Just because an entrance is illuminated in bright light does not mean that it’s a portal to heaven. Have we learned nothing from Poltergeist?
So we have come to the end of the first season of The Walking Dead. We left last week in the bright glow of hope and enter this week in chaos. The flashback to Shane’s backstory is a welcome insight into a character whose motivations have become increasingly suspect over the course of the season. As Armageddon bears down on the world, Shane is desperately trying to rescue Rick’s comatose ass from his hospital bed. There is no help to be found ““ patients and staff are busy trying to flea the hospital. The military are gunning down infected and uninfected without hesitation and the walkers are slowly taking over. As the power goes out and Rick’s machines shut off, Shane leans in to listen for Rick’s heartbeat ““ and can’t hear anything.
There’s no time to mourn. He needs to get out but before he does, he makes sure the door to Rick’s room is secure, shutting the door tight and rolling a bed in front of it to block access. You do what you can, with what you got, you know? We know from a comment later in the episode that Shane leaves the hospital to go rescue Lori’s family. He’s a hero, of sorts, and he hasn’t been lying about what happened to Rick. Not that any of this does him any good and he knows it.
Our ragged band of survivors take the only escape available to them, rushing in the now-open doors of the CDC, going oh-so-symbolically into the light. They are immediately greeted by Dr. Jenner, who has his own, much better gun, trained on the group. He lets them in, tells them to grab whatever they need to bring inside because as soon as the door closes, it won’t open again. He’s not lying either.
Camp Fear passes their blood tests and are allowed to roam the facility, but it is worth noting that Jenner doesn’t say the results are “˜clean’ or “˜uninfected’ but that they are “˜as expected’. This show plays with expectations and tropes to tell its story. I find myself paying greater attention to the minutia of what is being said and what is being implied.
Jenner says that he’s the only person left in the facility, that while everyone else fled he kept working on a cure. And look, I have to say here, I have a really hard time buying that in that huge facility, he’s the only one there. Why wouldn’t people hunker down in a place that has a cafeteria, showers, unbreakable windows, and steel shutters to protect the doors? I have a way harder time buying that than I do accepting that my dead grandmother might come after me for my brain meat. But, whatever. Personally, I’m writing in a backstory where Jenner has killed everyone else in the facility and experimented on them in his quest for a cure.
Back in the show that is not taking place inside my brain, the group is thrilled to discover food, wine, and hot showers, pretty much in that order. They have themselves a nice little dinner party that Jenner isn’t really taking a part of, even after he’s hailed as hero. Later, everyone takes showers ““ seriously, I can understand why they’re so excited for soap and hot water ““ Lori and Rick get it own, Andrea cries on the floor, and Shane drinks a bottle of wine in his lonely shower stall. Shane is breaking down, y’all.
Shane is breaking down so much that he drunkenly assaults Lori when he gets her alone in the rec room. He’s trying desperately to explain what we all now know is true ““ that he tried to save Rick and really thought he was dead, and if he hadn’t told Lori that, she would have never left the city. But it doesn’t matter. Everyone can predict that it doesn’t matter to Lori, because she can’t get past her own feelings of guilt for shagging Shane and leaving Rick behind, so there’s no way she’s going to let Shane off the hook for this. And when he sticks his hand down her pants, she takes part of his neck in return.
The next morning, there’s eggs! Juice! Breakfast! Lies about what happened to Shane’s neck! And then a huge depressing slide show.
Jenner lets the group know how far his research has gotten. The computer screen shows an MRI of an infected patient from infection through undeath. The virus acts like meningitis, killing the brain, and then reanimating the lower functions within 8 hours after death. He doesn’t know why some people reanimate in 3 minutes and some take 8 hours. He doesn’t know what the source of the virus is. All he knows is how it kills. His wife may have been able to figure it out, but we just watched her die, twice, on the projection screen.
Oh, and by the way, we learn, there’s about 30 minutes left of fuel in the generators for the complex, and then the CDC’s computer system will decontaminate itself. By fire.
People are understandably upset.
Rick, T-Dogg, Shane and Daryl quickly determine there is no fuel left anywhere in the equipment room. The site is going to blow, but the computer system has locked everyone in. Jenner tries to argue that this is a kindness, that the only thing left in the world is dying and becoming a walker or being eaten by one. The explosion will be quick and painless. Shane is quick to threaten to kill Jenner, all his frustration coming to a head, pulling a ridiculous threat on a guy who is about to commit suicide.
[pullquote]Shane offers threats and violence. Rick offers hope.[/pullquote] Hope that they can survive, if only Jenner will give them a chance. Hope is what turns the tide ““ and kids, this is going to be a recurring theme.
Jenner lets everyone out of the control room, but not everyone choices to leave. Jacqui and Andrea want to stay, and Dale refuses to leave if Andrea doesn’t go. Which, you know, is kind of shitty for Jacqui, but she’s gonna die in a few minutes so she doesn’t have too much time to brood over why the pretty white girl is so precious she has people sacrificing themselves with her.
In the front hall, Jenner wasn’t lying about those doors. They won’t open and the huge glass atrium has been built from unbreakable glass. Carol pulls a grenade out of her purse and says she found it in Rick’s pocket when she washed his clothes. Go, Carol. Domestic drudgery actually saves the day.
The explosion is enough to blow the windows out and the group sprints across the lawn to their cars, shooting walkers as they go. (Still very few walkers in comparison to the number of bodies lying on the ground. I’d really like to know what happened here.) Dale and Andrea come bolting out seconds after them and manage to hide behind sandbags while the building goes big-badda-boom. Good-bye Jacqui. Good-bye Dr. Jenner.
And good bye for a year, Walking Dead. I’ll ignore how Andrea and Dale survived the fire ball that scorched all the bodies around them. I’ll ignore how there was no damage to the vehicles. I’ll ignore all the plot holes, because I love you so. When you come back next year with your new writing staff, see if you can spackle them up or something, ok?
Predictions from last week: Crazy CDC guy is not the hero the group had hoped for. (check) Jim’s infection but not yet death will be important.(nope!) CDC guy will insist on going out to harvest cells from Jim, but Rick will have an ethical objection. (nope!) Daryl will not. (does he ever?) Rick does not find out about Shane’s various betrayals. (check)