S2E7: Anyone who’s felt cheated all season by The Walking Dead might want to go back and watch all 6 episodes of Season 2 in one go. Whereas in Season 1, each episode felt like it could possibly run as an individual, tiny movie, Season 2 feels like six segments of a long film rife with emotional turmoil, the big questions and one final kick to the gut at the very end. It’s not the shoot ‘em up good time many zombie enthusiasts come to expect, but let’s face it, The Walking Dead is no longer just a zombie show. That aspect that drew us in from the first few episodes – fierce humanity in the face of a zombie apocalypse – has won out and it, alone, is the most important part of the show. This midseason finale was the culmination of much of this season’s constant questioning and the visual we’re left with is sure to keep us talking for the next few months while we await the series’ February return.
”Secrets get you killed.” –Glenn
At the outset of the episode, Glenn decides to tell the rest of the camp that Hershel’s barn is full of walkers. While this puts him in the doghouse with Maggie, he later explains that he only did it because that incident in the pharmacy made him realize he wants to protect her and whether the people in the barn are sick or dead, they’re dangerous. While Maggie takes this all very well, the folks in the camp aren’t as easy.
Rick sees this as quite a blow considering it’s his mission to convince Hershel to let them stay. Shane, on the other hand, completely blows up. As he sees it, they need to clear the barn or leave in search of Fort Bennett – and as far as he sees it, they can leave without Sophia because at this point, she’s probably dead. This assertion is particularly upsetting for little Carl, who says he believes Sophia is still alive. Carl wants to stay at the farm because he thinks Sophia would really like it. Of course, that innocent optimism is completely crushed by the episode’s end and it will surely be heartbreaking to see how it affects him moving forward.
”We don’t even know if we’re going to find her…I don’t.” –Carol
Meanwhile, Daryl is on the opposite side of the Sophia issue from Shane. He still believes they’ll find her. While Rick and Andrea put together a search plan for the little girl, Daryl tries to sneak off and search on his own, but Carol catches him and asks him to stay because he’s still injured. She finally says what she’s really thinking: that she doesn’t even believe that Sophia is still safe. Daryl’s anger towards his parents, who never bothered to look for him when he was lost as a little boy, bubbles up and he calls Carol a stupid bitch. They later apologize to each other and Carol says she still believes they’ll find Sophia – which just makes the end of the episode that much more difficult.
”I’ve given you safe harbor, my conscience is clear.” – Hershel
Now that the whole camp knows about the walkers in the barn, Hershel is even less inclined to let them stay on his property, but Rick continues to discuss the matter with him at length. He pits Hershel’s notion that these people he’s keeping are just sick – and not the living dead – against the fact that Rick and his band of survivors are living, and if the walkers merit safe haven, why don’t the living? Hershel is immovable on the subject, but Rick finally tells him that Lori is pregnant – a death sentence outside of a safe haven like the farm. This doesn’t change his mind immediately, but I’ll bet it plays as a factor by the time Maggie reams Hershel for his selfish decision.
After his daughter tells him he needs to do the right thing and help Rick and crew, Hershel finds that two walkers are free in the woods. He takes Rick along as a test while they wrangle the two undead beings. He finally says that if they’re going to stay, they don’t have to agree with Hershel, but they have to treat walkers the way Hershel does – like humans. (Though, I’m not sure yolking them around the neck and keeping them in a barn fed by live chickens is exactly treating them like humans, but whatever.)
”At least I can say when the world goes to shit, I didn’t let it take me down with it.” –Dale
The real issue of the episode is the Shane problem we encountered back in episode 2. He’s no longer trying to hide who he really is the way he did after shooting Otis. After attempting to break into the barn and getting fed up with Rick’s kinder, gentler decisions, he decides to take matters into his own hands and find the guns and mow down the barn of walkers. Before he gets to that, he finds out Lori is pregnant and confronts her about it. He says Rick is not meant for the world as it is and that he can’t protect her because he cares too much to make the tough decisions for her safety. He then asks the million dollar question: is it his? She says that even if it’s his, the child will never actually be his. Shane doesn’t seems to think this is a problem, because as he sees it, Rick isn’t going to survive much longer anyway.
While Rick is wrangling, Shane takes the opportunity to clear out the walkers, but first finds that Dale has escaped into the woods with the guns. He finds him and tries to take them back, but Dale threatens to shoot him. When Shane stands right up against the barrel and dares him, Dale sees what kind of a man Shane really is. Whereas most people would back down at the mere thought of being shot, Shane is quite literally staring down the barrel and laughing in Dale’s face. The new world really has turned him into a bit of monster.
Still, he’s got a point – the walkers are dangerous. So when he comes back to the farm with the contraband guns and starts handing them out, we see Andrea, Daryl, T-Dog, and most importantly, Glenn take up arms with Shane. Maggie doesn’t even protest after talking to Glenn about her near-death experience. As they’re about to bust open the barn, Hershel and Rick come out the woods with their walkers, which is the final straw for Shane. He starts shooting one of the walkers and asking Hershel how they could possibly still be alive after hits like that before finally shooting the walker in the head, leaving Hershel shocked, confused and distraught in the dirt. While Rick has his hands full hanging on to the other walker, Shane busts open the barn and opens fire on the freed walkers. The others seem put off by his sudden burst of anger, but can’t help but fire when faced with a barrage of walkers that would certainly kill them all. They mow down the zombies as Rick screams in protest and Maggie holds Hershel as they both weep together. It’s an incredible scene as both father and daughter have to watch what they see as their friends and family mowed down one by one.
While they obviously are in pain, it makes you wonder if Glenn got through to Maggie, maybe this whole ordeal will get through to Hershel? Though there was mention of Fort Bennett and in my limited knowledge of the books, that’s the gang’s next destination. Plus, in the final moments of the episode, they lose one of their major motivations for staying: Sophia.
The last walker to emerge from the barn is a little girl with a rainbow on her blue shirt – it’s Sophia. And here’s where we understand Hershel’s attachment to these walkers. Sure, we saw Amy turned into a walker in Season 1, but this is a helpless little girl turned into a bloodthirsty zombie. It hits home a little harder. The scene draws Sophia’s walk towards them out as Carol sobs uncontrollably and Daryl holds her back. Little Carl’s previous stalwart hope – and notion that Shane’s lack of faith was “bullshit” – is put to the test when he sees his friend turned all brain-craving. Rick marches forward, fully aware of what he has to do and shoots the undead version of Sophia in the head in a determined, borderline satisfied, way. It’s a stark contrast to the first scene of the series in which Rick hesitates to shoot the little girl zombie who’s running at him full force. Shane may have thought Rick wasn’t meant for this world, but could it be possible that he’s getting there? He’s even wearing a darker shirt now…
The episode didn’t leave us with too many questions – in all likelihood, this little incident just earned Rick and crew a one-way ticket away from Hershel’s farm, though it does make us wonder what will eventually happen to Lori’s baby – but it certainly showed us what the series is capable of, and that’s the reason it will be so hard to wait until February for more episodes. Say what you will about the pace, but these writers certainly know how to build to a hell of an emotional, stirring end.