So far in this season of The Walking Dead, the writers can’t seem to figure out what to do with the characters, and in the interest of prolonging a suspenseful plot point (Sophia’s disappearance) they let the protagonists dig their own graves with us discontented viewers. Look, I get it: these people are barely surviving in the wake of the apocalypse. They have problems unique to this kind of story – the idea that one’s family might die in the jaws of the living dead, for instance, is only the surface of the fears these people face. Imagine the idea that you might really, truly be alone for the rest of your life. Think about the fact that life as you knew it is over. Hence the title of this episode, “Pretty Much Dead Already.” As the survivors begin to realize nothing will ever be normal again, they alternately cling to each other and battle each other’s demons. Unfortunately the pacing, which in the first season was breakneck, deliberately slowed to a crawl.
Sunday’s episode marks the end of the first half of the season…finally. In the opening scene, Glenn is forced to decide between Maggie, who wants him to keep the zombies in the barn a secret, and Dale, who thinks the whole group should know about them. Glenn decides in favor of the forever omniscient Dale and blurts the news to the group, which causes Maggie to smash a very precious egg on his head (she says, “I think it was rotten”).
Shane is an insane person, and responds as any insane person would: by throwing a temper tantrum. Why is Dale the only person to realize it? Shane’s tantrum leads the ever levelheaded Rick to talk to Hershel, who responds by telling Rick the group’s gotta go. But, but – but Lori’s pregnant! Rick sputters. Hershel’s done with them; as far as he’s concerned he’s done his Christian duty, but Maggie convinces him to rethink things. “It’s not about me and Glenn, it’s not about me and you. It’s about who you are,” she tells Hershel. Even this mild-mannered veterinarian has changed irreparably in the wake of an invasion whose severity he wishes to deny.
Meanwhile, Rick tells Shane that Lori’s expecting, and Shane immediately tells Lori a) it must be Shane’s baby, and b) he deserves the baby to be his because he saved Lori’s life more times than Rick. My, my. Someone hasn’t aged much past seventeen – or perhaps has reverted to teenage behavior in the wake of zombie craziness. Further, when Lori doesn’t respond as he desired, Shane has yet another temper tantrum upon realizing that Dale has stolen the guns from the RV.
When Hershel finds out “it’s happened again,” he asks Rick to come on a little mission with him – a mission to capture two walkers stuck in the streambed on the edge of the property. Carol and Daryl also spend some quality time on the edge of the stream, staring at lilies and talking about finding Sophia. The two of them cling desperately to finding the little girl, grasping at any sign of normalcy.
Speaking of grasping at normalcy, Maggie and Glenn have the beginnings of a rather sweet relationship, but one that feels totally contrived. It’s very much like a “Gossip Girl” storyline – misunderstandings lead to silly actions, and trite words lead to loving kisses. They make up from their little feud around the same time Shane takes the guns back from Dale, who doesn’t have the guts to shoot Shane (dammit). “This world, what it is now, this is where you belong,” Dale tells Shane. “At least I can say when the world goes to shit, I didn’t let it take me down with it.” Shane responds with a completely unsatisfying, “Fair enough.” Sigh.
Shane stomps back into camp with a bag full of guns and on a militant mission to take out every walker in the barn. When Hershel and Rick reappear leading two undead in pole harnesses, Shane has a complete breakdown, shoots the things full of bullets, and releases the horde of zombies from the barn. Hershel, who’s convinced through and through that these people are just sick and thinks they’re his family, his friends, his neighbors, can only sit by with tears in his stunned eyes. As the creatures pour out of the barn, our band of survivors takes them out one by one with all the weapons they can get hold of. It’s one of the most satisfying moments thus far, a true Western shootout crossed with one of those “shoot the duck” games at the fair.
And then. And then the writers really hit us where it hurts. After it seems the last walker’s down for good, one more shambles out of the barn: a skinny-legged little girl with short dishwater blond hair and a rainbow tee shirt. Poor Sophia. Suffer the little children, indeed. Not only does this finally drop the Sophia storyline from the season, but it also gives a new depth to Hershel; he was protecting her, keeping her safe, hoping he could cure her.
Well done. I’m finally willing to give AMC mad props. I just wish it hadn’t taken seven episodes to get here. We can now look forward to the second half – perhaps with Sophia found and Shane’s crazy fully exposed, our characters can keep moving along instead of stagnating.
What did you think? Tell us in the comments!