The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 5: “Wildfire”

Created by: Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabont

Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies,Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs

Synopsis:   The survivors are dealing with the repercussions of the attack that occurred at the end of the last episode.   Andrea in particular is devastated by the loss of her sister, whilst Jim attempts to hide the fact that he himself was bitten.   Rick decides that the camp must be moved and nominates that they all head to the Centre for Disease Control.   Shane however, disagrees with this and does not react well to losing both influence in the group as well as losing Lori to Rick’s return.

In an already emotionally charged season, this episode is perhaps has the highest dramatic impact of the series up until this point.   More than any episode before it, there is a focus on our survivors dealing with true loss.   Indeed, not much action actually occurs in itself, with a much larger focus on character development and an analysis of grief.

The clearest image of this is presented above, with Andrea dealing with the loss of Amy.   She is perceived as weak here, as she will not allow other members of the camp to do what they feel must be done… that being to take action such that Amy does not turn and pose a threat to them all.   The other characters each have their own approach to get her out of her holding pattern, and these in themselves are great for highlighting differences in the characters, seeing how they approach the role of counsellor differently.   For one thing, it highlights one area at which this stage Rick is weak, and this is important as the greatest thing about his character from the comics relates to the flaws in his character just as much as his strengths.

Jim’s response to being bitten, like many other elements of the television adaptation, is also greatly expanded from the source material.   For me this was perhaps an even clearer strength of this episode more so than Andrea’s grief.   Jim’s decline is a feature of the first trade paperback, but it is dealt with so quickly I find the details of it quite hazy after reading all the subsequent available volumes (15 trade paperbacks have been released at the time of writing).   Instead, this episode delves more deeply into not only the survivors’ response to Jim being infected (kill him now?   Find a cure at the C.D.C?), but also into Jim’s own wishes.   This was all done quite realistically, with Jim’s fear of discovery turning to fever and delirium, and then to a certain level of acceptance.   It is a fascinating story arc to watch, whilst being heart-breaking, and the performance by Andrew Rothenberg is quite incredible.   As such, it is also depressing that such a fantastic performer will now be absent from subsequent episodes.

Clearly, I could ramble about this episode all day, as it has also further converted me to being able to appreciate the separate qualities of the source material and the adaptation.   The details between the two do vary greatly, but there is enough in common such that they can both be called The Walking Dead, yet the differences do help keep the surprises fresh for the entire audience, rather than sitting there and waiting for the next big-ticket moment.

4 stars out of 5


The Walking Dead on IMDB.



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