The Walking Dead 2.04 "Cherokee Rose" Review

A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy

The survivors have to deal with a huge walker that has fallen into one of the Greene Family's wells. The search for Sophia continues with Daryl finding a sign. Glenn and Maggie go into the town for some supplies, but end up doing more than just scavenging for medicine. Rick and Hershel have a discussion over God's role in the world and about how long Rick's group can stay at Hershel's farm. Finally, Lori asks Glenn to bring her a special item which could have grave effects on her family.

The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9:00 on AMC.

I'm going to say this one last time and then just let it be. If you're complaining that this show is boring and that there aren't enough zombies, then you really just don't get The Walking Dead. This isn't supposed to be a gonzo, never-ending-wave-of-zombies sort of thrill ride. This show, like the comic, is about the people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse and how living in this new world changes, or in some cases, doesn't change them.

If you're complaining that the comic was better, then I don't know what to tell you. Yeah, the comic was better at some things, but the TV show is much better at other things. Like allowing characters to really develop and allowing dramatic situations to live and breathe. In the comics, if we skip over the events that haven't been covered in the show, we're dealing with around eight or nine actual issues of story.

If we allow for the trip to the CDC to take the place of the winter travel in the comics, we're pretty much in line with the first eleven issues of The Walking Dead.  I dare anyone to go back and re-read those first eleven issues and say that they're substantially better than the TV show.

They're just not.

They're good, yes. And what makes them good is the attention to character and the avoidance of cheap horror thrills. When something horrifying happens, and it will, it has more power for not being just another batch of zombies thrown at our heroes. And the TV show does this a little better, in my opinion, thanks mainly to the performances and the pacing.

So stop your whining and enjoy this for what it is.

It's what The Walking Dead is supposed to be.

This week, granted, there's not a lot of plot movement, but we get a healthy chunk of character work for nearly every member of the cast. Even Andrea (Laurie Holden) is becoming less of a nihilistic bitch and starting to develop into someone more like the character in the comics.

The Lori/Rick/Shane triangle gets a little more complicated in a development that should come as a surprise to no one, whether you've read the comics or not. Yes, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is pregnant. The question then becomes, who is the father, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) or Shane (Jon Bernthal)? But that's a discussion for a later episode (and a question never really answered in the comics).

This episode is about establishing the relationship between Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), while providing us some subtle clues towards a horror yet to come. In addition to this emotional development, we also get some movement with the search for Sophia (which allows resident white supremacist Daryl (Norman Reedus) to once again rival Shane as the most interesting and complex character on the show), and for you zombie watchers out there, we get a pretty impressive gross-out.

What you have to take into consideration when watching the Glenn and Maggie storyline begin to develop, is that Kirkman (in the comics) and Evan T. Reilly (here) understand that this is a long game that we're playing. At the same time, there's always the possibility of cancelation (at least while they were writing – in hindsight that's not really a worry as The Walking Dead is one of the most successful on television and in independent comics), so you want to move the story along quickly.

So the move to bring Glenn and Maggie together serves both purposes. It allows for immediate drama (although has the capacity to slip into cliché) and lays groundwork for stories to come (if you're a fan of the comic, you know what's on the way). Thematically it plays around with the emotional desperation of these youngsters while providing a glimmer of hope for the future. No matter how you cut it, it's a win/win situation for the story.

Daryl's solo search for Sophia doesn't fare as well, as he may have found the place she's been hiding, but there's still no Sophia. Maybe I'm just unfamiliar with these sorts of manhunts, but it seems to be going on a bit long. The scenario does provide Daryl with the opportunity to shine once again, as he finds the titular Cherokee Rose and tells the story to Carol (Melissa McBride). It's a surprisingly touching moment, and makes me wonder if Daryl saw something that we didn't while out looking.

Especially after the emphasis that Rick put on "doing what had to be done" if they found her bitten. Since this storyline isn't in the comics, it could go anywhere, but it has me worried about Carol's future with the group.

And finally, for all you Gorehounds out there, we get a pretty nice (and by nice I mean grotesque) zombie encounter this week. Hershel's farm has plenty of fresh water, provided by a number of wells. One well, however, is now tainted.

Well, if it wasn't at the beginning of the episode, it sure is at the end of it.

The bloated Walker, or Floater, or whatever, that ended up in the well is the sort of thing that will probably haunt the nightmares of more sensitive viewers. And if the basic look of the creature wasn't bad enough, once our heroes get it out of the well we are treated to one of the most disgusting moments on the show so far.

That rain of entrails was perfect. Predictable, but perfect. As was the top half of the zombie continuing to crawl toward its rescuers hoping for a bit to eat.

The best part though, is that this obligatory gorefest wasn't only there to satisfy the lowest common denominator viewer. It actually served a narrative purpose. Maggie's reaction to T-Dog's (IronE Singleton) dispatching of the zombie is something to which attention should be paid.

When Glenn tells her later that they're probably getting a little numb to the violence, it's not an understatement. It didn't take long, but Rick's entire crew is already harder and more damaged than they even know. Or are they just more pragmatic than anyone realizes yet? That's a question for future episodes.

Oh! I almost forgot to give a shout-out to Jon Bernthal's performance during Otis' funeral. If there was ever an argument for the strengths of the TV show over the comic, it's right there on Bernthal's face every week. His performance as Shane is heartbreaking and real, making his development from episode to episode one of the best things about the show. He could snap at any moment, going completely mad, or he might find the inner strength to keep on keeping on.

We just don't know.

And that's good TV right there.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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