There’s a nasty stench in the air at Greene Family Farm. And I’m not just talking about the herd of undead in the barn, kept alive with a steady diet of crippled chickens. I’m talking about the noxious odor of lies piled on top of lies, of barely-repressed secrets that — if revealed — could threaten the lives of everyone on Walking Dead. (On Deadwood, Al Swearengen referred to that smell as “cat-piss.”) Poor Glenn somehow found himself at the center of three of those bombshell secrets: His apocalypse-sex relationship with Maggie, Lori’s Mamma Mia! pregnancy, and the walkers in the barn. Maggie tried to buy his silence on that last part with a fruit basket. (“There’s also jerky,” she insisted.”) But Glenn told her that he couldn’t tell a lie. He couldn’t even play poker.
He tried, though. He managed to not tell anyone for roughly half an hour. Then he approached Dale with a hypothetical question. “You’re old,” Glenn said. “You know things. What if somebody told you something that somebody else shouldn’t know?” Dale stared at Glenn through his beard, uncomprehending. Glenn: “There’s walkers in the barn and Lori’s pregnant.”
Dale took a stroll over to the stables. Real casual-like, he ambled up to Hershel. “Hey, Nervous Nelly found her way home!” Dale said anxiously. “I love your fields,” Dale said adoringly. “I took a long walk this morning and I ended up by the barn” Dale said walkingly. Hershel got the gist, and he explained the reason for his undead pet collection. When the epidemic first broke out, “I saw the irrational fears. The atrocities. Like the incident at my well.” To the Grimes Gang, that “incident” was a simple matter: They killed a walker before a walker could kill them. To Hershel, that “incident” was murder. Dale attempted to explain that the undead were dangerous. “A paranoid schizophrenic is sick,” said Hershel. “We don’t shoot sick people.”
From the beginning, The Walking Dead has always focused on the human element of zombiedom. Remember Morgan back in the series premiere, taunted by the presence of his dead wife walking? Hershel is in a similar situation: “My wife and step-son are in that barn. And they’re people.” Dale was savvy enough to sense that he couldn’t change Hershel’s mind. (Unlike his friends, Dale seems to sense the reservoir of slight madness that lurks behind Hershel’s country-doctor grin.) Hershel asked him to keep the barn a secret. “Rick’s a man of conscience,” he noted, “But are you so sure about everyone in your group?”
Hershel knows he can trust his people, because before the arrival of Rick and his coterie of survivors, he ran the Greene Family Farm as a kind of benevolent despot: Everything flowed through him, and everyone seemed more or less satisfied with that situation. To the extent that the Grimes Gang has a political structure, it’s kind of a direct democracy, with Rick less of an elected-by-majority President than an appointed-by-default Prime Minister. That’s a messier system. It allows for little things to slip through the cracks. Look at Carl, who’s already learning some basic espionage skills.
NEXT: You play ball like a girl!