Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer DVR Dump: The Walking Dead 1.06: "TS-19"

“Listen to your friend. She gets it. This is what takes us down. This is our extinction event.”

We’ve reached the end of the first half of my “Summer DVR Dump” series for 2011. Next week, I’ll start recapping the first half of Doctor Who series 6. Before we get to that, though, there’s the season 1 finale of “The Walking Dead,” called “TS-19.” I thought “TS-19” ended the first season on a very strong note. I thought the story of Dr. Edwin Jenner, the last CDC employee to remain at his post, was especially effective. While we didn’t get a detailed explanation for what was causing the apocalypse, I think we got enough information about what scientists went through when the outbreak started to satisfy me for now. The story was sufficiently rooted in emotion and character that the episode worked for me. And there was some good suspense at the end as the group had to escape an extremely treacherous situation. And not everyone did escape.

The episode begins with a flashback to the early days of the infection. It’s bad enough that the military has gotten involved. Shane is with Rick and the hospital, and everything is chaos. There are zombies everywhere, and the soldiers seem to be shooting everything that moves on sight, zombie or living. Shane makes a very tough decision. He’s going to barricade Rick in his hospital room and hope for the best. The decision is made even easier when the power goes out. This shuts off all of Rick’s monitoring equipment, and I’m not sure if Shane knows whether Rick is alive or dead. Shane leaves Rick at the hospital after pushing a stretcher up against the door, and he manages to survive both the zombies and the military to escape.

When we return to the present day, the group is rushing into the CDC building after the door finally opened. They meet Dr. Jenner, who isn’t especially happy to have company. This just seemed incredibly emo at first, but by the end of the episode, it’s apparent that there was a good reason why he thought the survivors should stay away from the CDC. Jenner makes all the survivors undergo a blood test to make sure they aren’t infected. When he finds out they haven’t eaten in a while, he hosts a little feast. Well, it looks like all he really had was a few bottles of wine, but they all seem happy about it anyway. Of course, Shane has to be a complete buzzkill and ruin the little celebration by asking what happened to everyone else at the CDC. It turns out that a lot of people left when things started to go bad, and many of those who didn’t leave ended up committing suicide.
Everyone enjoys the respite and the hot showers except for Andrea, Shane, and Rick. They’re all very beaten down over what’s been going on. Which I suppose is understandable. Amanda is still upset over Amy’s death, which is extremely understandable. Shane is still upset over Lori rejecting him. Which I guess is understandable, but not at all respectable. She’s married to his best friend, people! I think Rick is just upset that he couldn’t save everyone. Andrea goes on about how everything is gone now, and Rick makes the mistake of saying that they all would have died if they had stayed outside, no matter where they went.. He had kept that to himself until now.

Shane gets extremely drunk (as do most of the rest of the survivors), and he decides it would be a really great time to confront Lori about how she has been pushing him away. Lori just wants him to leave, mostly because I think she’s disgusted with herself for cheating on Rick, but Shane isn’t having it. It seems like he’s about to rape Lori before he finally gets it together and leaves her alone. This, of course, leaves Lori even more upset and broken than she already was. Things don’t really look that much brighter in the morning. Everyone has eggs for breakfast, and they’re grateful for some real food. The one bright spot is the meal, really. It’s a little “found family” gathering time, like Joss Whedon often depicts in his shows, especially “firefly.” I think the breakfast scene most reminded me of “Firefly,” really. The crew gathering around the table to eat a meal was a central scene to several episodes of that show.

Anyway, like I said, the next day certainly doesn’t provide bright spots, either. The group wants answers, and Jenner decides to give them an answer by showing them a video of TS-19, which stands for “Test Subject 19.” It’s a scan of a woman as she is infected by the zombie virus and eventually dies and comes back to life. The video ends with someone shooting her in the brain. Then Jenner shows them a countdown clock. This is a countdown until the CDC’s generators fail and the place is “decontaminated.” The guys run down to the basement and find that almost all the generator fuel is gone. To underscore the point, the building starts powering down.

Back in the main control room, Jenner tells the survivors a little more about what happened after the infection broke out. The French stayed in their labs longer than anyone else. The CDC was long gone by the time the French scientists finally succumbed. The show gets a little political statement in when Jenner remarks how stupid it is that the world runs on non-replenishable fossil fuels. He’s got a very good point. Running out of power is a very, very bad thing in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Jenner also finally tells the group what “decontamination” really means. When the clock runs down, super-powerful explosives will set the air on fire and completely destroy the building. As some of the survivors try to leave, Jenner closes the doors and tells the group that dying that way would be a good thing compared to dying by zombie bite.

Needless to say, the reaction to this news is not positive. Shane has a major freakout and starts shooting things randomly. Rick demands to know why Jenner stayed at the CDC when everyone else left. Jenner reveals that his wife was TS-19, and she made him promise to stay and keep looking for a cure. Now he thinks it’s hopeless. Finally, Jenner opens the inner doors, to the CDC, but he warns the survivors that the outer doors are automatically locked in a situation like this and can’t be reopened. Most of the survivors decide to take their chances trying to escape, but two do not. The first is Jacqui. She doesn’t really give a great explanation for her choice. The other is Andrea, who I guess wants to stop feeling the pain of Amy’s death. Dale decides to stay with them. I thought he wanted to keep them company, but he really just wants to convince Andrea to change her mind. Clearly he couldn’t care less about Jaqui.

The survivors do indeed have a lot of trouble getting out of the CDC building. They try everything they can think of to break out of the glass lobby. Then Carol (finally) pulls out the grenade Rick took in Atlanta way back in episode 2. I knew that thing would come in handy eventually! They use it to blow a hole in the lobby, and everyone is able to escape. Dale even eventually convinces Andrea to leave the building, and they escape literally just in time. The CDC explodes in a massive fiery ball as the survivors’ caravan drives off.

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