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The Walking Dead – Save the Last One

The Walking Dead has been
stepping up its game this season, producing episodes, that while not
flawless, have shown marked improvement over their predecessors.
That trend continued with “Save the Last One,” an episode that
was filled with just about everything that’s been missing from this
series; including a healthy dose of good ol’ fashioned zombie
killing. Interestingly enough, while this episode’s subplots shined,
it was the source of those storylines itself in which most of the
problems lay.

It may sound odd, but it’s actually
nice to see some characters fighting for their lives; especially
since Hershel’s farm is starting to seem like a magical oasis from
the undead, fully equipped with hot showers. We have seen a few
zombies bite the dust this season, but it hasn’t been since last year
that the show has given us a true, do-or-die struggle with a couple
hundred “walkers” and it was overdue. Otis and Shane’s mad dash
through the school in the opening moments of the episode in
particular stood out. Overlaying Rick’s story of his lifelong
friend’s childhood antics(which was an incredibly well acted scene
from Andrew Lincoln) onto the shots of the two men struggling to
outrun the pack was not only a crafty directing move, but also just
what the writing has needed to sell the bond between those two
characters. The other action sequences can be nitpicked(for instance
there is no way that Otis would make it from the bleachers to the
locker room with how he landed), but even if it wasn’t perfect, a few
head-shots and some daredeviling to liven things up is always
welcome.

Placing Pruitt Taylor Vince(who is
actually a skilled character actor when not relegated to “Redshirt”
status) in a zombie-infested world is just plain cruel. The guy is
pretty much a big piece of bait, so it’s only a question of when and
how he’ll go out. Though the “when” came a little sooner than I
would have liked, the “how” may become one of the show’s most
defining moments. A key feature in many of the works from the Cinema
of the Undead, and certainly in the TWD’s source material, is
that the worst thing about a zombie apocalypse isn’t the zombies,
it’s other people. You always know where you stand with with a
flesh-eating monster, but it is in those that we put our faith with
whom we have the most to lose. The series has never truly captured
that aspect, that is until Shane showed his ruthlessness with a
single bullet. The scene itself was in dire need of better
execution, mainly because Shane struggling with Otis for five minutes
made the very need for a distraction completely moot. We are also
apparently meant to forget that Shane was just ready to let himself
be the zombie fodder not two minutes earlier when he encouraged Otis
to go on without him. Even with those issues, it was the first
moment of the series that showed it perhaps does nerve to go down
some of the comic’s darker roads, or even find some of its own.

You will have to trust that I’m not
sadistic when I say that their son getting shot has been the best
thing to happen to Rick and Lori, or at least to how the characters’
relationship has been portrayed. In these last two episodes the
scenes they’ve shared have been far and away the couple’s best. The
highlight in “Save the Last One” came with their fear and anxiety
induced argument over their reason for living. Though she begins
debating on whether it would be better for him if Carl just never
woke up, it isn’t long before it becomes obvious that Lori is really
wondering whether any of them should go on living in a world with no
hope. It seems silly to give special focus to a single
character(Andrea) questioning her will to survive; given the
circumstances, it should be a daily event for all of them. So seeing
Lori have her own moment of doubt was all but a necessity, it was
also one of Sarah Wayne Callies better performances. While Rick also
endeared himself, as it’s clear his own resolve didn’t need to take
another hit.

It’s ironic that what spawned these
excellent scenes was actually a storyline that went too far in trying
to produce it’s own dramatic moments. Carl being on the brink of
death is an event worth dedicating some screen time to, but his
trauma could have been handled better. Though by all accounts the
surgery itself should be the longest and most arduous event, it’s
swept under the table with a simple “all clear” from Hershel.
Granted, at that point squeezing anymore heart-wrenching moments out
of Carl’s injury would have probably only made it worse. After the
seizure and stretching out the drama of Rick’s blood transfusions
draining him dry, it just felt like the show was reaching for
suspense that wasn’t there. Thankfully though, the effect on Rick
and Lori, as well as the quest to fetch the medical supplies that
stemmed from Carl taking a bullet more than made up for the
melodramatic feeling that permeated his near-death experience.

Though the supporting players didn’t
add much to this installment -with only a couple budding
relationships to speak of and still no sign of Sophia- the main
characters went far in creating one of the more well rounded episodes
of the series. With one plot wrapping up, it will be interesting to
see where this season is heading, and if it will keep building
momentum. If The Walking Dead can continue to combine action
and emotion as effectively as it did in “Save the Last One,” then
the series will be on it’s way to reaching its full potential.

Rating
8.0

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