The Walking Dead recap: Zombie in a well, bun in the oven
Lori makes a shocking discovery, Glenn and Maggie have an eventful trip to town, and Rick has a long conversation with Hershel about, y'know, life, man
Shane was wandering around the Greene Family Farm modeling a set of oversized overalls that made him look like a cartoon farmer. The clothes used to belong to Otis, the man he donated to hungry zombies last week. So it would be an understatement to say that Shane did not look particularly happy to be attending Otis’ funeral. Hershel Greene offered a kind eulogy for the man, noting that he “gave his life to save a child, now more than ever our most precious asset.” (All considering, in a zombie apocalypse, I’d value a child behind a chainsaw and a flamethrower.) Then he asked Shane to say a few words. Otis’ crying girlfriend begged Shane to share her man’s final moments.
Shane sighed, and came up on the spot with a story of elaborate heroism. “I was limping. It was bad. ‘We gotta save the boy.’ That’s what he said. He gave me his backpack. ‘Run,’ he said, ‘I’ll take the rear.’ And when I looked back…” Here Shane trailed off, and his murderer’s guilt was a perfect imitation of survivor’s guilt. “If not for Otis, I’d have never made it out alive. And that goes for Carl, too. It was Otis. He saved us both.” Shane set a stone on top of Otis’ memorial.
That was such a bleak, darkly funny, morally ambiguous sequence. It was also the undeniable high point of the episode, which quickly settled back into the narrative paralysis that is starting to plague The Walking Dead. We were reminded in last night’s episode that only three days have passed so far in this second season. That episode-a-day format can be incredible: In very different ways, Deadwood and Lost used that slow pace to give the viewer an uncannily detailed, you-are-there portrait of the formation of a community on the edge of civilization. And at its best, Walking Dead suggests a perfect narrative compromise between Lost‘s paranoid thrills and Deadwood‘s philosophical inquiry.
At its worst, though, we’re left with yet another episode of Daryl Dixon going into the woods to search for Sophia; yet another long-winded discussion about the possibility of religion in an apocalyptic landscape; yet another tease of zombie danger that results in zero casualties. There was a tiny inkling of interpersonal drama early in the episode, when the benevolent patriarch Hershel declared his farm a weapons-free zone. You might have expected that the survivors — let’s call them the Grimes Gang — would have revolted against that, considering all the times they’ve been besieged by the undead. But Rick quickly agreed, although he asked Hershel to promise to set a lookout.
Maggie, Hershel’s daughter, announced that she was going to run to town to visit the local pharmacy. Rick suggested she bring along Glenn, “our go-to-town expert.” Maggie walked over to Glenn. She was wearing a Farmers’ Daughter cowboy hat and a pair of serious-looking boots, and she said, “I hear you’re fast on your feet and know how to get in and out.” We have exclusive footage of Glenn’s reaction here:
Meanwhile, that devilish daredevil Daryl Dixon was setting off on the Neverending Sophia Search. Rick offered to help him, but he explained, “I’m better on my own,” which I view as a meta-commentary on the fact that Daryl clearly deserves his own show or at least a spin-off web series. Hershel off-handedly mentioned to Rick that his gang couldn’t live on the farm forever. “I expect you’ll move on,” said Hershel. “We need to be clear on that.” Rick had a vision of zombie herds on the freeway and started to make a plea for citizenship.
NEXT: Feeling a little bit bloated.The Grimes Gang made a terrifying discovery in one of the wells: A horrible, bloated, totally gross zombie that had been floating down there for months. T-Dog suggested just shooting the thing, but Dale noted that doing so would probably contaminate the water: “That thing has to come out alive.” I’m not sure how a couple months of bloated pustular ichor-seeping zombie flesh wouldn’t have contaminated the water, but I suppose you can just boil that out.
Someone had the big idea to use live bait to get the zombie out. Naturally, Glenn was elected to do the dirty work, sunk down the well on a rope with the mission to get a loop around the undead creature. (Glenn is like the kid with low self-esteem who keeps having to shoplift six-packs for the cool kids.) Predictably, there was a problem with the rope, and Glenn wound up almost snagged by the horrible swamp-zombie. (There was an awesome, presumably-ridiculously-expensive shot that spun from high above the well down onto the zombie’s chomping face.)
Because Glenn is a consummate professional, he still managed to get the loop over the thing’s neck. Everyone pulled on the rope together — heave-ho, heave-ho — and they got the horrible creature just up to the neck of the well. And then they pulled the freaking thing in half. The bottom portion of the zombie’s body spilled back into the well, a waterfall of blood following with it. Everyone looked depressed and horrified. “We can seal off this well!” concluded Dale. T-Dog mashed the thing’s head in. “Good thing we didn’t do anything stupid, like shoot it.”
Now, this was all pretty hilarious. I loved the horrific pointlessness of that entire plot, and it was yet more proof that makeup designer Greg Nicotero is the real star of Walking Dead: I’m not sure anything else TV can come up with this season will match the image of the bloated half-zombie crawling across the ground with its water-logged intestine hanging out. There was also a nice light touch which was utterly lacking in the night’s other big subplot, which found Hershel taking Rick on a greenscreen tour of the beautiful American landscape talking about God.
