Lori has to make a big choice, and Shane teaches Andrea how to kill zombies good
The Walking Dead, Laurie Holden
Credit: Bob Mahoney

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!

When Carl wanted to learn how to shoot, he lied to Dale about needing a walkie-talkie and grabbed a pistol from the RV arsenal; then he whispered to Shane that he wanted some private gun lessons. Shane squealed on Carl. Lori freaked out, but Carl stood strong: “I want to look for Sophia. I want to defend our camp.” (Props to Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl: This was basically the first episode all season where he’s had more to do than lie in bed, and he was great. Riggs, by the way, stole the show from his fellow castmates at October’s New York Comic-Con. You never know, but if you wanted to pick out which contemporary will still be big a decade from now, you could do worse than betting on Riggs.)

Shane brought out his best Full Metal Jacket impression and started giving gun lessons. (Aside: The gun-range sequence featured, I believe, T-Dog’s single line of the night: When someone tried to do the 90-degree pistol shot, Perfect Dark-style, T-Dog said, “Don’t give me that gangsta s—.” They really need to figure out what to do with T-Dog. End of Aside.) Andrea was his best student, so he invited her to office hours, setting up a hanging piece of wood so she could get used to shooting at moving targets.

But the motion was only half of the test; he also started to crawl up into her head. “You’re too emotional! You need to shut it down,” said Shane. “You shoot like a damn girl.” Then he hit the third rail: “That’s the walker that got Amy, now you shoot that son of a bitch, SHOOT HIM!” That sent Andrea off in a huff. Shane caught up with her in his shiny new automobile and apologized. “I got a lead on Sophia,” he said — which, by the way, Sophia has now officially been missing for half of the series, isn’t that fun? “Be my back-up,” Shane asked. Andrea relented. Hey, it’s hard to stay mad at one of the very few men left on earth who actually looks good bald.

Back at the Farm, Good Ol’ Dale had his second casual-yet-pointed conversation of the night. When Lori had a minor upset stomach at the smell of meat, Dale strolled over casually. “My wife was pregnant once,” Dale said expectantly. “She miscarried, and we didn’t try again after that,” Dale said resignedly. “I remember how nauseated she became at the smell of cooking meat,” Dale said meatfully. Lori got the gist. Intriguingly, Dale even knew why she hadn’t told Rick yet: Shane. Lori apologized: “I wanted to feel something. Anything.” She said that the baby was Rick’s, no matter what, although the timeline is a bit fuzzy to say the least. She also said that she didn’t want to have the baby for the baby’s sake. She can already see a sociopathic strain in Carl, growing in response to all the atrocities he’s had to witness. “This baby won’t have any good memories at all,” Lori said. “Only fear and pain.”

After that conversation, Lori seemed resolute. She sent Glenn into town to get some supplies from the pharmacy. Maggie came along for the ride. She voiced the same rhetoric as her father: Zombies are people, too. Things were tense between the young lovebirds. And then a deadite grabbed Maggie’s hand. Glenn tackled the walker with his blade — I think it’s a paper cutter, right? — and decapitated him. Or rather, he almost decapitated him: The undead thing stood up, doing its best impression of Nearly Headless Nick. Glenn slashed it through the skull.

Maggie was not in a particularly good mood. She stormed up to Lori. “Here’s your lotion. Here’s your conditioner. Here’s your Soap Opera Digest. And here’s your abortion pills.” Glenn tried to calm her down. Maggie said “You’re really stupid” and then kissed him — which by the way, this is why men don’t understand women. “You’re smart, and you’re brave, and you’re a leader,” she said. “But they don’t see that.” She pointed out that Glenn was sent down the well, and Glenn is the go-to-town guy. “You’re walker bait.”

NEXT: Honk honk!Back on the Sophia trail, Shane and Andrea found themselves in a nice quiet suburb. “If Sophia got this far she has a real shot, don’t you think?” said Andrea. There were piles of dead bodies burned down to ashes. They found the remnants of a barricade. They found the human corpses of people who took option B. But they didn’t find Sophia. Another dead end. (I swear, when they find Sophia, she better be a zombie, or a captive of Merle Dixon, or maybe she’s learned archery and has become a badass girl-of-the-forest. Just please let the payoff be somehow worthwhile.)

Unfortunately, their smell apparently attracted some of the local suburbanites, who flocked around their car moaning for blood and flesh and brains. “You cover the street,” said Shane. “I’ll clear the car.” Shane handily killed three of the undead…and then stood back to watch his student. Andrea couldn’t land a shot. She was nervous. She dropped her clip. “Focus now. Focus.” There was a deadite fast approaching her, and Shane did nothing.

