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Recap | The Walking Dead: ‘TS-19′

For all the snickering comparisons to Lost generated by last week’s reveal of a mysterious man in a bunker, the season finale of The Walking Dead actually played out like an episode of 24. The ticking clock, the too-advanced technology, the slow-motion leap from an explosion, the even bigger blast that doesn’t cause nearly as much damage as it should — it was all there. And, much like an episode of 24, it wasn’t all that good.

“TS-19″ starts out promising enough, with a flashback — yeah, yeah, enough with the Lost jibes — of a panicked Shane attempting to rescue a comatose Rick from the hospital while chaos erupts all around. As soldiers gun down the remaining doctors and nurses, presumably in a brutal attempt to contain the outbreak, and walkers pour in, Shane fumbles with the web of wires and tubes connecting his partner to machines. When the power goes out, Shane checks for Rick’s heartbeat before blocking the door with a gurney in a final, futile effort to help the friend he genuinely believes to be dead. It’s a terrific opening, filled with a sense of futility and images of brutality, that provides developer Frank Darabont & Co. with yet another opportunity to redeem Shane — hey, he didn’t purposely lie to Lori about her husband’s death! — only so they may lay bare his more loathsome nature later.

That feeling of promise quickly fades as we move back to the Centers for Disease Control, where the survivors meet the secretive Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich), the facility’s only remaining scientist. He agrees to provide shelter, food and, best of all, hot water, as long as everyone agrees to submit to a blood test. Hey, who wants to be trapped in an underground fortress with a dozen infected people? Safe for the first time in ages, the group settles in for an evening of food and wine, the latter of which leads Shane to confront Lori about his lie, confess his love — only Lori’s clawing at Shane’s neck prevents the altercation from escalating to rape — and remind her that she and son Carl owe him their lives.

The following morning Jenner shows them futuristic video of Test Subject 19, a bite victim who agreed to allow him to record her brain during her death and (brief) resurrection. Presumably for the benefit of the post-Lost TV audience, Jenner launches into a quasi-scientific lecture on how the zombie disease — no one knows whether it’s “microbial, viral, parasitic, fungal” or, as Jacqui not-so-helpfully offers, “the wrath of god” — seems to work, something the comic series has so far wisely avoided. If MRI footage of TS-19 receiving a bullet to the brain weren’t sobering enough, that the test subject was his wife, the lead scientist at the lab. What’s more, he hasn’t been able to communicate with any other facilities for nearly a month.

And then there’s the matter of that enormous clock on the wall that no one but Dale noticed. That little thing? Oh, it’s just ticking down the minutes until the generators run out of fuel, triggering a facility-wide “decontamination” — a fiery flash designed to prevent the myriad lethal organisms stored at the CDC from being unleashed. Resigned to his fate, Jenner locks everyone in the bunker’s command center, assuring them that near-instantaneous incineration is a far better fate than what awaits them outside. (It’s tough to argue with him, really.) Amid the crying, pleading and threats of violence, a desperate Rick finally convinces Jenner to release them. The not-so-good doctor has one more revelation for Rick, which he whispers in his ear. (It’s probably safe to presume the secret has something to do with the blood samples.) But as the survivors flee to the building above, where they still have to get past doors that Jenner can’t unlock, Jacqui announces that she won’t be going with them; she’d rather be flash-fried than go through what Amy and Jim did. Andrea, who’s been crumbling in the hours after her sister’s death, says she, too, will remain — a decision Dale can’t abide. (Apparently no one likes Jacqui enough to try to change her mind.)

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Confronted with locked doors and unbreakable windows, the survivors frantically hammer at the glass until Carol conveniently remembers she’s been holding onto the grenade that Rick took from the dead soldier in the tank. Rick pulls the pin and leaps — in slow motion, no less — as the detonation blows a hole in what not long before was an impregnable building. They flee to the caravan, with Dale and Andrea on their heels, as the CDC explodes in a not-quite-convincing CGI fireball that doesn’t touch their nearby vehicles.

