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I had a queasy, uneasy feeling about this episode when I updated the front page with the title, "Vatos". The 'scenes from the next' bit at the end of Episode 3 had me partially convinced the entire episode was going to be dealing with a rival gang in the streets of Atlanta, which I found both unappealing and unrealistic. My feeling subsided quite a bit when I learned Robert Kirkman had written it. "Surely he can write an awesome TV show since he writes awesome books," I thought.
As I actually watched the show I was pleasantly surprised. All of my dislikes about Merle's situation were satisfied, save his war against God, which I don't imagine they'll be revisiting anytime soon. He used his belt as a tourniquet, burned his stump, and escaped via a different door from the roof. Hell, he even found the other survivor's van and stole it, good for him. I really liked how they didn't show him at all during the episode, and his mysterious escape and impressive toughness were left to the viewer to imagine.
Merle's brother, Daryl, was still a bit annoying, but much more believable as a character. He's still racist, and bull-headed, but he is smart enough to work with the team for their mutual benefit, all while not drawing more walkers to them. That's another thing I didn't like about Merle. I can believe his racism transcended the apocalypse, I can believe his desire for power made him pull a gun on the whole group, but I can't believe that while it was obvious that gunfire drew more dead towards it, Merle still was happily shooting away from the roof of the department store (was that what it was? It wasn't all that clear). His desire to survive would likely preclude him from doing something like that.
On to the "Vatos" in question. While the interaction between Daryl and Miguel was a bit confusing (I wasn't sure for a long time after the group had left who ended up with the bag of guns) and unbelievable (who is screaming 'Help Me' as loud as they can when there are flesh-eating monsters everywhere?), the rest of the situation turned out wonderful. While a few of my friends said they could tell where the story was going with the violent street gang actually protecting weaker people, I was happily surprised. It made some sense, and was a great twist to the typical 'Vato' stereotype I thought was going to stink up the episode. Pretending to be a hard-core gangsta to induce fear in strangers makes perfect sense in a post-apocalyptic zombie world.
The Abuela was a nice touch, though I questioned how many live people could really survive in a building close to downtown Atlanta surrounded by the dead night and day. People in the suburbs didn't seem to fare as well, and the indications given in the first episodes as to how many dead people there are walking around in the streets suggested that the amount of people living in that 'home' was way too many to be surviving as long as they have. If you think about it, the military was unable to secure any locations we've seen so far, but these street-level good-natured thugs were able to secure an entire building in a densely populated area without too many problems that we've seen. Just a smidge unbelievable, but since the story was so good, I let it slide.
Back at the camp, we were entertained by the heartfelt connection between the two sisters, Amy and Andrea while they gave us some wonderful backstory about how far apart in age they are, and where their parents are. In the beginning, Andrea looked a bit old to me, and while the 12 years of difference makes more sense, it still seems like Andrea could be Amy's mother, rather than her sister. In any case, this version of Andrea is much different than the comic version. (But that's probably mostly due to age, and partially due to the fact that we didn't really 'meet' Andrea until a good time after Amy's death in the comics).
Having DVR'd the episode, I tried very hard not to read any spoilers about it in the 24 hours before I could catch up. Even trying as hard as I did, I still heard that Ed died, and was asked if I was satisfied with the amount of Zombies in the episode. Up until the camp scene, I didn't know why I was being asked that. Afterward, it made perfect sense. Yes, I was more satisfied with the level of zombies, but let me make my opinion more clear. It was not the number of dead bodies on the screen that I was concerned with before, but the lack of interaction between the survivors and the zombies. It was not the amount of zombies I was craving, it was the fear that comes along with living in that world, and the subsequent paranoia of constantly being attacked. And in that, Episode four pulled through with flying colors. So much, in fact, I almost felt like there were too many zombies! The point is, it's not the number, but the interaction. Now for you nay-sayers, I realize it's a TV show. There have to be a certain amount of people on screen for action scenes or it's boring. There is only so much that can be put into one hour. Some points of the story have to be highlighted for longer so that the whole thing makes more sense. I get it. I'm just stating my opinion regarding what has been put out.
I loved the camp attack scene. In my eyes, Ed was a problem, and I was glad the campers didn't have to deal with him. The fear everyone showed will (hopefully) carry over into how they live their day-to-day lives from here on out. While I thought 20 zombies showing up in the same place at the same time was a bit much, and I probably would have understood what they're doing to the campers without seeing them actually eat rubbery bits, the whole thing was good. I can't wait to see what the repercussions of the attack will be, especially for Andrea, Amy, and Jim.
And finally on to Jim. Jim going crazy was fine. His family was taken from him right before his eyes. He narrowly escaped death. He should be going a little crazy. I even thought Shane tying him to a tree for a day was acceptable. A little weird, but understandable. But what's up with Jim's 'dream'? Do we really need a psychic in the bunch? Why does there need to be some kind of other version of supernatural thing happening along with the zombie invasion? I don't like it. Jim should have been digging the graves for his family, who he lost but hadn't had a chance to grieve yet. It would have made their involvement all the more meaningful, and would have developed his character in a much less weird way. I'm not convinced 'psychic powers' is the reason Jim dug graves and seemed to 'see' what was going to happen to the camp, but I know I'll be disappointed if that becomes the case.
All in all, episode four was my favorite episode so far (I know you can't tell from the above). It makes me wish there were more than 6 episodes to the season. We'll be waiting until next fall to get any more Walking Dead! Boo!