Well, we finally know exactly what The Walking Dead wants to be, and what The Walking Dead wants to be is Lost.
But it's not Lost, at least not yet. It has the potential to be Lost, but it's not quite there. And boy does the word "Lost" start to look weird the more you type it.
What Lost had going for it, among other things, was great characterization. The people on the island were walking and breathing dichotomies of their pre-island selves. The audience became privy (over time) to each castaway's old life, but the folks on the island only knew what the other Losties were willing to show. Ergo, no one knew that the old man who seemed to be the second coming of Dwight D. Eisenhower was actually a literally broken box company peon. Or that the jovial tubby guy was a millionaire many times over back on the mainland. Or that the pretty girl who was so helpful and understanding was actually wanted for murder.
The characters on The Walking Dead so far are just stereotypes. Rick Grimes, with whom we've been able to spend the most time, is the most fleshed out of all the characters, and he's pretty much Dr. Jack Shepherd. Rick was a competent law enforcement officer with a messed up personal life back before the Zombie Apocalypse. Jack was a competent surgeon with a messed up personal life before crashing on the island. I like that on The Walking Dead (much like Jack on Lost) Rick Grimes is not perfect. He doesn't always make the right decisions. People disagree with him. He may wear the uniform of The Law, but he hasn't officially earned the right to be The Law. And he has Shane and Daryl to act as his...
...Sawyer and Sayid. Shane is his rival for Lori's (Kate's) affections, and he was running the show before Rick showed up. There's a lot of potential for character development with Shane, though we've mostly only seen him disagree time and again with Rick (oh, and carnally attack Rick's wife in the woods). I wish the writers would give Shane a little bit more of Sawyer's cavalier Han Solo attitude. This show is sorely missing a little sense of humor.
Daryl is the Sayid of the group. He's a skilled marksman and he's willing to do what needs to be done, even if that involves putting an arrow or two into one of the group members' heads (make that especially if that involves putting an arrow into someone's head). Of all the characters on The Walking Dead, Daryl is the one I most want to know more about. There's a story there. I suppose they'll get to all that in Season 2. I hope so, at least.
OK, but as for the episode at hand, 'Wildfire.' This was the moment that scope of the show expanded, and not a moment too soon. The Zombipocalypse survivors had just dealt with a geek attack on their turf. A few members of the group were killed (among them Wifebeater Ed and Mermaid Lover Amy). The survivors were busy taking care of business, shooting all the dead in the head, burning the geeks, and burying their loved ones. Except Andrea, who was clinging to her dead sister's body for dear life. She, it turned out, just wanted to have one more moment with her little sister on her birthday. So Andrea waited for Amy to turn zombie, shared a loving undead moment with her sibling, and then shot her in the head. Happy Birthday, Sis!
Freaky Jim, the guy who dug all the graves the day before or whatever, had been bit by a zombie in the gut. He tried to hide it, but he couldn't. He was in a lot of pain and running a high fever. Daryl wanted to -- guess what -- shoot him in the head, but Rick (The Jack Shepherd of the group) wanted to find a way to cure Jim. He thought that maybe they could caravan over to the CDC building where scientists had been working on a cure for Zombieitis. Allegedly.
No one wanted to go with Rick, but in the end they all caved, because he's the Jack Shepherd and that's what happens. They hopped in their cars and RVs, said goodbye to the token Latin family whom we never really got to know, and took off for the science lab. They kicked Jim to the curb on the way (at his insistence), leaving him resting up against a tree to die and be born again as a zombie. Why did they not shoot him in the head? Was this really what Jim wanted, to become a zombie? Was assisted suicide not an option? Why create more zombies? Lots of questions.
So the caravan got to the CDC without any zombie issues (dubious). They trekked through piles and piles of dead geeks to reach the door of the CDC. It looked abandoned. Except Rick saw the security camera move. Someone was in there! He knew it! He banged on the door and shouted and yelled and yelled until finally a light went on in the hatch, er, the building and the door opened.
What we knew that the caravan didn't was that a scientist, we'll call him "Desmond" until further notice, was all alone down in the lab. He was working on a zombie vaccine, but was not getting very far. And all of his fresh tissue samples had been destroyed. He was starting to go a little crazy, so it's probably a good thing that this group of humanoids showed up when they did.
Next week: Party in the Lab!