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Posted at 2:57 PM ET, 11/29/2010

'The Walking Dead' -- Episode 5: 'Wildfire'

By Liz Kelly and Jen Chaney

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Come back later if you haven't yet watched last night's episode, "Wildfire."

Just in time for next Sunday's season-ending sixth episode, our ragtag batch of zombie bait has made it through yet another flesh-gnawing gauntlet (well, most of them have) and arrived at Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control.

Before they arrived, though, we viewers got to meet Jenner (played by Noah Emmerich, otherwise known as Truman's best friend Marlon) who appears to be what remains of the CDC staff. As Jen and I noted over IM this morning, and Mike Ryan also pointed out in his Vanity Fair recap, Jenner and the CDC serve as the "Walking Dead" equivalent of "Lost's" Desmond Hume and the hatch -- a mysterious man in a mysterious place who promises to take the story in a new (or is it?) direction.

While we haven't read the comics (we know, we know -- this is an error we plan to rectify as soon as possible), we know that the CDC plot line is specific to the TV show. Which makes Jenner -- who, it should be noted, was gulping down merlot and planning to blow his head off when Rick and the gang arrived -- an entirely new "Walking Dead" creation.

Will he be able to truly conduct his experiments and seek a cure for, um, zombieness, now that he has some folks to help him snag fresh tissue? Is he too far gone to care anymore?

We can't speak for others, but we kind of like Jenner already. In addition to being smart enough to know where the CDC keeps its wine bottles, he's also klutzy enough to ruin important specimens in the lab, which is totally Homer Simpson of him, and delusional enough to record video of him speaking directly to camera, which is totally Aron Ralston of him. His nuttiness also suggests that he could emerge as yet another male character with whom the hotheaded Shane can come to blows. (Either that, or he could totally die next week since Emmerich may be preoccupied with other projects, including the upcoming "Super 8.")

Speaking of Shane, what is up with that "22" necklace? Is that a NASCAR thing or are we going to have to start studying the mystic meaning of numbers here, too? For anyone who is ready to head down the over-analytical path, here's a link to the wiki page for 22, which also popped up in "Lost" courtesy of the book Naomi Dorrit was carrying when she landed on the island: Joseph Heller's "Catch-22."

We're not sure where things are headed for the finale. But given the preview -- in which Jenner shows the gang a fancy-shmancy Power Point called TS-19 and notes that once a person is infected "everything you were or ever will be" is gone -- we're hoping for a nice, "what's really going on inside the Hatch?"-style cliffhanger.

And what about all the other ends left dangling like so many partially gnawed-off limbs? Merle, that racist little charmer who apparently sawed off his own hand, has yet to resurface. Ditto Morgan and young James, who Deputy Sherriff Grimes left behind after a nice, hot group shower. (He has tried to keep in touch via walkie-talkie, also very "Lost-ian.") There's also the matter of that helicopter Rick saw flying over Atlanta. And one of the biggest character conflicts we're being set up for -- Rick vs. Shane -- has yet to hit pay dirt (despite Shane's momentary urge to blow Rick's head off from afar in this week's episode).

Got any theories about what lies ahead or what we'll learn about Jenner and the cause of all the excessive zombieness? By all means, share in the comments section.

Previous coverage:

'Walking Dead': Plot points to consider after episode four

'The Walking Dead': Why, Rick Grimes? Why?

'Walking Dead' episode two: Five questions about 'Guts'

AMC's 'Walking Dead': Have we found our next 'Lost'?

By Liz Kelly and Jen Chaney  | November 29, 2010; 2:57 PM ET
Categories:  TV  | Tags:  Walking Dead  
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This episode was very Lost-eque for me.

Rick & Shane = Jack & Sawyer, the whole man alone w/the video was very Dharma station/Desmond.

I like how they let the sister & the grave digger be our Lucy Westnerna, we got to see the zombification without losing a character we'd really invested in.

One other thing, would someone PLEASE give Rick a new outfit!! Or does he wear that stupid cop outfit throughout the whole series? It's not like being an officer of the law matters in a lawless land. No live person is gonna see him & think "OOO FINALLY!! A COP!!"

Posted by: wadejg | November 29, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I think you're really reaching on the parallels to Lost. Okay, there are similarities between a band of survivors in zombie apocalypse and a band of survivors on a desert island, and I see the CDC/hatch parallel, but really there's no secret mythology, there are no cover ups or conspiracies or any other stupid crap like that. It's just about the characters and how they survive. The '22' necklace Shane is wearing is probably just a personal touch added by the costume folks or maybe by the actor himself.

A few notes from the episode though:

- They finally started calling them walkers instead of 'geeks,' which was painful to hear.

