Three long episodes ago, Carl got shot and Sophia went missing. It’s only now, a third of the way through the season, that we’re beginning to think the kids might actually be all right. With Hershel’s help and at the expense of Otis’s life and Shane’s sanity (which to be fair was already slipping), Carl seems to be coming back toward the light – bloody and horrifying though that light may be. Sophia, on the other hand, is still missing, but Daryl has found her tracks. She can’t be far.
In the midst of this breath of fresh air, AMC keeps the drama steady. The Georgia heat is turned up to the max – with the moist brows, beating sun, and a constant whirr of crickets, we can almost feel the swamplike environs our characters inhabit. With his own balding head dripping sweat, Hershel approaches Rick to tell him that the sooner they find Sophia the better, and that the setup at Hershel’s farm, as neat and tidy as it is, is not permanent. The band of survivors will shortly be tossed out into the zombie-infested wild once more. One imagines, also, that in this kind of heat, the walkers would give off a nearly unbearable aroma. (Sorry.)
Mere moments before T-Dog sips from the cool, sweet well water at Hershel’s farm, Dale saves his life (he has a bad habit of doing that, it seems) by noting that well, there’s a “swimmer” in the bottom of the well. A bloated, gargantuan, oozing monster, the waterlogged zombie has surely contaminated the water supply…but the protagonists, perhaps for lack of something better to do, or perhaps as an excuse to give us some extra scares and gore, decide to extract the thing whole, kicking and moaning. Of course, this leads to a pretty awesome bilateral slice, and pounds of guts streaming into the very water they were trying (foolishly) to save. D’OH!
Afterward, Glenn and Maggie head into town on a pharmacy run. As they clip-clop into a quaint, Wild West-style town on their horses, they pass a handwritten sign on the pharmacy door: “Take what you need, and God bless.” Wouldn’t Big Pharma just have a conniption? Lori sent Glenn on a top-secret mission to pick up “something from the feminine hygeine section.” When, in the interest of secrecy, Glenn pretends to be picking up condoms instead of Lori’s request, he suddenly finds himself speechless in the presence of a lovely, naked farmer’s daughter (who later tells him “Don’t ruin it. It was a one-time thing”).
What Glenn picked up is a home pregnancy test. One that turns up positive. Now the question is, is the baby Lori’s husband’s? Or is it her crazy former lover’s? Rick’s, or Shane’s? Will we ever know? Will she?
The title of Episode 4, “Cherokee Rose,” comes from a tiny vignette that takes place after Daryl tracks Sophia in the woods. He brings Carol a single flower, and when she is puzzled he tells her a tale: when the Americans were herding Indians off their land on the Trail of Tears, Indian mothers wept nearly the whole way in mourning for the babies they lost to disease, cold, and exhaustion. When the elders prayed for a sign of hope, this delicate white flower bloomed in the places where the mothers’ tears fell. “That’s why it’s called a Cherokee Rose,” he says, and why he gives one to Carol. It’s perhaps the most romantic thing we’ve seen all season (though there appears to be zero chemistry between Daryl and Carol, love – or some post-apocalyptic version of it – abounds).
Hope, faith, and God’s “funny sense of humor” (according to Rick) are the most important aspects of “Cherokee Rose.” Hershel recants his ultimatum, assuring Rick that maybe the survivors can stay on, if they follow the rules. Lori is expecting. Sophia and Carl apepar to be slowly inching out of harm’s way. Even in the midst of death, people still make love. Babies are still born. Flowers still bloom.