Edwin: “I did the best I could in the time that I had. I hope you’d be proud of that.”
The Walking Dead reminds me of my first love in that, as head over heels as I may be for the show, I still find myself underestimating it from time to time. Take, for example, this season finale, in which our heroes find refuge in a CDC facility and meet its sole caretaker, Edwin Jenner. Expecting a classic end-of-year big bad, I’d assumed Edwin a mad genius obsessed with his zombie research. How would Rick outsmart this master manipulator? How many survivors would get infected in the name of science? What was I thinking?
In keeping with the rest of the series, Edwin turned out a decent man with a heavy heart and heroic resolve. The revelation that Test Subject 19 was his wife adds a layer of romance to his every action. Edwin didn’t lose mere research samples last week. He lost all that remained of his true love. When he hesitated to open the doors, he was trying to spare our heroes his grief. Ironically, he might have sent them on their way after a day’s rest if Rick hadn’t confessed his own despair. Consider their exchange now that we know Edwin’s plans:
Rick: “My boy, my wife, I never told them what I really thought. I never even hinted. I just kept it in, kept us moving, you know? I just kept it in.”
Edwin: “It’ll all be okay.”
Mind you, I got one thing right. “TS-19” does culminate the various themes explored this year, presenting our heroes with their greatest challenge yet. The survivors’ momentary respite only serves to soften them up for the crushing blow of learning the world at large has succumbed to the walker plague. After six weeks of connecting every event in the series to notions of duty and community, I should have known the season’s big bad would come down to a basic human concept. Hopelessness, after all, has claimed more souls than any mad scientist.
This Was an Important Place in Their Lives
As I suspected, Shane had been loyal to Rick from the beginning. In fact, the events depicted in the opening flashback occurred exactly as I’d imagined, from Shane’s failed attempt to save his friend right down to the soldiers executing patients and hospital staff members. This, of course, means I’m a genius and you should all start treating me accordingly, making sure to forget the Edwin goof I mentioned a few paragraphs above. Beware of my mighty hit-or-miss zombie prediction powers!
Alternately, we could focus on the implications of the aforementioned flashback, discussing how a dedicated law enforcement officer could degenerate to the point of sexually assaulting his best bud’s wife. In fairness, I think Shane just needed a jolt like a shout or a slap in the face. Instead, Lori scratches his throat, which indicates how much violence she senses in the man, though it’s worth noting she never screams for help or denounces him. Is her shame over their affair that paralyzing, or does she still believe Shane is a good man deep down if not a strong one?
The man’s no Rick. That’s for sure. On a basic level, the difference between the two deputies boils down to one needing the trappings of human civilisation and the other inspiring them. That’s why Shane loses it in the control room (specifically after his rival’s own insecurities are revealed) and why Rick is able to convince Edwin to open the doors, appealing to his moral core. In a way, I’m surprised Shane didn’t opt to stay behind with Jacqui and the good doctor.
Staying Alive Is as Good as It Gets
On a related note, our remaining heroes each made an active decision to keep going, so let’s take a quick gander at their reasons for living:
- Rick’s got his family.
- Lori’s got Rick’s family, which happens to be her own.
- Shane’s got Rick’s family, which isn’t his own.
- Carol’s got a family of her own, so good for her.
- Daryl’s also got family, minus a hand.
- Andrea’s lost her family, but she’s got Dale’s emotional blackmail.
- Dale made Andrea his family, and I actually think he was sincere, so scratch that “emotional blackmail” remark.
- T-Dog’s part of the greatest family of all, that of the token minorities (seriously, writers, give the man a personality).
- Glenn doesn’t need a family because he’s got my awesome best-friendship.
Bits and Pieces of Vy
- It so happens I can read lips, so I know what Edwin whispered in Rick’s ear: “This is what Bill Murray told Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.” Weird, right?
- Daryl swinging his axe in vain while the others were having Very Important Dialogue had me in stitches.
- Edwin went through an enormous amount of exposition to tell us a whole lot of nothing about the zombie affliction. Come to think of it, despite the pretty computer pictures, no causal link was established between the bite disease and bodies returning from the dead, so I’m going to assume Romero rules still apply after all.
- I like how casually Lori pours Carl’s wine into her glass. Very motherly.
- I finally figured out where I’ve seen Andrea before: in The X-Files, as United Nations liaison Marita Covarrubias. I wonder how she feels about the end of the world coming two years ahead of schedule.
- Death toll so far: five. Number of times I’ve declared a bit with Andrea my favourite scene so far: soon to be three.
It’s an “all despair, all the time” end-of-season spectacular:
Edwin: “We always think there’s going to be more time. Then it runs out.”
Andrea: “Hear what I’m saying: there’s nothing left.”
Edwin: “It could be microbial, viral, fungal–”
Jacqui: “Or the wrath of God.”
Edwin: “There is that.”
Shane: “How can you treat me like this?”
This is not an accusation. It’s a cry for help.
Rick: “You feel as bad as I do?”
Andrea: “What part of ‘everything’s gone’ do you not understand?”
Rick: “You done?
Shane: “Yeah, I guess we all are.”
Edwin: “No pain. An end to sorrow, grief, regret, everything.”
And then Rick’s inherent Rickness kicked in:
Rick: “I think you’re lying. What you’re lying about, no hope, if that were true, you’d have bolted with the rest and taken the easy way out. You didn’t. You chose the hard path.”
Rick: “Let us keep trying as long as we can.”
One More Quote
I’d prepared a season overview explaining that, despite the series’ outstanding character moments, I do have a minor qualm with its inconsistent pacing, a likely result of there being only six episodes this year. However, I’d like to use this space to discuss the following quote instead:
Dale: “You don’t get to do that, to come into somebody’s life, make them care, and just check out.”
When I got to this part, I cried like a nerdy third grader on the first day of summer camp. Anyone touched by suicide might understand why. Without getting into details, in over fifteen years, I’ve not been able to articulate how I feel. Every attempt came off like either a glorification or an angry rant. The words I was looking for were simpler and gentler. As it turns out, they were Dale’s.
That’s not what makes the scene my new favourite so far though. What moved me even more was seeing Andrea follow Dale out of the facility. When I started these reviews a month and a half ago, a number of fans wrote in to tell me the source comic book was about evaporating social constructs and the cruelty of existence. If that’s the case, AMC’s The Walking Dead is proving a piss-poor adaptation because all I see from week to week is the human spirit at its noblest. I hope that never changes.
Should the editors of TV Guide ask, The Walking Dead doesn’t have two hot guys, but it’s got beauty.