Pivotal Episodes of The Walking Dead, Part I: Seasons One & Two
A closer look at the most pivotal (and some of my favorite!) episodes of The Walking Dead. Part I takes a look at episodes from seasons one and two. After reading the list, be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and let me know which episodes of the first two seasons were your favorite!
1. TWD Season One, Episode 2: ‘Guts’
Written by Frank Darabont
The obvious choice for the first most important would have been episode 1, or perhaps episode 3, as it’s Daryl and Carol’s debut, but I think Guts is by far the most pivotal of the opening season. It’s where we meet the whole group (version one!) in their entirety, and when Rick first displays the qualities of strength, fairness, and quick thinking that render him the (almost) undisputed leader throughout. It’s when he learns how to deal with the Walkers; that they can be drawn away by noise, but, perhaps most important of all, how to walk amongst them. Who can forget Glenn draped in guts, doing the zombie groan?!
This is the episode in which the brilliant Michael Rooker as Merle is handcuffed on the roof, the knock-on effects of which keep on coming and coming, far into the future. We see how desperate times can bring out the best and worst in people: when T-Dog calls on the radio for help, back at the camp, Shane is all too quick to say that if they’re stuck, they’re gone. In contrast, back at the department store, Rick honors the Walker by taking out his ID to see who he was (Wayne Dunlap!), before slicing him up.
In this early episode, the Walker was a different beast; he was faster, could climb fences, and pick up rocks to use as a tool. A good thing he became more zombie-like, later 🙂
2. TWD Season One, Episode 6: ‘TS-19’
Written by Adam Fierro and Frank Darabont
This was one of my least watched episodes, but when I saw it again, I realized how important it is. At the CDC the group discovers, via last scientist standing, Edwin Jenner, that there is no cure, that this really is ‘it’, and that some have taken their own lives rather than face it—as does Jenner, and early group member Jackie. Rick discovers that everyone has the disease and that if you die, you turn, though of course, he doesn’t share this secret until later.
It’s also the episode in which Shane’s obsession with Lori spirals out of control, leading to the disasters of season two—but, most notable of all, it’s the first time that meek and mild little housewife saves them all. Remember when they were trying to get out of the CDC, two minutes before it exploded, and Carol handed Rick the grenade she took out of his trouser pocket?
3. Season Two, Episode 8: ‘Nebraska’
Written by Evan Reilly
A particularly key episode for several members of the cast: the barn is open, and Hershel comes to terms with the fact that the Walkers are not sick people who can be cured. I noticed how the group is becoming more blasé about the Dead—when T-Dog drives off a pile to be burned, a stray arm falls off the back of the truck, and Andrea jumps off the back of the pickup to fetch it as if it’s nothing. Only a few weeks before, she cringed away in disgust and fear when she saw the men kill one.
Other relationships develop in this episode, too: Maggie tells Glenn she loves him for the first time, while Lori starts to think that Shane might be dangerous after Dale says that he thinks he killed Otis: ‘Sooner or later, he’s going to kill someone else.’
Most of all, though, it’s a red-letter day for Rick. In the bar, when he goes to rescue Hershel from a self-pitying drinking binge, it’s the first time he kills the living to keep his group safe—and he finds out that their hopes of finding sanctuary at Fort Benning are gone, and that if they are to have a life, they have to forge it for themselves.
4. Season Two, Episode 13: ‘Beside the Dying Fire’
Written by Robert Kirkman and Glen Mazzara
The bit-before-the-titles is particularly interesting in this episode, as it shows the same scene in Atlanta as when the group left the city in TS-19. We see how the Walkers follow the noise of a helicopter and herd up, traveling slowly, slowly, until they reach the woods behind Hershel’s farm. The loss of the farm is so sad (“But it’s my farm!” “Not anymore”), especially Hershel’s face when he looks back at it.
Andrea is left behind, which, of course, brings the wonderful Michonne into the series (though the faceless person who played her was not Danai Gurira, as she hadn’t been cast yet), and leads to the tragic events of seasons three and four.
This is when Rick lets everyone in on what Jenner told him: that if you die, you turn. It’s when the rift between him, Lori and Carl starts; Lori was devastated that he’d killed Shane, and this brought up Rick’s resentment about the affair that, previously, he’d been able to keep under wraps. Not everyone had such faith in Rick’s leadership abilities back then, but they’re sitting behind the door of the unknown, and when Rick tells them it’s his way or the highway, no-one leaves. Little do they know that just a short way away, over a wooded area, lies the prison…..
Stay tuned for Part II of the most pivotal episodes of The Walking Dead!
Do you have your own favorite episodes from TWD season one or season two? Which episodes do you think are the most important to the series from those seasons? Sound off in the comments below, and be sure to follow contributor and author Terry Tyler on twitter.