For a series that has so far nailed its episode openings and closings, even when making the occasional misstep in between, that ending — that season ending — is one of the most cliche-filled I can recall seeing since … well, since 24 was canceled. The character moments, such as the altercation between Shane and Lori, Rick’s drunken confession of feelings of hopelessness, and Shane’s attempts to find flaws in Rick’s decisions, were compelling. But I can’t help but wonder what purpose “TS-19″ served, other than to offer an incomplete scientific information or to acknowledge that, yes, the CDC is headquartered in Atlanta. It certainly didn’t provide the kind of satisfying finale I was hoping for.

Grade: B-


  • Joseph

    B- is generous. I think it was the weakest episode to date, in a season I have generally enjoyed. The CDC only has enough fuel to power the generators for a month? Seriously? But the worst was the acting; with the exception of Emmerich and Lincoln the entire cast subscribed to the “wide eyes, flaring nostrils” method, hammy and over the top and extremely distracting. I was hoping at least 3 or 4 others were going to stay in the CDC when it exploded. If this is what we get when the producers take a “detour” from the comics I suggest they stay on course next season.

  • TheCommander

    Agreed on all counts. Very underwhelming finale and a disservice to the strengths of the show thus far (the character moments). However, I can’t help but praise the killing of Jacqui. Horrible actress and a meaningless character. I groaned every time she was on screen or uttered a word through six episodes. She will not be missed.

    All in all, a good start for this series and here’s looking forward to season two.

  • Kevin Melrose

    Yeah, I may have been in a generous mood. The side trip/stay at the CDC could’ve been good (or at least better), if the story were allowed to unfold over a couple of episodes. I’d be interested to see how the group dynamics further change as they’re forced to live together in a confined space, all the while sensing that Jenner is hiding information from them (the depleting fuel supply, the global reach of the outbreak, blood-test results, what have you).

  • pluto

    Her name was Jacqui? how meaningless and boring character, I watched the 5 episodes twice and never remenber that name.

  • Waddupjoshjohn

    i felt the same way. the ending was THE worst one of this series. what an anti-climatic way to finish this season. i thought from the sound of it, it was was going to be a serious explosion. second only to a nuclear bomb in intensity. it didn’t even crack the windshields of the vehicles! and with heat like that, i would think the people would have been fried outside. i gave it a D grade.

  • Khiaao

    I wondered what was whispered in his ear?. wife pregnant?

  • Cosmic Book News

    This episode made me left wondering if the series ratings had bombed then the entire cast would have went up with the CDC, lol. All in all it wasn’t bad.

  • Mhawes1973

    I thought it was a good episode in the sense we got some closure on the whole why question , this is never addressed in the book , and what i loved is that it still wasnt addressed in the episode, Everyone on the boards last week where screaming that they where going to turn this into a cure thing and that did not happen in fact it only went on to strengthen the facts that the situation is hopeless, There is NO help out there, The Government doesnt exist anymore , its not just Atlanta its the world. The episode goes on to show just how bad everything is and that ontop of all that they still have to deal with all the human problems as well, like Shane being drunk and attacking lori cause his heart is broken. The last episode was written this way in case the series had done well and they didnt get picked up for a second season, it had the ability to close off or continue on depending on its ratings. was the cgi explosion at the end any good no of course not , but really who cares it served its purpose, it was a detour that allowed the audience to see that the world as they knew it is gone and they only have eachother to count on to survive

  • Drone

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Although I would have been a bit harsher with the grade, especially given the superb source material they have to work with. After 35 minutes had ticked away I remember thinking to myself so all they did this episode is shower and get drunk. Not exactly a pivotal plot point and the episode as a whole makes any future excursions into DC or to find the remnants of the government pointless.

  • Dan Wetts

    Joseph: ” the entire cast subscribed to the “wide eyes, flaring nostrils” method, hammy and over the top and extremely distracting” — couldn’t have put it better. Lori, Rick’s wife, is the worst for this.

    AMC needs to keep the pressure on this show… Weak ending, lots of implausible behavior, wasted time. And in the end, the only thing the whole CDC-thing gave us was Jenner’s whisper.

