The Walking Dead resurrected last night for the second half of its much-bemoaned second season. (I’m sorry, I can’t help it. Zombies beg for puns.) The first half of the season was frustratingly slow, and ended in a hail of gunfire that injected some necessary action. Are our survivors finally going to leave the apparent safety of Hershel’s farm for the great unknown? Please?
Last night’s “Nebraska” didn’t offer much physical action – we’re still here on the farm, waffling over poor little dead Sophia, and now over grieving, stubborn Hershel. The episode picks up at the exact moment where the last one ended, with Rick’s gun still smoking from the round he put in zombie-Sophia’s head. The episode begins in total silence aside from Carol’s agonized sobs and the drone of summer insects. As the self-appointed and group-appointed leaders decide what to do in the aftermath of the barn-walker massacre, a kind of chaos ensues: Shane is nothing but trouble, and only Dale sees it. Shane starts pounding on the already-grievous wounds Hershel and his family have just taken, his widened eyes, sweaty visage, shouting, and shaved head making his justifiable frustration into a display of crazy.
While Hershel’s pain is understandable, his denial is not – and frankly we’re ready to move on. Shane’s anger is also understandable: someone had to know Sophia was in that barn, that our little group of nomads have been risking their lives every day for nothing. Unfortunately, it seems that someone was Otis, the very man Shane murdered. Oops. “Sooner or later he’s gonna kill somebody else,” Dale tells Lori after revealing his suspicions about Otis’s untimely death. I have to agree with you there, oh omniscient one.
Meanwhile, Carl is becoming a tad bit creepy. He tells his mom, “That was right, what Dad did, shooting Sophia in the head. I would’ve done it too.” Such violent words coming from the mouths of babes – it’s disconcerting at best. In the books, Carl’s character takes a sudden, mind-blowing turn shortly following leaving Hershel’s farm; could it be the writers are herding him in that direction?
When Hershel’s daughter Beth goes into catatonic shock, we suddenly discover Hershel’s gone missing. The man used to be a drunkard, so the obvious place to check is the town bar. Glenn and Rick head off into the zombie-infested wild again to find Hershel – whose veterinary capabilities they need for the baby, says Rick. Sure enough, the old man is drinking his woes away in a ruined saloon, mourning his own stupidity. Yessir, you were a fool. It’s over now. Please take care of your family and stop moaning.
When two drifters wander in to the saloon (including one Michael Raymond-James, a.k.a. false-Cajun Rene from True Blood‘s first season), everyone breathes a short sigh of relief. Other humans! Phew. But when the drifters start to interrogate Glenn, Rick, and bleary-eyed Hershel, asking for cooze and singing snippets of “Old McDonald,” we realize that most of the humans out there aren’t like our protagonists. These aren’t the good guys.
In the post-apocalyptic world, all resources are worth killing for, be they land, guns, women, or food. Shane’s spending so much of his time blustering about how he’s the only one who’s really protecting this camp, he’s the one who saved Carl, etc. that it’s immensely satisfying to see Rick step up his game. Timid Glenn and drunk Hershel aren’t going to do anything about these gun-wielding jerks, but Rick shows everybody who’s boss. It’s about damn time, and it sets up a perfect comparison between Shane’s idea of protection and Rick’s: the key here is, save the good guys, kill the bad ones. Shane, you’re doing it wrong.
It becomes apparent that Beth isn’t coming out of her catatonia. When Rick and Glenn aren’t back yet, Lori asks Darryl to check on them. Darryl refuses to go, claiming rightly that he’s done looking for people (and where, may we ask the writers, is dear brother Merle?). So Lori gets in the car and goes in search of the menfolk. Unlike the infinitely capable gentlemen (and Andrea, as evidenced during a few scenes earlier this season), she manages to get herself in a bit of a clinch when a walker, well, walks in front of her car. And there our episode ends.
Maybe, if we’re lucky, our protagonists will drive off into the metaphorical sunset, leaving behind Hershel and his farm. The title of this episode references a potential destination: Nebraska. Low population, lots of guns. Perhaps they’ll bring along Maggie, Hershel, and the crew. Either way, the half-season finale perked up our ears, but if things don’t continue to move forward AMC’s going to have a frustrated audience on its hands.
What did you think?