yikes!— Rick subdues him and breaks out those handcuffs, taking a moment to explain that old notions about race, gender, ethnicity and class no longer hold. Now there are only two types of people: Those who are living and those who want to eat them.

The rest of the episode is largely devoted to finding a way out of this precarious situation, with Rick and Glenn opting to try to take a truck parked some distance away; transportation would give them a means to flee the scene, even if there's nowhere particularly safe to go. This requires, however, that they wander among the walkers. To camouflage themselves, they hack up the body of one Wayne Dunlap — Glenn notes that the man was an organ donor! — and cloak themselves in his innards before heading outside. (If last week's premiere episode reminded viewers of "28 Days Later," then there's no way to watch this sequence without thinking of Edgar Wright's hilarious horror comedy "Shaun of the Dead," especially with a straight-faced Rick wearing what looks like the man's intestines around his neck like a jaunty scarf.)

An unexpected rain shower blows their cover, though, washing away the bloody viscera. They narrowly make it to the safety of the vehicle before being overwhelmed by the walkers, which by now have crashed through the plate glass windows of the store and are pouring in in great numbers. (Rick comes up with a plan to create a distraction; they steal a bright red Dodge Challenger, which Glenn drives through the streets, its alarm blaring.)

As the others head to the loading dock to meet Rick, the last man off the roof is T-Dog, who is forced to decide whether to free Dixon or leave him to fate. He ultimately opts to give him the key to the cuffs, but as he runs forward, he stumbles, and the key goes tumbling down some sort of pipe, impossible to retrieve; he also drops a toolbox, which surely will give Dixon his means to escape.

We did also spend a bit of time with the other survivors — that group in the countryside by the RV that includes Rick's wife and son, Lori and Carl, and his former partner Shane, who, it's made quite clear in the episode's opening, has become the new man in Lori's life. There's another connection too: Emma Bell's Amy appears to be Andrea's sister. Expect the two camps to converge soon since T-Dog managed to briefly make radio contact with them, possibly next week. Whether Dixon will have made it off the roof by then is anyone's guess. I'm thinking yes...

— Gina McIntyre

Photo: Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) run from the walkers. Credit: AMC.