This was the frying pan philosophy: Learn by doing, or die trying. Andrea focused and shot the zombie through the head. Then she killed another. And another. And another. Shane told her it was time to go, but she kept on shooting. Another. Another. Another. On the road back home, Andrea grabbed Shane’s privates and flashed some bedroom eyes. Shane stopped the car. We heard the horn honk a couple times. In the immortal words of Henry Kissinger, “Killing zombies is a great aphrodisiac.”

Back at the farm, Dale casually took Shane aside and said he should consider getting on his way. Shane laughed: He wanted one of the Grimes Gang’s best soldiers to leave? Dale laid all his chips on the table, noting that Shane had been extremely vague about what actually happened to Otis. “Otis died a hero,” said Shane. Dale brought up the time Shane pointed a gun at Rick: “I know what kind of man you are.” Shane provided a counterargument that turned into a threat: “You think I’d kill my best friend? What d’you think I’d do to some guy I don’t even like?” Dale looked horrified. Shane smiled his morally ambiguous smile and walked away.

Meanwhile, the last girl that Shane honked around with was struggling with a big decision. Glenn had brought her some prenatal vitamins. Lori tried to be clinical about her situation. It was a simple health choice. Glenn: “Maybe you shouldn’t make that choice alone.” But that’s exactly what Lori was doing. Now, this plotline was interesting, because it had profoundly metaphorical implications. Which is interesting, because in general The Walking Dead steers clear of metaphors. This makes it something of a rarity in zombie history.

NEXT: If the world has ended, does that mean that Roe v. Wade is no longer in effect?In general, there are two distinctive strains of zombie storyline: The social-satire drama, and the gore-splattered comedy. The former was established by undead auteur George Romero, who created the genre almost accidentally with Night of the Living Dead. His later films all have barely-repressed themes: American consumerism in Dawn of the Dead, the military-industrial complex in Day of the Dead, social inequality in Land of the Dead, and, um, Irish people in Survival of the Dead. Then there’s the 28 [Measure of Time] Later franchise: Days was a freakish portrayal of urban decay, while Weeks was an outright Iraq allegory. You could also throw Colson Whitehead’s awesome new book Zone One and the BBC gem Dead Set onto this pile.

On the other side of the equation, you have the undead horror-comedies, where the zombies are just a glorious excuse to ratchet up the grand guignol insanity. Zombie comedies can poke fun at their more serious siblings, like the Romero-riffing Shaun of the Dead. They can just explore the inherent dark humor of a world without rules, like Zombieland. They can reconfigure history as a bloodsoaked farce: Witness the curiously expansive list of films that feature Nazi Zombies. You could also throw into this pile the Call of Duty: Zombies sub-franchise, like the Pentagon attack where you can play as JFK, Nixon, Fidel Castro, and Robert Freaking McNamara. (You can tell it’s a completely unrealistic comedy, because JFK and Nixon both have guns and don’t instantly shoot each other in the face.) Or you can just watch this immortal moment from 1979’s Zombi 2, certainly the craziest thing to come out of Italy before Silvio Berlusconi.

The Walking Dead is sort of a weird blending of those two tones. It’s clearly a drama, but it’s aiming for emotional realism, which means there isn’t really a metaphor. Or rather, the “metaphor” of the show is essentially abstract — how do people go on living in a dead world? (I read somewhere that, on Walking Dead, the zombies are a metaphor for zombies, which sums up everything great and not-so-great about the series.) But Lori was wrestling with a real-world issue here. Should she abort a baby whose life she simply cannot support? Given the difficult life she leads, could having a baby potentially kill her? Plenty of pregnant women have to ask themselves these questions in our non-apocalyptic world.

Lori made her decision: She swallowed a boatload of morning-after pills. Then she changed her mind and forced the vom. Rick walked into the empty tent and saw the morning-after boxes. He found her out in the field, and they had it out. Their conversation was complicated. Lori said, “I’m not giving birth in a ditch.” Rick was angry with her for not talking to him. And not just about the pregnancy. He knew there was a wall of untruth between them — there had been ever since he arrived at the old camp. “Is there anything else I should know about?” Lori took a deep breath: “Shane and I.”

I expected a lot of different reactions. I wasn’t expecting Rick’s quiet acceptance: “I know. Of course I know. You thought I was dead. Right?” And just like that, the whole veil of lies was punctured. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s a horrible thing. I’m not quite sure what to think about this first batch of episodes in Walking Dead‘s second season — it’s been a mixed bag, for sure, what with Dream-Merle and the Search for Sophia and T-Dog. But you gotta admit: The stage is set for a hell of a midseason finale next week.

ZOMBIE KILL OF THE WEEK: A close race this week, especially considering the sheer quantity of kills by Shane and Andrea, but I give the medal to Glenn, who bravely rescued the Farmer’s Daughter from the pharmacy walker. Extra style points for the 85 percent decapitation.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich


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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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