S2E5: Alright, complainers. After weeks of taking issue with all the talking and introspection, this episode of The Walking Dead should have done the trick. We still got a healthy dose of moral dilemmas, but action, suspense and twists were around every corner and at times we feared that not one, but two, of our main characters – besides the still at-large Sophia – might meet their doom multiple times. My adrenaline is still pumping, but I’ll try to settle down enough to walk through “Chupacabra.”
“I’m as real as your Chupacabra.” –Merle
So, we finally see the return of Merle this week, though a clever glimpse of hands – both of which are still attached – quickly tells us that he’s a vision. After finding signs of life last week, Daryl is still convinced he can find Sophia. He and Rick set up a plan for searching and he sets off on his own and finds Sophia’s doll this time. When the horse he borrowed from Hershel is spooked, he falls off and down a steep embankment, landing on arrow which pierces his side. After significant blood loss he tries to rescue himself but falls again and descends into delirium. It’s then that he starts seeing visions of Merle, who’s trying to convince him that the group doesn’t care about him and that he’s worthless to them. The first time this happens, he wakes up just in time as a walker is about to bite his leg, in a swift gesture he bashes its head in with the side of broken tree branch and scrambles to shoot a second walker in the face with his crossbow. It was brief, but after two quiet episodes, it was a serious jolt. Besides, Daryl – though he’s not part of the comics – has quickly become one of the richest (not to mention my favorite) characters on the show. Losing him would be a terrible loss for the series.
He continues to see Merle as he climbs back up the embankment to safety, and when he finally reaches the top, it’s as if he’s beat his imaginary brother’s discouraging words. Though the notion that he doesn’t belong with the group is still weighing on him, especially when he approaches the farm limping like a walker and Andrea, determined that everyone’s trying to hold her down, shoots Daryl from across the field to his greeting party’s dismay. Luckily, she’s a terrible shot and only manages to nick him, but it’s thoughtless decisions like this that are really making me turn against her grating character. Dale may love her, but I certainly do not.
Finally, during dinner that night, Carol thanks Daryl for looking for Sophia and says he’s just as good as the other men. It’s something we’ve all seen this season, but it’s not something Daryl feels – as evidenced by his visions of Merle – and it’s not something anyone in the camp seems to acknowledge. Daryl is truly complex character and with this new side this season, he may actually be my absolute favorite character of the whole series, original books be damned.
“It’s like we’re old folks. All the people in our stories are dead.” –Shane
While Daryl has his hallucinatory journey, Shane and Rick search other areas of the forest for Sophia. What starts as a friendly discussion of all Shane’s high school conquests – and there were quite a few – turns into a reflection on their new reality. Everything they know is gone – a fact punctuated rather poignantly by a flashback that shows Shane and Lori witnessing the military wiping out Atlanta with napalm as the epidemic began to consume everything. Shane is convinced that Sophia is dead and that Rick’s decision-making based on feelings and hope is reckless and dangerous. He says they need to stop risking lives to search for Sophia’s body, because after 72 hours, she’s more than likely dead or undead.
This starts to get to Rick a bit – he asks Lori if she agrees and she doesn’t. After their discussion about maintaining their humanity a few weeks back, how could she? Of course, Shane pulls her aside and gives her his two cents; he says he’s just being practical. He says Daryl almost died to find a doll, completely discounting the hope it gives Carol. He thinks he’s suggesting making the tough decisions, but Lori challenges him, saying it’s easier to decide based on sheer math and eliminating emotions – and to an extent that’s true. It’s a lot harder when you allow yourself to consider emotions – like Rick’s need to always help everyone and his incredible guilt for losing Sophia. Of course, this all comes back to Shane’s love for Lori and Carl – he says this is for them. She brushes it off and tells him he’s just using her and Carl as an excuse but this only drives her further into despair. Her unborn baby is likely Shane’s and she’s conflicted enough about that without adding the fact that Shane and Rick both represent two opposing, warring ideologies.
“You weren’t supposed to see that.” –Maggie
Hershel is starting to get fed up with Rick and his crew. First, Daryl borrows and loses his horse without permission (though Jimmy said it was okay, it turns out it wasn’t). Then Hershel worries they’re getting to comfortable. Then Andrea stupidly shoots Daryl. This new injury forces them to use up more of the very limited supply of antibiotics. And to top it off, Hershel is suspicious of Maggie and Glenn, though he doesn’t know just how suspicious he really should be.
He pulls Rick aside and tells him his people need to back off and play by his rules like he asked before and Hershel later tells Maggie to stay away from Glenn. He keeps saying they’ll all be gone soon, which at first we assume means he’s going to kick them out. Of course, we’ll get to why that might not be exactly what he’s talking about. Just as Rick is told to back off, Carol and Lori carry out their plan of thanking Hershel and his family by making them a big dinner. Hershel allows it, but it makes him very uncomfortable.
As this is going on, Maggie is obviously taking Hershel forbidding her to befriend Glenn as a challenge. She tells him she’s 22 and can do what she wants, but proceeds to pass a note to Glenn under the table like she’s in middle school. She asks him where they should have sex that night and he writes back that they should go to the hay loft. The problem is that she doesn’t read it before he already heads out there. When she sees the note, her face drops and she runs through the field to catch him. I wasn’t sure what awaited Glenn in the barn, but I was betting it was undead and likely going to kill him. It wasn’t that dangerous, but down below the hay loft is a barn full of walkers, like some sort of demented petting zoo. Maggie doesn’t make it in time to stop Glenn from seeing this, and the only explanation we get is that he wasn’t supposed to see it.
Now, I haven’t read the comics, so if the answer lies within them, I apologize, but what the hell is going on? Why would they keep walkers? Are they family members gone all brain-craving? Or is this some plan from Hershel? Is that why Hershel wanted to deal with all walkers himself? Does this have anything to do with his request for his family to not get attached? Does he have a plan for the Rick crew? We’re left with a monumental question at the end of the episode and only one episode left between us and a hiatus that will stretch from the end of November until February. This is going to be painful; you just know this all building to one hell of a cliffhanger.