Season One, Episode Four: Vatos
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Robert Kirkman
The quality continues with part four of a meagre six in this initial season that seems almost like a ‘taster’ for this burgeoning series.
Those who haven’t found that the previous episode satisfied their penchant for zombie action or desire to revel in some trademark Nicotero gore may need to tune out, as this week the series bravely stands firm and confident in its mission to evoke the same ebb and flow context narrative as the graphic novels. The majority of this chapter is spent with people, well, talking. But that’s just as it should be as any fan of the books will attest. In fact the major criticism easy to level at the TV adaptation is that the books oddly spend far more time developing the characters and flexing out the inner workings of the groups relationships and failings, but the series has its own strengths, adding some beautiful moments and touches to proceedings that outweigh the comics’ more straightforward, narrower storytelling.
We’re introduced to new characters in this episode and whilst they are fabricated for the TV version, they perfectly resonate with Robert Kirkman’s world and vision, unlike Merle and Daryl Dixon, who continue to add more than a little cliché to events. It’s remarkable, actually, just how the writers are choosing to tackle the overall adaptation, as every time you feel it’s veering off path to invent its own, completely new storyline, it threads itself back into the originals tale with ease and conviction, pulling no punches when it comes to hitting the important beats. There are a few important moments that have been omitted, however, and it’ll be interesting to see how they overcome these to build to the presumed finale for this initial season with the justified punch to feel as satisfying as in the books. But I have faith.
Indeed, it’s a real joy to report that the series is still one of the strongest shows on TV at the moment, and more than that; is something truly unique, breaching various genres much like the comics to create a show that can be watched and enjoyed by all adults regardless of your taste for zombies. There’s plenty of drama, suspense and atmosphere all perforated with pressure building action sequences and the occasional horror moment, but as always it steers away from cheap shocks. It’s commendable however that when the violence does sporadically erupt that it’s still as realistic and unflinching, if not as lingering, as in the books. This is a truly adult show on many levels it’s just a shame that some of the characters are a little too cut-and-dry. The female roles are particularly unfortunate at the moment, as they are all slotted into their stereotypical roles as motherly and docile onlookers. The comics had the good sense to give its females far more individuality and depth, having them wade into the fray with the boys in terms of action and velocity. But here we’re merely given some slightly cringe-worthy lines about family and domestic situations when they’re not simply gawking uselessly at an impending threat.
Jim, played by Andrew Rothenberg, actually ends up stealing the show in this episode with a perfectly measured and balanced take on his character’s tragic, fractured psyche. Everyone else continues to find their feet with their characters and does an able job.
The ratings are still going through the roof with this series and it’s likely we will get to see not only a second season but a third and possibly a fourth, so there’s plenty of time for the story to develop and for any flaws to be ironed out. For those keeping track we’re now nudging toward the end of the first graphic novel and look to be on track for hitting the beginning of the second just prior to the next season.