I want to start with why I didn’t like “Vatos” for much of the episode. My problem was with the group of survivors Rick and company inadvertently found in Atlanta. We’re led to believe that this other camp is a stereo-typical Spanish gang - from the way they dress to the way they act. The whole standoff was surprising, but I still don’t believe Rick would have opened fire on them.
Then comes the twist that these locals look after an old-folks home and care for the elderly. While I like that it goes against our stereo-types and forces us to question the way we pigeon-hole races, genders, etc., it also raises some questions. Chiefly, why would these people be so callous in every other regard? If they’re this caring for the elderly, why would they make such a demand for the guns? They could have just said, “let’s split them and call it even.” I know some of this was addressed, but it didn’t come off as believable. I guess I just didn’t buy the dynamic at play there. Yes, the world’s changed and all, but that wouldn’t make you switch back and forth between gang member and nursing-home employee.
So that’s my biggest (and only) problem with “Vatos.” Everything else came together so well that I’m still shocked. There’s so much I can write about, but I’ll try to keep it to a few highlights.
First, I’m so glad we didn’t see Merle. We just get these creepy images where Rick and company just missed him - the blood trail, the body-count, the cauterized wound (gross). It’s unsettling, and makes Merle feel more like a ghost than an injured person… and it’s more effective than having him show up screaming at everyone. Also, I wonder if he played some role in the attack on the camp. He did steal their car and all. I think it’s unlikely that Merle led the zombies to camp, but “Vatos” definitely allows for that interpretation.
And speaking of that attack… it was amazing, in a grotesque sort of way. The most painful part was the murder of Amy (I just spent ten minutes trying to look up her name on the show - did they ever say it?). That was especially rough since we spent a big chunk of “Vatos” learning about the relationship between sisters, Andrea and Amy.
I especially liked their scene in the boat, where the sisters realize that their father taught them to fish two opposite ways because of their differences. We also find out that it’s going to be Amy’s birthday…. and we recall how Andrea stole her that mermaid necklace! God, to kill Amy off was such a bold move, but the show is better for it. All of this was running through my head as Amy died in her sister’s arms. Very powerful and emotional stuff. Laurie Holden boasted some fine acting there as well.
What I’ll remember “Vatos” for most, though, is that chilling line from Jim. I was wondering how they’d tie in his hole-digging escapade. I wondered if there was some profound significance about Jim’s state-of-mind. And then he says it: “I remember my dream now… why I dug the holes.” The zoom out to the surrounding corpses? Perfect.
While there are a few things I’d change in “Vatos,” (mostly regarding the gang in Atlanta), I can’t deny the brilliance and effectiveness of those final few minutes. Well done, AMC. You’ve done it again. So long, Rubicon. Hello, Walking Dead.