    And if it turns out the whisper was a revelation that Lori is preggers (he would know from the bloodtests, I guess)…well, Rick would have figured that much out in a month or two, anyways.

    Liked Jenner, though. The bit about weaponized small pox/ebolla was cool.

  • Tom Hyberger

    I agree. This episode was a monumental letdown to a very short season. The Walking Dead had better come up with something a lot more compelling for the end of Season 2.

  • JohnLees

    I think the negative feedback here is an unfortunate yet probably inevitable consequence of the collision between the comic book/genre show fanbase – with its desire for instant gratification and highly plot-driven storytelling – and an AMC original drama that is wanting to be more like “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad” than “24” or “Lost”, and as such has more interest in evolving character dynamics and slow-boil, cumulative arcs spanning across multiple seasons rather than constant STUFF HAPPENING.

  • Joseph

    I respectfully disagree. In fact the reviewer’s main complaint was that the CDC storyline didn’t have enough room to breathe. The problem is that they did rush through it, there were no interesting or believable character developments (blond girl continues to mope, Shane continues to seethe, Lori continues to open her eyes really wide and constantly look surprised/panicked, Redneck continues to have a volatile temper etc).
    Plus comic book fans generally loved Lost, I think. Not sure your point really holds up.

  • Joseph

    Oh wait you were comparing this show to Lost? Wow I think that’s way off base. I would say Lost was more like Mad Men in terms of the emphasis on character development. Anyway I’m getting confused now. But my main complaint was the acting and ridiculous (even for a zombie show) plot developments that made no sense and only existed to get the characters out of the CDC immediately, because the producers werent sure there would be a second season.

  • Joseph

    Haha I replied to myself instead of John that time. I will leave now

  • Tim

    I’m a big fan of the comic and I *enjoyed* the last episode.

    Re: ‘wide-eyes & flaring nostrils’ I’m sorry if this bothers you. Obviously, since *you’ve* likely already been through a Zombie-Apocolyse and then trapped by a suicidal scientist, you have likely got your own optic and olfactory functions under control, but not everyone has.

    (However, if this ‘reaction’ continues, even after they should have become jaded to it, I’ll retract my comments and agree with you.. :))

  • Maury Povich

    But who is the father?

  • Joseph

    Sorry, I didn’t know you were related to the actors. You seem to be taking my comments personally. They were using exaggerated facial expressions instead of actually, you know, “acting”. In my opinion, and apparently I am not the only one. Glad you enjoyed the ep though

  • Werehawk

    Didn’t think of that.

  • Werehawk

    I can’t say I disliked it as much as you, but yes, it was a weaker…the weakest…episode yet. Interesting that it is also the one that deviated the most from the comics (i.e. it never happened in the comics).

  • Esbaird

    Tim, its not the one is wide-eyed that’s the issue, its that these actors revert to that reaction for everything. Its poor acting and when you have great production, design, and lead acting it makes the background actors stick out and look like waving morons behind on site reporters. That being said, the actors behind Glen, Dwyne, Meryl, Carl, and Rick have been fantastic. I have high hopes for the actor playing Alan.

    Andrea has had a great moment (shooting her sisters zombie) but all of her sitting around dialogue and acting just doesn’t ring true for me. Part of this could be because I read the comic and watching the evolution of Andrea from a young co-ed to a jaded butt-kicker and this provided for great moments. They just kind of start her as a tough as nails girl and that just seems weird considering her and Amy’s background. At the least they’ve abandoned an opportunity for great character development at the worst they’ve created a boring one note character where the source material along provided great dynamics.

    Lori is atrocious, Shane has good moments – his flashback to trying to save Rick being a good example – but his wah moments and the beating of Carol’s husband just seem superfluous. We get it, he’s in turmoil. Turning a wife beaters face into hamburger is unnecessary. Jacqui… really, anyone else know her name? Anyway, I was perplexed as to why a number of characters were added to the camp from the original only to be extra faces gasping when things happen. These casts are best small and mean. Look at Joss Weadon writing for great examples of how to make this work. Firefly is actually a perfect example.