- Without spoiling anything, the scene in the woods with Shane was a message to the people who have read the comics: don't think you know what's coming. Yeah they've said that before, but this made it real clear. That scene closely parallels a pretty crucial scene from the comics right up until old wise guy in the hat shows up (cant remember his name) and then all of the sudden the show veers far away from the comics and they end up at the CDC, which as you said is nowhere in the books. Suddenly the show is a lot more interesting to me because for the first time I really really don't know what's coming. (But I guaran-friggin-tee it's got nothing to do with pushing a button every 108 minutes)

Posted by: quothmarc | November 29, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

After reading pretty much every recap of this episode online, one thing is really clear. A lot of you people really can't let go of "Lost." Give it up already- it's over, whether you liked the ending or not.

If they go into the CDC and find nothing but a really large undead carrot on a really large undead stick, then I might buy it. Somehow, I don't think next week's episode will fall into that category.

Actually this show really reminds me of "Star Trek," with Jim being Captain Kirk, Dale being Mr. Spock, and... {rolls eyes}

This is a great show that holds up just fine on its own. You folks need to leave purgatory already. Zombies that eat you right now as compared to nebulous smoke monsters- hmmm. I'll take the zombies, with or without explanation.

Posted by: shirc223 | November 29, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey now, there were dead guys walking around on Lost, so this seems like a perfectly cromulent analogy.

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | November 29, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't want it to be like Lost, I really can't take another show like that, not yet, & it's really not, it's just fresh in the brain & we're all jonesing. Like shirc said, it could easily be Star Trek or even Star Wars.

Jim was about as hairy as a Wookie! made the cover of EW this week & in the article they pretty much said that it's not gonna follow the comics. The comic is still going & they may pull certain characters & bits, but it won't follow it exactly.

They do wanna do one Lost type thing, they wanna know the end. I think Darabont said he wanted to discuss where it's gonna end so they don't fall prey to that second season slump, just wandering aimlessly like their zombies.

Posted by: wadejg | November 30, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse


I'm going to have to clear some things up here. If you would have read the comics before-hand, these things that you are commenting on and asking questions about would probably seem as silly to you as they do to me.

You're right about the CDC thing being new to the story line. It was a very surprising twist that those of us who were comic fans first, tv series fans second, were not expecting. The finale will probably be what you predict. It's going to reveal some very important information (or at least PART of the information) to keep you interested and want to stick around for season 2.

The Merle thing is a reference to a character in the comic books (or at least that's the way that I interpreted it). I'm thinking that he didn't come back because he's either 1) Going to ambush them at the CDC and get revenge, OR 2) he's going to be returned WAY later in the show as who's known as "The Governor", and if you've read the comics you should have already made the connection. And plus, who else saw the obvious piece of paper taped to a bright colored car telling where they were going, with them KNOWING that he's out there and is probably on a murderous rampage?

Morgan and his son are left because, once again, they are due to come back later, if the show keeps it the way it was in the comic.

SPOILER! - In the comics Rick talks into a telephone that doesn't work to a woman who "called him" as his way of dealing with things. I think the walkie talkie thing is the new telephone, and he's going to use it as his way of venting and talking about whats going on, even though he knows that there isn't anyone on the other end. There's still the possibility that Morgan can really hear him, but I think there's a reason that they showed him talking into it right after the fight.

The helicopter deal I don't know about. Since common sense tells you it was a hallucination, it was probably real.

ANOTHER SPOILER! - Okay, for the Shane and Rick thing....this is bothering me and I HAVE to say it. The reason that it seems like they're setting you up for something is because they are!! Shane was supposed to DIE in that scene in the woods, so yeah...there's something coming! It wasn't a momentary urge! Shane wants Rick dead so he can have Lori back, and what was supposed to happen was Carl was supposed to be the one standing there, not Dale, and he was supposed to put a bullet in him for trying to kill his Dad! I hope they don't mess this up any's very important to the story.

I know people are going to be mad at me, but I can't wait any longer!! I'm not going to spoil it completely, but I'll spoil it halfway. THE ZOMBIE BITE DOES NOT INFECT THEM! ALL the bite/scratch does it KILL THEM! Not INFECT...KILL. Think komodo dragon and you'll get the general effect of a zombie bite. I'll let you guys figure the rest out on your own. But PLEASE read the comics people before you try to pull it apart!

Posted by: MetalSqueak | December 3, 2010 2:05 AM | Report abuse

Plus, the comics give you a view of the story that the tv series does not! They're very good, and the illustrations are amazing! :) Not trying to attack anyone here, just helping some people understand a little better.

Posted by: MetalSqueak | December 3, 2010 2:08 AM | Report abuse

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