Two messages resonate here, and the horrifying end of the episode is such a devastating blow that few could escape it without getting queasy. Damn, that's good TV.
Wikipedia has the details here.
This show would not work if they didn't periodically kill people off in whom they'd invested serious time. Luckily...they prove equal to that challenge. But let's go through the many aspects of this show that I found appealing.
- There are AT LEAST four examples in this episode demonstrating that a drop of human compassion and cooperation is better than Merle or Daryl's self-preservation by selfish means. Ed gets to be the first to die in the night walker attack because he secluded himself in camp after being beaten half to death for hitting his wife, choosing to brood over his treatment rather than play well with others. The cooperative (and unpopular with some) plan to get the guns, radio, and Merle back from inner-city Atlanta does indeed net us some useful guns, the radio, and a hopeful sign that Merle has survived his entrapment - although he did have to hack off his own hand and cauterize the wound with a gas stove (!). Jim's frenetic grave-digging is stopped not by the words of one, but by the combined efforts of the entire group. And of course, the Vatos chose to defend the defenseless elderly of a nursing home through selfish means first and it almost got everyone killed. A little old lady prevented a shootout by reminding Guillermo of his humane intentions. Whodathunkit?
- Not that I'm rooting for everyone to meet their grisly demise at the hands of walkers, but this show proved it had staying power (and established the real jeopardy of the survivors' situation, not to mention guaranteeing that the show would not become stagnant in place and time) by allowing some popular cast members to die rather early. The sudden walker attack was a well-done deception as well...they had us believing that Merle was going to be the one to ruin the happy fish feast, and instead we get hit by a roving band of walkers...yes...it even caught me by surprise. No one will shed a tear for the death of Ed, but Amy on the other hand...well don't that just SUCK. Not to mention poor Jim, who we see get bit in this episode, though he doesn't admit to it until later.
- I think it was important to show that not everyone in Atlanta was dead or even beyond hope and that some of them were still interested in being civilized. Here's to hoping we see more signs of human decency going forward, even the ugliest of urban war zones.
- I love that, although we have seen no sign of them, Rick is still concerned with Morgan and his son. I am praying that we will see them again, because I did really like those two. :)
- Let us not lose sight of what this show is supposed to be about. It's a horror movie in TV serial format. They are MASTERS of terror...every episode (more or less) is packed wall to wall with dramatic tension because they know how to avoid the trap of overusing the startle tactic, resorting to needless gore (the gore in this show is always used perfectly to make a point) or become monotone emotionally. Though the threat never leaves entirely, they mix their human emotions like a painter mixes colors on the canvas. This episode is a great example of why their horror technique works so well.
The dramatic misdirection, the range of emotions and character-driven reactions we see here, and the well-crafted and intense action sequences leave nothing to be desired at all but the next episode.
Solid performances all around, though there are fewer truly brilliant moments than we saw, for example, in the pilot episode.
The writers continue to focus on the need to maintain one's humanity (and eternal soul) in the worst of times...they will show many examples of humans behaving badly, but so far, such actions have certainly not resulted in positive outcomes for the bad actor.