  • Michael Bryan Walt

    Hey Kevin! You may not remember me, I’m the mook that didn’t agree with your review of the “Vatos” episode of The Walking Dead. Well, this time I’m in complete agreement with you. As a final for the season, this one wasn’t very strong. Stated out rather cool, the flashback to the hospital (a side thought: where did the bodies of the doctors and nurses go, the ones shot in the head by the troops. When Rick, after waking, walked the halls we only see the one ravaged female corpse. Shouldn’t the bodies, or what was left, bones, uneaten meat and such, still been there? Maybe I’m being too much of a nit picker. Just a thought). I enjoyed the showing of the breakdown (zombiefication) of Test Subject 19, visually cool. And… that’s about it. Everything else was pretty much… well… cliche. I won’t go over your points, you did that very well. So, I’ll just write; Damn it, your right on target this time! Which is sad, because i really, really wanted this episode to end with a grand cliffhanger. You know the type of one that grabs the viewer by the short hairs and shouts out, “YOUR COMING BACK NEXT SEASON, AREN”T YOU BITCH! YOUR MINE NOW!!” Didn’t get that. Oh, well, hopefully upon its return next October (which is bloody insane on AMC’s part, it should be back in say… March) Frank and the writing staff (were they really fired?) get on track. Let Mr. Kirkman do the writing, Lord knows, I prefer his word-smithing over the shows group of talent. I’ll end here because this little missive is turning into a great shambling thing of word like horror.

  • Dan Wetts

    I think the ‘Finale defenders’ need to realize that most of us really do love the show — I mean, for me, it’s two wishes granted: a zombie television show (we all be lovin’ the zombies) and a zombie show by AMC (who have a damn fine record). But what concerns me is seeing these hairline fractures in the show already — so much potential here. A strong lead. Great premise. Great source material…

    …so don’t hit us over the head with the same stuff that drives us crazy on other shows. Predictable behaviour on the part of the characters, poor acting, typical writing maneuvers (maybe that will change with the new writing team)…just..stuff we’ve seen before.

    Here’s to season two.

    “Apparently no one likes Jacqui enough to try to change her mind” …ha, this made me lol, and I don’t do too much ‘lol’-ing.

    …and I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed Lori’s bug-eyed ‘I’m stunned’ look. I actually applauded when she was beheaded in Prison Break (though she was far more tolerable over there)…and sulked when it turned out ‘it wasn’t her head’. Yeah, sure. I’m still bitter about that one.

  • Evil_s2003

    I think you are looking to much into this. I loved it as much as any episode. It had the tension and had as good an ending as any trade I’ve collected of the series.
    Not every episode is going to be BANG! POW! you know, just like not every issue of the comics are full of action.
    Besides, this was all done BEFORE they realized what a hit it was going to be so I’m sure they didn’t want to much of a cliffhanger in case it wasn’t picked up.
    Seriously, though, I’m not sure what you all expected from this but I got what I expected and enjoyed every minute of it.

  • Anonymous

    It was pretty bad as far as finales go. Perfectly fine if this was episode 6 of a 12 episode season, but it wasn’t. I actually didn’t find anything in the scientist’s explanation that was more interesting than seeing the girl come back to “life” after dying in episode 5, since the entire camp saw that happen what was so surprising to them about his explanation that people are partially alive but not as human as they used to be?

  • BenOrion

    Honestly, in the beginning I liked the episode…until we got to the computer… This then became Resident Evil WITHOUT zombies…uh what? Then, we got to the cast, after all they been through, GETTING DRUNK… Yeah that’s a real smart thing to do during a zombie outbreak… I could have seen one or two people but most of them drinking?!?!?! I was facepalming myself at this point.

    But the kicker was Jacqui… so she decides to remain and only the other black member of the cast tries (half-heartedly) to convince her to leave… Andrea does and not only do most of the group try to convince her/looks concerned, Dale offers to REMAIN and die with her. What?!?!

    Wow, before this episode I couldn’t understand why the writing staff was canned… After this episode, good riddance. Not only are we diverging from the story source, but now we are rushing these bonds/enmities that are being formed. Comic Book News and others are right, this felt like a rush job in case the series wasn’t picked up.

