Wildfire (The Walking Dead)

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The Walking Dead episode
TWD, Episode 105 Ray of Light.jpg
The CDC door opens with a glow of light, allowing the survivors to enter the premises.
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Written by Glen Mazzara
Original air date November 28, 2010 (2010-11-28)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Wildfire" is the fifth episode of the post-apocalyptic horror television series, The Walking Dead. It originally aired on AMC in the United States on November 28, 2010. The episode was written by Glen Mazzara and directed by Ernest Dickerson.

In the episode, the survivors deal with the aftermath of the walker attack, and decide to move to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facilities, hoping to find a cure for an infected Jim (Andrew Rothenberg). Meanwhile, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), finding his leadership position challenged by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), succumbs to his inner demons.


The survivors are dealing with the aftermath of the walker attack the night before. Rick Grimes tries to contact Morgan Jones on his walkie-talkie to let him know that Atlanta is not safe. Andrea is sitting vigil over her sister's body, as the others deal with the bodies of the walkers and the dead from the attack; the bodies of the walkers are hit in the head with a pickaxe to make sure the brain is destroyed, and then thrown into a pyre to burn. Rick approaches Andrea to let her know that Amy's body must be dealt with; she pulls a pistol and he backs away, apologizing. The rest of the group argues over how to deal with Andrea, and Glenn stops Daryl from throwing one of their dead into the pyre and insists that their own dead must be buried, not burned with the walkers. It is revealed that Jim was bitten in the attack; Daryl wants to kill him and Dale agrees, but Daryl is stopped by Rick (who says, "We don't kill the living") and Shane (who backs him up).

Rick argues that the group should head to the CDC facility in Druid Hills, Georgia, in the hopes of finding safety and possibly even a cure. Andrea sits with her dead sister until she awakens as a walker, before apologizing for not spending more time with her and shooting her in the head. Shane urges Lori to talk Rick out of going to the CDC, but she backs her husband; while doing a sweep in the woods, Shane considers shooting Rick, and is caught by Dale with Rick in his sights. After they return to camp, Shane says he has changed his mind and will support going to the CDC. The Morales family elects instead to go to Birmingham where they have relatives; Rick gives them a revolver and ammunition and they part ways. Dale's RV breaks down on the road, and while it is being fixed, Jim, whose condition has been steadily worsening, asks to be left behind to "be with his family" (all of whom were killed by walkers). The group leaves Jim under a tree on the side of the highway and continues on their way.

The episode switches to a video transmission made by a man named Edwin Jenner, apparently with the CDC (whose logo appears on his coffee mug and HAZMAT suit). He says it is 194 days since "Wildfire" was declared (and 63 days since the disease went global), with no clinical progress. The man is shown, in a biohazard protection suit, doing experiments on tissue; after a spill, he goes through decontamination, but an automated equipment decontamination process leaves his samples destroyed. He continues his transmission, lamenting the loss of his best specimens and contemplating suicide. Meanwhile, Rick's group has reached the CDC campus, which is surrounded by a military checkpoint filled with corpses, both military and civilian. They are unable to gain entry into the CDC building, and with darkness coming, walkers are beginning to arrive. As the group despairingly starts to move back towards the RV, Rick sees one of the surveillance cameras move. He bangs on the door, pleading for entry for his group. Jenner sees them on the surveillance feed and, reluctantly, opens one of the doors for them. It opens with a blinding white light beckoning them to enter.


Filming for "Wildfire" commenced at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

"Wildfire" was directed by Ernest Dickerson and written by Glen Mazzara.[1] Actor Noah Emmerich made a guest appearance on the show, portraying the character of Edwin Jenner, one of the few remaining medical personnel dedicated to eradicating the virus. Emmerich's appearance was formally announced in November 2010.[2][3] Creator Frank Darabont foreshadowed the development of the episode the same month, alongside predecessor "Vatos" and the first season finale, "TS-19". "Before it's all said and done, the opinions and actions of the group are divided."[2][3] Producer Gale Anne Hurd added, "Stakes are higher, dissension develops, rivalries intensify."[2][3]

Principal photography for "Wildfire" transpired at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, which was depicted as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Producers of the show were not allowed to photograph the interior of the actual buildings as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a point of reference due to its high security.[4] As opposed to the successive episode, where filming mostly took place inside of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, production for "Wildfire" occurred outside of the building.[5] Darabont conceived the idea of exploring into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as its headquarters are in close proximity to Atlanta.[4] Although the location was not featured in the comics of the same name, Kirkman was content with the idea, and stated that Darabont was looking to diverge from the comics in lieu of a literal interpretation. "Frank has always maintained that the comic book is a path but we’re not stuck on it. If a story idea comes up, we’ll leave the path for an episode or two, but we’ll always come back to it," he said.[6]

It was honestly one of my favorite scenes of the show so far. Glen Mazzara, who wrote that episode, did an amazing job hyping the tension up. Laurie Holden did a great job and then Emma doing her zombie transformation—it was really cool.

