Trapped, Rick, Hershel and Glenn fight to survive against new foes, both dead and alive. Shane finds Lori in danger on the road and makes it his mission to bring her back to the farm.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9:00 on AMC.
Okay. Now I'm worried.
This episode, while having a lot of good things going on, also suffers from something I'd hoped we were going to be able to avoid. But first the good.
While the zombie action was again minimal this week, what we got was pretty well done. Watching the flesh tear off of the face of the zombie trying to force its head through a broken windshield was gruesome. That's the sort of thing we haven't really seen in a while on this show. Which makes it all the more powerful when it does crop up.
If we were getting gross-out after gross-out every week, before long we'd get bored with it. That's that way it works, folks.
So while the set-up for the situation, Lori's (Sarah Wayne Callies) stupid-ass car crash, was amateurish and smacked of trying to force conflict into a show where things are bubbling nicely, at least we got something for the gorehounds.
Oh wow. Look at that. The bad just forced its way into the conversation.
This is the first episode where it seems that the creators are listening to the whiners and pushing the plot forward at an unnatural pace. There were hints of it last week with Dale's (Jeffrey DeMunn) magical knowledge of what happened between Shane and Otis, and, of course, Lori's stupid-ass car crash.
This week there's more amping up of the conflicts between the characters without really letting it breathe. And again, it's the worst written characters on the show, Lori and Dale, who push the plot forward in ways that really aren't necessary and don't feel natural or organic.
We start out fine, with a brief opening segment of Lori walking up as zombie-bait and then jump into the bar, where Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Glenn (Steven Yeun), and Hershel (Scott Wilson) are taking cover as Dave and Tony's friends show up.
And can I just go on record with a complaint for wasting Michael Raymond-James like that. You've got a very good actor with a bit of a fanbase and you just shoot him in the head after less than ten minutes screen-time? Bad choice.
Anyway, after spouting dialogue that sounds as if it were from a radio drama, their friends and our heroes get into a gunfight. There you go action-fans. There's your action for its own sake. Only instead of being a tense stand-off, we are treated to some shouting at shadows and then gunshots at nothing where nobody hits anything or anybody. It's just loud noises and no repercussions at that point.
There's a little bit of tension as Glenn makes his way through the dark back room of the bar, but that's quickly alleviated as he shoots at someone trying to get in through the back door. But somehow, even though he blows a huge hole in the door right above the jiggling doorknob, he misses them.
An opportunity to push Glenn into a strong character moment as he murders a man in self-defense is side-stepped and instead we later get Glenn hiding behind a dumpster when shots are fired at him. This turns out to still be a strong moment for him later, when he confronts Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and admits that because she said she loved him, he was selfish and nearly cost Rick and Hershel their lives.
That was a good moment. That's what love does to you in this world. It makes you selfish and puts lives in danger. Glenn, and the writers, need to really think about this and give it more attention than just using it as a way to force some romantic drama between the youngsters. But instead, only Rick actually kills someone, while Hershel wounds another person just enough to let the zombies get him.
The writing this episode just wasn't up to snuff.
David Leslie Johnson was credited with the script this week. He also wrote Episode 2.05, "Chupacabra," which featured some strong character work for Daryl (Norman Reedus). The direction by Guy Ferland was stronger on that episode, and this week's director, Billy Gierhart (who was behind the camera for Episode 2.04 "Cherokee Rose"), just drops the ball.
The direction is functional and the writing forced. Together that makes for a weak episode overall.
However, like I said at the start, there was some good gore. Not only was there the face-scraping, but we also had a horribly bloody scene as walkers overwhelmed one of the gunmen Hershel shot. Nothing like a nice nose/upper lip removal to make the gorehounds sit up and take notice.
Plot-wise, the strong points were, again, somewhat forced, but the performers made them work.
When another of the gunmen ends up wounded, his leg impaled on a fence and left for dead, our heroes opt to try and save him rather than shoot him or leave him behind. For a minute I thought they were really going to hack his leg off and deal with the consequences, but that would have been too Season One. Instead, when things get rough and the walkers are closing in, Rick just yanks the guy's leg off the fence, fucking his leg up pretty seriously.
It's all kind of anti-climactic and serves only as a bait-and-switch moment in a show that hasn't flinched from putting its characters though some horrifying moments. Remember rubbing themselves down with gore? Remember digging through a zombie's guts for signs of Sophia? Where was that show tonight?
There's no real sense of time passing here either. Suddenly it's dark and the farm folk are getting ready for supper when they realize that Lori's missing, then Shane brings her home, we have a little drama and then suddenly it's morning again.
Back in town, after yanking the guy's leg off the fence we cut to the next morning as they drive up while the folks at the farm are gearing up to go look for them. One would think that town was a day's drive from the farm. Surely they didn’t hang out in town overnight with a screaming, bleeding prisoner so they could drive home in the daytime?
And now they have to deal with what is essentially a hostage situation.
Can someone please remind me why Rick is considered the good leader?
Shane and Andrea (Laurie Holden) are the only ones who see that this is a horrible move that can only bring trouble and possibly war down on their heads. Which leads to a strong scene between the two of them as Andrea points out that Shane is making the right calls; he's just making them in a way that makes him seem like a bad guy.
Unfortunately it doesn't look like we're going to get any character development on this point, as this scene happened after another strong moment between Shane and Lori where Shane got the short end of the stick yet again. I get that Lori feels guilty about her time with Shane, but come on! How can she not see that completely shutting him out and denying any good from their time together will only push Shane away from not only her, but from Rick and the group as well.
It's selfish and short-sighted and reall
y didn't have to play out this way. Once again, Lori being written as a selfish bitch to force conflict and it is going to have bad consequences for everyone involved (and maybe the show's narrative dynamic itself).
The weakest writing of the night, however, is a toss-up between the scene between Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride) and the closing moments between Rick and Lori. I would have thought that with the grasp Johnson showed in "Chupacabra" writing Daryl, that this scene would have worked better. But it was painful. And not in the way it was supposed to be. Poor Daryl is hurting inside so he lashes out, but Carol takes it so he can heal, too. Aw.
But that's nothing compared to the ham-handed Lady MacBeth approach that Lori takes to turn Rick against Shane. And was Rick's blank stare as the camera cuts to black was supposed to be chilling? It wasn't. It was weak.
I suppose they are going for the contrast between Shane's external expressions of frustration and anxiety and Rick's internalizing of all that. Instead, Rick just looks constipated and/or a little brain-damaged.
So in the end, we have three or four good character moments that work to make the relationships more satisfying, but they're spread out between scenes of outright stupidity, overwrought dialogue, and forced plot movement.
All in all, this was probably the least satisfying episode of the season for me.
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. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. 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.