With only two zombie kills and hardly any other zombies, period, “Frogs” further distanced The Walking Dead from all other zombie stories that have come before. The episode was filled with emotional highs, from a tearful family reunion to a gruesome non-zombie ending. In fact, most of the violence was reserved for the humans.
The episode began with a half-crazed Merle stuck on the roof with zombies beating at the door. He goes from maniacal laughter to seriousness to panic to pleading with Jesus to cursing his name, and credit to Michael Rooker for pulling off what could have been a ridiculous scene.
But the bulk of the show takes place back at camp where Rick Grimes wife, kid and best friend (who’s been screwing his wife) are shocked to see him alive. Even though we’re only two episodes in and haven’t gotten to know these characters overly well, the reunion was awfully chill-inducing.
The whole of the episode is spent getting in deeper with Zombie Survivor Camp, where the worst aspects of society quickly surface. Last episode it was racism; this time it’s spousal abuse. Ed (Adam Minarovich), a useless layabout, joins Merle among the survivors trying to wrench the villain mantle from the undead. Expecting the women to work while he lounges, misogyny is alive in well in the apocalypse. We also get to know Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), the camp’s wise-if-self-serving elder.
But the real drama surrounds the Grimes family. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) hasn’t been particularly sympathetic early on, but we learn not only did she have reason to believe Rick was dead, Shane had lied to her and confirmed it. Soon after the reunion, though, Rick is off back to the big city to rescue Merle, gather supplies and warn off the father and son who saved him in Episode 1.
I couldn’t help but think of those early episodes of Battlestar Galactica after the Cylon threat first eased. That’s when it became more than just another sci-fi adventure and something much more complicated. The end of the world was exciting, but what came next is what made the show great. How do we function as a post-civilized society? What happens to our human nature unfettered with normal social constraints?
In The Walking Dead, Shane seems to be a bit of a dictator, forbidding Lori to leave the camp, making sure no one burns their fire too high and mercilessly beating Ed for striking his wife. The women have all been made subordinate, personal property is respected unless it’s Glenn’s car and the collective seems constantly uneasy.
The episode ends where it began—on the roof, where Merle has gone all Aron Ralston. This show excels at its bookends. That tank scene from Episode 1 is one of the best cliff-hangers in recent memory.
• Daryl talking Dale—”Why don’t you take that stupid hat and go back to On Golden Pond” gave me hope that he’ll be more like this show’s Sawyer than just another big, dumb redneck like his brother. It’s early, but these characters need some serious nuance (and better dialogue) or it’ll be The Walking Dead’s biggest flaw.
• Dale: “The choke hold is illegal!” (My favorite line. Seems like maybe this isn’t his first run-in with The Law).
• I was as bummed as Glenn seeing that car get dismantled. One of the few moments of unbridled happiness was Glenn’s joyride.
• Carl: “Don’t be [worried]. Just think about it mom—everything that happened to him so far. Nothing’s killed him yet.”
• The scene between Lori and Shane was perfectly written. Lori is pissed and the audience doesn’t know exactly why until the last moment.
• Even half-guessing it was coming (I thought maybe he’d saw through the pipe), that ending was potent.