Robert Kirkman[6]

In "Wildfire", Andrea shoots her deceased sister Amy after she slowly resurrected into a walker. Greg Nicotero, the special effect director for The Walking Dead, made Bell wear contact lenses that were less harsh in appearance, as he wanted an emotional connection to resonate between the characters. Bell admitted that she was perplexed on how to approach the scene.[5] "I laid down on the wood chips and just sort of stared at the sky and staring at my sister's face," explained Bell. "All of these thoughts and emotions started flooding in, so I was really lucky."[5]

Bear McCreary composed fewer scores in "Wildfire" in comparison to other episode of the series, putting an emphasis on silence, which McCreary felt that the music was more subtle when corresponding with silence. He found that as a result, the music was more effective because he was not adding sound "for the sake of being heard".[5] "When you don't have ambient beds going through your whole score," he said, "it means that just the entrance of music has a lot more power. We really pushed the limits of how long can we go without music."[5]

Themes and cultural references[edit]

Ideas relating to guilt recur throughout the episode. Proclaiming "Wildfire" as an installment "full of guilt trips", Dan Snierson of Entertainment Weekly explained that Rick Grimes and Andrea epitomized such themes given their situations.[7] "Andrea feels guilty about 'not being there' for Amy—but is motivated towards a mercy. Shane made Rick feel bad for not being at the camp when the zombies attacked, and Lori didn't do much to make her husband feel better," Snierson stated. "She also told Rick she needs more 'certainties' from him that decisions made from hunch and instinct."[7] A columnist for the same publication, Jeff Jensen stated that "Wildfire" was a commentary on humanity, and added that the episode demonstrated "the need for the group to honor the departed" so they could identify with their humanity.[7]

The title of the episode is an homage to Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain, which also involves studying a pathogen in an underground laboratory.


Critical response[edit]

Leonard Pierce of The A.V. Club gave it a grade of A- on a F to A scale, calling the episode "a very good one, gripping as hell and maybe my favorite episode of the season so far." He also complimented the directing of Ernest Dickerson, saying he "provided some fantastic shot set-ups and used the 16mm camera better than anyone has so far." Overall, he commented, "The episode provided a lot of emotional drama, and while it was somewhat light on zombie action, it did deliver a huge rush of action thrills at the end. It's stripping down the characters to the point where their relationships are becoming more meaningful, and it's introduced a real wild card at just the right time."[8] Eric Goldman of IGN rated the episode 8 out of 10.[9]


Upon its initial broadcast on November 28, 2010, "Wildfire" was watched by 5.56 million viewers, which increased in viewership from the previous episode. At the time, it was the highest-rated episode of the series in both overall viewership and in the 18–49 demographic.[10]


  1. ^ "Episode 5: Wildfire". AMC. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Sci-fi Preview: Scoop on Smallville, Supernatural, Walking Dead and More!". TV Guide. November 16, 2010. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Jeffrey, Morgan (November 17, 2010). "'Walking Dead' execs tease cast conflict". Digital Spy. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Collis, Clark (December 4, 2010). "'Walking Dead' writer Robert Kirkman talks about last night's explosive finale: 'I wish we had killed more people this season'". Entertainment Weekly. Time, Inc. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e The Making of The Walking Dead Season One (Audio commentary). AMC. April 17, 2012.  Note: Event occurs at time 24:45–26:56.
  6. ^ a b Collis, Clark (November 29, 2010). "'Walking Dead' writer Robert Kirkman talks about last night's episode and teases next week's season finale". Entertainment Weekly. Time, Inc. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Snierson, Dan (November 29, 2010). "The Walking Dead recap: Ready, Aim, Wildfire!". Entertainment Weekly. Time, Inc. Retrieved April 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ Pierce, Leonard (November 28, 2010). "Wildfire". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ Goldman, Eric (November 28, 2010). "The Walking Dead: "Wildfire" Review". IGN. Retrieved February 12, 2013. 
  10. ^ Gorman, Bill (November 30, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: Boardwalk Empire Dips; Soul Train Awards, Real Housewives, Dexter, Top Gear & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved December 1, 2010. 

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