  • Thad

    All in all I thought it was a ludicrous premise (and yes, I know, it’s a zombie apocalypse show, but that still doesn’t excuse “giant ticking clock that can’t possibly correspond to the amount of time it takes to get back up to ground level, get out, and get inside the RV”) buoyed by great acting. Not my favorite episode, but I thought it was pretty good despite its glaring faults.

  • Bulldog

    I can agree with a little bit of everything that people said (and I don’t usually do that). I guess all of us agree that in every episode there is criticism to be pointed out. Like in episode 5…that gunshot blast point blank by someone’s head with your head right there was deafening…although pointed out with Rick in the Tank, it wasn’t there, as that was a little detail that always makes a story much more believable.
    It burned me up for 3 episodes to why they did not build a better perimeter (like in a fence since you had axes and time)around the top of the quarry. Tin cans? Well we see how that worked. Also, who in the heck would sleep in a tent with hundreds to thousands of zombies about 5-10 miles way.

    The fact that all the characters try to kill one another more than the zombies try is true irony; don’t you think as someone is always pointing gun at someone or going at their throat…ah human nature.
    Since the brain stem is the only functioning part of the brain left it had to include the thalamus, because the zombies have motor skills and alertness and reaction…the hypothalamus would also have to be functioning as well for a zombie to have hunger for flesh. Unless he just shot his wife too soon and we didn’t see those parts of the brain regenerate or his equipment was faulty due to power running low (not plausible). Big explanation fail, there.

    The cliffhangers were presented throughout with Morgan’s fate and Merrill’s fate and the family that stayed behind, so I thought that was ingenious on the writer‘s part. Definitely a little like “Lost” (as I am a big fan and huge zombie-apocalypse enthusiast), Resident Evil, and The Stand as far as character conflict goes and episode 1 where Rick, like Gary Sinise comes out of a facility where everyone is dead around him. They took a little of everything, which usually doesn’t work well, but in this case they pieced it together very well with really good acting with some characters you can care about.

    Shane plays a great foil to the protagonist Rick. Dale is a great patriarch and helps stretch the limits of good. Merrill does just the opposite in stretching the limits of evil, which helps define every character. They are also top veteran actors which usually play this part well and it helped the other lesser experienced actors and the strength of characters in the story line.

    What’s great about this story are the layers of symbolism…e.g. Rick and Shane from the first episode are talking about jokingly about how they don’t like it when a woman leaves too many bright lights on the house…next thing you know Rick is coming out of the hospital with the brightest of light in his face (the scene emphasizes the moment). Light becomes a big theme of the story. Yes I thought the same thing at the end with the explosion (as “Vi” wouldn’t be playing with her aerosol assessments), force would have lifted the vehicles off the ground breaking the windows.

    Dr. Jenner after thinking about it and playing it back numerous times and putting the right amount of words in his whisper says , “You wife is 2 months pregnant and Shane may be the father”…this is why Rick closes his eyes in grief for a moment. Anything else would of and could have been put out in front of everyone if what he said was, “The whole world is virally poisoned and we (CDC)were the cause”. What would be the point of anything being top secret at this point if everyone is going to be infected and die.

    In spite of all the criticism we can think of I think we can all agree for one reason or another we were all hooked in and interested to see what was going to happen next and that is why we will anxiously await for next season to arrive.

  • Jackie

    Oh my god I hope that’s not it but it really seems like it would be.

  • RDFozz

    Actually what bothered me most about the episode was Rick’s little confession that he was struggling to maintain hope. I mean, we don’t know how long it took between his leaving his home town and him getting to Atlanta – that could be a few days, I suppose – but it seems unlikely that he’s been out of his coma for more than a week at this point. The others at the camp have been dealing with this situation for several weeks longer than him.

    Personally, I suspect that what was whispered in Rick’s ear was some less personal information than other have suggested. As a reader of the comics, I know that there’s a twist to this infection from there that hasn’t been encountered on the show. I suspect that it’s a bit more information about the zombification process, and possibly about their blood tests.