READ MY REVIEW OF THE NEXT EPISODE, “INFECTED”, HERE.
Never mind “30 days without an accident”, it’s been a whopping 196 days since The Walking Dead was on our screens, basking us in all its inimitably gory glory. With Glen Mazzara’s departure, owing to creative disputes between him and Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimble has taken the helm in his stead (The Walking Dead goes through Executive Producers quicker than it goes through characters), who’s authored a number of fan favourites, such as“18 Miles Out”, “Clear”, and “This Sorrowful Life”. “30 Days” isn’t his absolute best outing, but if any evidence was needed that the show is still in very capable hands, this is it.
As has become custom between seasons, an indeterminate span of time has elapsed since “Welcome to the Tombs”. The prison inhabitants have had time enough to create a fairly idyll environment for themselves (well, it’s as idyllic as they’re ever likely to get with hordes of walkers still pressing in on them from all sides of the cordoned fencing). They’re farming, running a communal outdoor kitchen, and hosting “reading” sessions for the youths. But with the vindictive Governor’s elusion at the end of last season, Rick and co. clearly can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Gimble serves up a profound visual metaphor of this fact; with Rick unearthing a pistol from a shallow mound of dirt in the prison’s grounds during the episode’s opening sequence. The moment is representative of the dangers that are always so proximate to our survivors, and how tenuously veiled they are by the group’s attempts to recreate and sustain a sufficient mode of life in the midst of it all. The brief shot of legions of ants swarming a large dung beetle could also be construed as a suggestive allegory of things to come, illustrating how numbers can overwhelm even the most sizeable obstacles (although, this is something that should by all rights be accredited to the director, Greg Nicotero, as it’s doubtful that Gimble specified such a shot in his script).
It’s moments like the above that Gimble so frequently adjuncts his episodes with; brief imagery of acute symbolism (e.g. the abandoned rucksack in “Clear” that suggests its earlier witnessed carrier had perished, and the group’s blasé retrieval of it a potent indication of the depravity overcoming them).
With the change of leadership, it’s relieving that Rick’s fragile mental state hasn’t been set aside. His neglect to arm himself with a firearm when out collecting the spoils from the snares, and his endangering willingness to accompany the obviously unstable Clara (Kerry Condon) are indicative of his continually troubled state of mind – something that, it seems, the time and relative prosperity which has come to pass since the Governor’s last assault have been unable to quell.
Clara’s aberrant desperation to follow her husband into a zombified afterlife by committing hari kari, superseding her attempt to nourish his severed, undead head on a healthy helping of Rick Grimes, was another startling and disturbing insight into the toll this world run amok with the walking dead has on those fortunate/unfortunate enough to have thus far survived the tumult.
It’s something that The Walking Dead has constantly sought to do since the very start (it is, after all, the story of survivors, not a tale explicitly about the zombies themselves), and what’s surprising is that it is *still* surprising when something horrifying like this occurs. We might be lulled into believing we’ve seen all that this programme can throw at us, but then wonderfully execrable moments like this come along to remind us that we’ve barely scratched the surface.
Despite the undercurrent of horror that coursed through the final scenes between Rick and Clara, there was also a beauty and poignancy to them. In particular, how well Rick’s prepared questions coincided with the situation at hand; a deft reminder of how accustomed he and his company have become to the horrific regularity of life in The Walking Dead. The haunting, melodious chords in the background amped up the profundity of their exchange as well.
More central to the episode was Daryl and co.’s run for supplies, sufficiently supplementing the quota for grotesque zombie slaying. For what it’s worth, I appreciate the ingenuity of the ‘raining zombies’ sequence, but it didn’t necessarily evoke what I would suppose was the desired reaction from me. The whole thing descended into something I’d dub “horror slapstick”, and put me distinctly in mind of the ridiculed suicides in The Happening. Whilst the unintended comedy was at least offset by some characteristic gruesomeness, I still wasn’t fraught with terror, and was nearer to laughing in places, when I wasn’t recoiling at some tremendously disgusting prosthetic work, that is (the VFX team behind the zombies really are astoundingly good).
Zack (Kyle Gallner) dying as he did was a real shame. The Walking Dead’s ability to introduce characters and elicit immediate compassion from the audience is unparalleled; as is the show’s tenacity for killing them (perhaps Game of Thrones rivals it in that regard). But certain credit has to go to Gallner for establishing such a likeable repute from the outset. The real tragedy is that such a competent actor’s time on the show was so short lived.
The zombie biting into his calf muscle felt like an unmistakeable hark back to last year’s premiere, “Seed”, with Hershel enduring the same from a walker laying dormant as he passed it by. Maybe Zack’s fate was an indication of how fortunate Hershel was to escape his incident only slightly maimed.
All in all, “30 Days without an Accident” is a great episode, which has laid some intriguing foundations for the remainder of the season to build upon. The quietus virus that befalls uncanny Mintz-Plasse lookalike, Patrick (Vincent Martella), is clearly connected to the dying animals, and the walker with blooded eyes that Rick twice stares at through the fence. Is this more of the Governor’s sabotage, or merely a result of the unhygienic inevitabilities of dead and undead festering in the grounds about the prison? And what will become of zombie Patrick, now that he’ll no doubt be on the roam for human sustenance *within* the prison walls?