“The dog” was a literal dog. I was half-expecting it to be a nickname for someone we haven’t seen yet — someone who comes over the horizon with his rifle, blasting away zombies, then cooly takes the cigar out of his mouth and says, “They call me The Dog.” But it was a real dog.
Starting exactly where we left off before Labor Day got in the way, Travis, his boy, his ex Liza, and the Haircut Family are pinned in the back of a barbershop while rioting tears apart downtown LA. They’re especially freaked when the business next door is broken into, but Mr. Haircut rightfully points out they’ll ignore the barbershop because “what are they going to steal HERE, combs?” It might have been the perfect foxhole to ride out the storm, if the jerks next door hadn’t then set the place on fire.
They have no choice but to take their chances outside. They open the front door, it overflows with nutters, and they make a break for Travis’s pickup while fighting them off. Miraculously the pickup is completely untouched. But as misfortune would have it, a piece of a building falls onto Mrs. Haircut’s leg, pinning her down. Fortunately there are enough good samaritans around to help lift the heavy metal off her. Unfortunately, this incident didn’t leave her in perfect health, and she needs a doctor. The posse doubles back, to where the pickup is STILL completely untouched (come on now), and heads for the hospital.
Of course the viewers know that is the last place she needs to go, because a hospital is going to be Ground Zero for Walkers. They see the carnage for themselves, in super sloooow motion, and decide to keep driving.
We haven’t seen very many scenes yet that compare to the intensity of the original series, but I thought the riot business worked on that level, while showing us something original. It’s likely half these people were zombies and the other half were crazy idiots using the chaos to go wild and trash everything, as this is what violent protests eventually decay into. Every single person could infect them, or couldn’t — you could not actually tell, and the uncertainty made the scene work.
Back to the adventures of the other half of the family. Madison is still watching the neighbors with unease. Crazy Nick is doing what he does best — begging for drugs while everyone ignores him. The power is going off and on intermittently, so they pass the time by lighting some candles and breaking out the Monopoly board. (Alicia has a priceless line: “This game is evil — it’s kindergarten capitalism.”)
Crazy Nick tries to liven the situation by saying, “Hey, man, what if Travis is dead? He’s been gone nearly six hours. Or what if he’s alive but he got back together with his ex and abandoned us? It could happen, man!” Madison basically tells him to shut up, but they’re interrupted by some noise at the door, and a shadow that looks like a human arm from the one close-up they give. Crazy Nick pulls back the curtain, and….it’s a dog. A dog with a weird shadow.
The dog belongs to the neighbors, and it came back with someone’s blood on it, so Team Madison decides to investigate. I know, I know….when something comes back with blood, the last thing any thinking person would do is investigate. But it was actually fortunate they went over there, because while they were gone, the Walker that had been bothering the neighbors entered their own house. “Let’s make THIS our new home,” they all agree, but two seconds later, the headlights of Travis’s car illuminate the street.
Instead of his family, Travis comes home to find the neighbor eating a dog in the living room. “Now…come on! You’re sick, just calm down….” Travis says with his hands in a neutral position. This should hopefully be the last time we see anyone in this family try to “reason” with a zombie, as people are starting to figure it out. Mr. Haircut shoots the neighbor dead. But another neighbor, Susan, comes from behind Alicia and nearly gets her. As Susan reaches through the fence hole while growling “RRARGH REEEARGH,” Madison again says she’s sick, and suddenly, Crazy Nick of all people realizes the truth: “She’s not sick…she’s dead.”
The next morning, both the Central Family and the Haircut Family are picking up the pieces. Madison and Crazy Nick have a lively conversation in the car.
“Like, I need some drugs, man! Gimme some drugs, Mom, I swear I’ll pay you back later!”
“We only have these two left. I gave the rest to Mrs. Haircut.”
“ZOINKS! Like, how could you do that to me, man? You actually gave those pills to a woman in horrible pain instead of getting your OWN SON HIGH? Who does that, man? Nazis do that, that’s who!”
“You know, if I had never had children, me and Travis would be halfway across the country by now, you know that? I would have gotten away, if it hadn’t been for you crazy kids and that dog.”
“Oh yeah, how’s that dog doing, man?”
Haircut Family elects to stay in the house, but Central Family decides they can’t stay here and they have to take their chances on the road. They’re about to escape this zoo for good when they notice Susan’s husband going the opposite direction, coming home. So they have to turn around and beat him to the house to save his ass, but they’re nearly too late. As he’s trying to “comfort” Susan and what was once Susan is trying to eat lunch, a gunshot suddenly puts Susan down.
It’s not Travis….it’s the National Guard, who have arrived in helicopters and tanks to take control of LA. I can’t say I saw this coming, but if I’d really thought hard, I could have predicted it. There was evidence of National Guard involvement when Rick Grimes woke up back where all this started; he passed massive tanks as he exited the hospital. Now that a new curveball has been thrown in the plot, will the change to the situation be fortunate or will it make things worse? Given how well police states work out in the Walking Dead Universe, my vote is for “worse.”
Let’s see how the third episode has affected the Careometer. Travis and Madison rose a little through their heroic actions, and the previews promise Madison may do even more, but I still wouldn’t cry a river if either were bit. Crazy Nick sunk a little bit from the self-centered conversations he had with Madison, but Alicia is holding steady. Liza is Liza. Haircut Family has all the telltale signs of being throwaway characters, and I can’t bring myself to care for that reason. And I have the sinking feeling we’ll never see Tobias from episode 2 again, at least in this season — he’s still at the school, and Madison’s not going back to work. Unless Tobias leaves the school and his stockade of supplies, but he’s not that stupid.