After the destruction of his family, Hershel demands that Rick and his group leave immediately. Shane and Rick's differences begin to openly erupt.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9:00 on AMC.
When T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Shane (Jon Bernthal) laid the final body on the pile and prepared to set it to light, a guitar began playing on the soundtrack and I realized that The Walking Dead is a show made for me. It might not be for you, but it's definitely for me. That song was by Clutch and it was called "The Regulator" from the album Blast Tyrant, maybe the only perfect album released in 2004.
I was afraid going into this episode that the creators would have listened to all the fretting and fussing online and tried to push the start of the second half of the season into an unnaturally fast and actiony direction. That was not the case.
No, this episode was paced just like the ones before it, so if you're one of those mouth-breathers crying because there aren't enough zombies for you, just give it up. This is not that show.
Instead, we spend most of the hour grieving, burying the dead, and trying to figure out what happens next. And then, as if playing one of Clutch's greatest songs wasn't enough of a gift just for me, who should walk into the show but Michael Raymond-James (True Blood, Terriers) as a very dangerous man calling himself Dave.
His partner, Tony (Aaron Munoz), was not so dangerous. And not so lucky.
Here's the deal. Hershel (Scott Wilson), after realizing what an ass he'd been and how hopeless the world really was, decided to head into the abandoned town and drown his sorrows. Rick and Glenn (Steven Yeun) go after him.
After a heart to heart where Hershel and Rick come to terms with the fact while that they have no real hope for anything good anymore, they need to carry on for the good of the group. And in this case, Rick makes it clear that together their groups can survive much better than if they part ways.
This is that accepting of pragmatism over sentimentality, of realism over idealism, that I was talking about in my last review. It made me think that maybe things could work out. At least for a while.
Drunk Hershel listens to reason a lot better than Holy Roller Hershel.
But then Tony and Dave walk in and Rick's Cop-Senses start tingling. After some chit-chat, the new guys want to know where our folks are making camp. Seeing as how these fellows aren't exactly charming, well Tony isn't anyway, Rick and Hershel are hesitant to give out any real information. Glenn thinks about it, but wises up quickly.
And then, when things get really tense, they try to draw on Rick.
Big mistake. After putting Tony down with a head shot, we're left wondering just what this is going to mean to the group.
Meanwhile, in what is the only real blight on this episode, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) decides that she needs to get in a car and drive into town to find Rick and bring Hershel back herself, since Beth (Emily Kinney) has collapsed, seems to be in shock, and isn't getting any better in the what seems like twenty minutes they've been gone. While checking the map (keep your eyes on the road, Lori), she manages to run directly into the only walker in a five mile radius and crashes her car in a gloriously over-the-top wreck.
Maybe that'll be it for the baby and we won't have to worry about it after all.
In fact, that's the only real reason I can see for that particular plot development. It made no real logical sense in the context of the narrative, but could serve to eliminate the issue of whether or not Lori is pregnant. That would take it pretty far off-reservation from the comics, but that's not automatically a bad thing.
The strongest moments for me this week were quiet ones. I was very impressed that during the funeral scene, instead of the melodramatic mumbo-jumbo we got earlier in the season, director Clark Johnson (making his The Walking Dead debut) chose to cut to a long shot with no voices. It was powerful and effective, driving home the fact that words wouldn't make anything better at that point.
He also keeps Glenn and Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) goodbye at a distance as he and Rick head off to find Hershel. Again, he trusts in the images to tell the story without relying on overwrought dialogue. This makes Glenn's retelling of the moment later much more effective. It seems Maggie has told Glenn she loves him. And he said nothing back, not knowing just what to say.
And when words are the focus, Evan Reilly's script goes for straight-forwardness rather than melodrama. Carl (Chandler Riggs) quietly telling his mom that he would have shot Sophia if he'd had too, that his dad did the right thing, was both horrifying and believable at the same time.
That's the world they live in now, regardless of what Lori wants to think about how her son should have reacted to the situation. It's a new world. That's not cold; that's the new compassion.
Those are the moments that make this show really work; that make it something special.
And did I mention this week how much I'm not liking Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn)? Or how awesome Andrea (Laurie Holden) has become, just casually grabbing the zombie arm that had fallen from the truck and tossing it on the pile?
All in all, this was another deliberately-paced, but thoroughly satisfying (Lori's horrible driving notwithstanding) episode of what is, in my humble opinion, one of the best shows on television at the moment. And next week looks to be just as impressive. It seems that Dave may not be dead. Or at least he and Tony weren't alone.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. 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.