'Walking Dead' Recap: 1x04 - 'Vatos' Relies On Stereotypes, Abandons Original Characters
The first scene of this episode of Walking Dead is weird. And cheesy in a way that you can tell the actors are trying to be dramatic, but all they’re doing is overacting. To tell you the truth, it didn’t fill me with confidence that this episode would be very good. The blonde sisters (Amy and Andrea) are fishing, discussing their father and his fishing habits. It starts off bland, then takes a turn for the “wait, what?” when Amy (the younger blonde) starts crying and Andrea (her older sister) tells her “there’s no crying in the boat, it scares the fish.” Crazy-Jim digs graves and talks about a dream he had that he doesn't remember. It was roughly at this point in the episode when I turned to my roommate (who was burying her head in the couch, laughing) and asked her why I was watching this show.
Oh yeah! Because of the zombies. The zombies which, thankfully, make an appearance after the title sequence. We see Rick and company, in the city, searching for the recently one-handed Merle. After a couple racist remarks (“got a do-rag or something?”), the characters follow the trail of Merle’s blood. I stifle a yawn.
When Glenn gets kidnapped by a gang of Latino guys, things seem to pick up, but there are still way too many characters. This show started off excellent. It was emotional, sad and filled with zombies, which are three traits that I look for in my television. Four episodes in and I’m still waiting for all these characters to get fleshed out (if you’ll excuse the expression).
They’re all stereotypes--the hick brothers, the violent husband, the cop with the hero complex, the black guy named T-Dog (really?)... even the gang that kidnapped Glenn--Latino gang-bangers? Like I’ve never seen that before. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't read the graphic novel series, so I have no idea what the characters are like in the comics, or how many of these characters are in the novels versus how many were added exclusively to the TV series.
That being said, this little grandmother shows up in the middle of a gun stand-off and made this entire episode about 100 times more awesome. Rick learns that the Latin gang is holed up in a nursing home filled with old people that the Guillermo is staying to look after. See, Walking Dead, this is what you need: give us a stereotype and then turn it around on its head. Tell us that Guillermo got his dogs from Satan at a yard sale and then show us that they’re actually Chihuahuas.
The episode starts to wind down with a contemplative dinner scene around the camp fire while the group discusses watches and keeping track of time. Unfortunately for the group, their idyllic scene is shattered when the zombies attack! There’s a second scene between the blonde sisters that is more genuine and touching than the lame, fishing scene from the beginning. Rick and company burst in and save the day! It’s too late for the littlest blonde sister, however, who has been munched on by a zombie and is about to die. Jim, grave-digger extraordinaire, resurfaces and says he remembers his dream. It was a chilling end to a disappointingly mediocre episode.