Now, here’s the thing about existential conversations about faith and the nature of humanity: They have to be precise. The reason why Ingmar Bergman movies are so much fun is that he doesn’t just have his characters talk aimlessly about whether or not they believe in god while they’re walking through a field. He sets his characters in a brutal landscape where life truly seems utterly meaningless, and then occasionally throws in an entertaining soliloquy about how God is actually a rapist spider. By comparison, ponder this incoherent dialogue:
Hershel: (Pointing at the rolling hillside) “It’s good to pause for an occasional reminder.”
Rick: “Of what?”
Hershel: Oh, whatever comes to mind.”
Rick said, “I try not to mix it up with the Almighty anymore. Best we stay out of each other’s way.” Hershel pointed out that Rick’s recent life has been filled with magical fate: He found his wife and child alive, both he and his son survived gunshot wounds. Hershel said that God had a hand in all of that. Rick said, “God’s got a strange sense of humor.” Conclusion: God exists, or he doesn’t. So there you have it! Understand, I’m not averse to all this existentialism. Great recent genre shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica have covered similar territory.
NEXT: Love in the Ruins
But on Lost, every character explicitly represented a different philosophical belief: Jack was Skepticism, Locke was Blind Faith, Sawyer was Anarchy, and Kate was Awful. I don’t get the vibe that the characters on Walking Dead are meant to be so mythic. So whenever they have conversations like this, it feels a little bit like the TV show is trying to do a happy-ending remake of Lord of the Flies, where the children pass around the conch shell and have lengthy Socratic dialogues. Which is probably fun to live through, but it’s not very dramatic.
Lori asked Glenn to get something special for her from the pharmacy — from the feminine hygiene section. Promising to keep it a secret, Glenn set off with Maggie. Ms. Greene seemed rather shaken by the whole bloated-half-zombie fiasco. Glenn decided to cowboy up and talked about his brooding history: “You know, being out on the road we’ve seen a lot. Guess we got a bit numb to it.” Then he said, “I’m a loner.” Oh, flirtation.
Glenn swung by the feminine hygiene section. His mouth fell to the floor when he saw what Lori wanted. Maggie said, “Say, what’s that?” Glenn grabbed for the closest thing: Condoms! “You got a girlfriend I don’t know about?” said Maggie. Glenn: “Um, [flop-seat], no.” “Then you’re a pretty confident guy.” Glenn sputtered. Maggie said: “I’ll have sex with you. It’s not like our options are vast these days.” Then she took off her shirt. We have exclusive footage of Glenn’s reaction here:
Meanwhile, Rick and Hershel’s therapy session had moved on from twenty-something existential angst into middle-aged daddy issues. Hershel talked about how his dad was terrible, but noted that Rick was an awesome dad. Then, apropos of I guess all the good conversation they’d been having, Hershel said he would consider keeping the Grimes Gang around on the farm… “If you and your people respect my rules,” he added, rather darkly.
Rick went upstairs and admitted to his son that he’d told a little white lie earlier that day, when he had said that Sophia had been found. Carl said that he knew that Sophia was still lost, presumably because he’s also been watching the second season of The Walking Dead. Rick gave him a special prize for joining the Grimes Family shot-in-the-stomach club: His cowboy hat. Then Rick went into the next room and removed his Sheriff’s star. (Brief Comic Book Aside: One of the pleasures of the Dead graphic novel series was seeing Rick’s personality slowly get chipped away from “Heroic Cop Leader” to “Morally Ambiguous Half-Crazy Dude.” I wonder if we’re seeing the start of that here.)
Oh, and Daryl didn’t find Sophia, but he did find a pretty flower. So that’s nice.
The episode ended with a big WTF reveal — Lori took her feminine hygiene product out beyond the fence. Turned out it was a pregnancy test — and the test came back positive. Ruh roh! So now Lori is carrying a baby, and she has no clue whether it belongs to her husband or her husband’s best friend. It’s a Mamma Mia! I might have had my gripes with the episode, but I’m willing to allow that this was just an elaborate stage-setting for some sub-plots that will pay off in the coming weeks. (Remember: There are only three more episodes until the three-month break.) Certainly, I’m intrigued to see the expression on Shane’s face when Lori announces her pregnancy, and everyone is congratulating her and Rick, and he starts doing the mental calculus and freaking out.
Zombie Kill of the Week: I’m going to reward this to the entire group, for their hilarious mishandling of the Water Zombie. Should’ve just shot the freaking thing.
Viewers, what did you think of the episode? Are you happy that Glenn got together with Maggie, even though it’s at least partially ridiculous that an attractive young woman could watch Daryl Dixon pick up his crossbow and not instantly fall in “Love Story” love? Also, now that we’re about a third of the way into Dead‘s season, how do you feel about the show’s slow pace? Are you digging the leisurely slow burn, or do you think the show’s just dawdling? Me and Keith Staskiewicz discuss that problem in this week’s episode of The No Doctor Cop Lawyer Show — take a look!
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