S2E7: Once again, we get a slow burn on The Walking Dead, but it’s appropriate after the loss we experienced last episode. Plus, there’s something to be said for incredible tension and suspense – two things this episode had no shortage of. Rick continues his natural progression into darker territory, and while watching the perfectly moral persona wash away while the more practical – and at times almost blood-thirsty – Rick takes over is deeply troubling, it makes for some great television.
This week, we pick up right where we left off – and I mean exactly where we left off with Rick holding a smoking gun over Sophia. Beth runs over to one of the fallen walkers and tries to turn her over, but the walker is still alive and tries to attack her, causing Rick and Co. to take it down right in front of her. This incident is the turning point for the Greene family – their friends and family were dead long ago and these walkers truly are monsters. And with that, we settle firmly on loss as the theme of the episode – loss of loved ones and loss of certain parts of one’s humanity. All you zombie-kill lovers may have been disappointed at the lack of undead-slashing, but as I’ve said time and again: the walkers are the condition, the resulting drama and conflict is the heart of the series.
“People counted on me and I had ‘em chasing a ghost in the forest.” –Rick
Shane is positive that Hershel knew Sophia was in the barn, but he can’t be thinking clearly because Hershel wanted them gone and the Sophia search was their anchor. After refuting Shane’s accusation, Hershel once again orders everyone off his land. This incident leads directly into Shane and Rick fighting, yet again, about Rick’s leadership abilities. Shane says Rick is just as delusional as Hershel – something which, along with his overwhelming guilt over Sophia’s death, will take a toll on Rick’s choices as the episode continues.
Glenn asks Maggie if she knew Sophia was in the barn. She doesn’t dignify his question with an answer and Glenn continues to stick his foot in his mouth by saying that now that Sophia’s gone, they’ll move on. It’s clear that Maggie doesn’t want him to leave, but Glenn doesn’t exactly know if he can stay. considering the circumstances.
Outside, the rest of the group processes the massacre by planning the subsequent burials. There are too many bodies, so they only bury their loved ones and decide to burn the rest. It’s obvious that Hershel’s people have been changed by the incident because Rick’s group doesn’t encounter much opposition with this plan.
“Sophia died a long time ago.” –Carol
Carol, still speechless after her crippling loss, won’t go to the burial for Sophia. She says that thing isn’t her daughter – her daughter was killed that first day in the woods. She’s almost beating herself up for ever having hope that a little girl could protect herself or survive alone. And immediately after we get this speech from Carol, we move over to Hershel mourning his loss in his bedroom. This juxtaposition signals Hershel’s new realization that he was wrong about the walkers being curable – an element which will come into play later in the episode.
Later, Carol wanders into the forest after destroying a Cherokee Rose, the flower Daryl had offered her a sign of hope. Shane finds her, covered in blood and dirt and in his first act of humanity in a long while, he washes her hands and apologizes for the barn incident, saying he didn’t know Sophia was in there. It’s just enough to tell us that he’s not turned his emotional switch off completely, though it does seem to be on the fritz. Although, we can’t help but be concerned by what Dale says about him when he figures out Shane killed Otis and he fears that Shane will kill again. It will take more than a tender moment with Carol to keep us from worrying about the former deputy - and considering how he's been fighting with Rick, I can't be the only concerned that Dale's comment foreshadows Shane striking out at his former best friend like he did when Rick first came back from the "dead."
“We need Hershel for the baby.” –Rick
Beth faints, but Hershel is missing and they need his help to heal her. They find a flask in his room and decide he may have gone to the bar in town. Maggie doesn’t want Glenn to go, but Rick promises to bring him back. Lori also stops Rick because Carl said he would have shot Sophia too – he’s losing his innocence and heart and she needs Rick to be around to remind him to stay human. Lori is worried that Carl is too much like his interim papa, Shane? Now there’s some intrigue. Still, Rick makes the point that Lori can’t have the baby in the woods – they need to stay on the farm at all costs.
After he leaves, Lori is impatient and worries that Rick won’t come back. That seems to be the only explanation for why she would ask a mourning Daryl to go after them, because they haven’t been gone long enough to cause legitimate worry. When he explodes at her with the full force of his despair over Sophia, she decides to go on her own. Of course, she doesn’t get there safely. She hits a walker like so many travelers hit deer on mountain roads and flips her car. We get no answers about whether or not she survived the accident, but there are walkers about so even if she did, she’s not in good shape.
“Maggie says she loves me…She doesn’t mean it, she can’t” –Glenn
“I think she’s smart enough to know what she’s feeling.” –Rick
I want to take a moment – like Rick says – to cherish this time between him and Glenn in the car. They’re the duo we started this whole journey with, so it’s fitting that they would share a few minutes to discuss something as seemingly trivial as Maggie saying she loves Glenn and Glenn not knowing how to say it back. In most disaster or horror movies and series, if two people are in love, then they’re in love. It’s simple. But Glenn, who’s never seen this situation in his pre-walker days, can’t bring himself to believe it. Plus, he addresses the notion that these trying times create love out of pure necessity instead of truth. Luckily, Rick makes the point that the possibility it’s not real doesn’t matter; they need every bit of happiness they can find. And he doesn’t say that a moment too soon, because Rick is about to lose all his gentleness and humanity in Glenn’s eyes.
“And when that little girl came out of the barn, that look on your face, I knew you knew it too. There is no hope.” –Hershel
Rick and Glenn find Hershel, but now that he knows he’s been a fool, he wants nothing to do with this life. He’s content to drink himself to death because not only does he think he’s done his family wrong, but he’s convinced that all hope is gone. Hershel says Rick and his friends made the world worse, and insults his leadership – which clearly bares some feelings Hershel harbors, but is clouded by his drunkenness. Rick insist that the new realization hasn’t changed anything: “Death is death. It’s always been there.” Cancer, walkers: same thing. It’s a bit of hyperbole in the name of inspiration, but we stand behind it because this ravaged world needs a hero.
Just then, two men walk into the bar and we’re shoved into one of those civilized meetings of potential rivals. It’s a ruthless world – what’s to keep them from killing Rick, Glenn, and Hershel and taking all they’ve got? In a quick couple of minutes, one of the men, Dave, eliminates hope for the group traveling to Fort Benning. He says it’s overrun with walkers – could they really be departing that greatly from the comics? And if so, how will die-hard fans cope with the change? – instead, Dave says Nebraska is the promised land, but really it’s just a symbol for the pipe dream of finding a safe place.
But then comes the crux of it all: they ask where Rick and his friends are staying, and Rick lies to keep the men from following them back to the farm. Dave doesn’t believe them and figures out through their expressions and lack of reactions that they’ve got a farm. Naturally, he wants in on the haven, but Rick won’t budge. Suddenly, he’s become what Hershel was a few episodes ago in order to protect his family. It’s not the “right” thing to do, but there isn’t really “right” in this world – there is only “safe.” Dave appeals to Rick’s emotions, but the sheriff doesn’t waver. The tension is about as thick as it can be as Rick and Glenn fear Dave will shoot the longer they deny him entry to the farm. As the stoic standoff continues, we think for a split second this guy is really not going to try and kill Rick but in a matter of milliseconds, Dave reaches for gun, and Rick shoots him and his friend – even giving his friend the double-tap. And with that bloody finale, Nice Guy Rick is officially dead.
Was that enough tension for you? Or are some of you still bored with Season Two? Do you think they’ll really not go to Fort Benning? And if you’re a comic-reader, what do you think that will do to the story? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler.