California Literary Review

The Walking Dead Recap: “Nebraska” (Season 2, Episode 8)

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February 13th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

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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?

Walking Dead S02E08 Rick

Right where we left off. Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC.

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.

Walking Dead S02E08 Shane

This truck plays a large part in “Nebraska.” Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC.

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.

Walking Dead S02E08 Dale

Dale, chilling. Photo credit: Gene Page, AMC.

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.

Walking Dead S02E08 Rick and Hershel

Alcohol is not (always) the answer. Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC.

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?

  • LaurieK

    I find the situations presented on the show compelling and the characters interesting, and the seeming normality of the surroundings of the farm, where *anything* could be lurking just out of sight in those trees, to be very creepy. I like the pacing of Season 2 and am neither frustrated nor bored. And since I don’t find that more zombies are necessarily better, I also find the more judicious use of the monsters to make for more real scares this season. It’s a vast improvement over Season 1, which was fraught with some really dreadful writing and some clunky acting at times.

  • Susan, New Zealand

    I loved season 1 of TWD but what on earth is happening with season 2? There are so many utterly daft moments – just a few examples here: why is it that the farm is seemingly untouched (well practically anyway) when just 5 miles away for example, there is a medical centre that’s crawling with walkers? Why, apart from that one ‘herd’ of walkers that appeared in ep 1 s2, did the motorway remain completely clear of walkers for days on end while they stayed there searching for the lost girl, despite the fact that there were at least a few ambling around the forest? Why on earth did the Rick’s wife have to out to a field in the middle of the night to pee for the pregnancy test – hey how about using a bathroom? Exactly how many times does Hershel have to ask/tell them to leave before they do? They keep talking about the long term there when it’s very clear they aren’t welcome. And so it goes. The dialogue is just painful – take the scene where Glenn tells Hershel’s daughter that he can’t bare the thought of her being hurt etc and then, who would have thought, she changes from being angry to kissing him – that was like something out of a hackneyed 1950s romance. TWD needs to get some momentum quick or else people will start switching off. A real shame when the first season was so well done.

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