As you probably noticed, we were out of the office when last week’s The Walking Dead arrived, which meant we had no recap/review on offer once the credits rolled. These things happen, of course. Indeed, the whole thing would be completely unremarkable were it not for one very important fact: last week’s episode was pretty damn good. Better, in fact, than just about any episode this season save for the season premiere. Of course that was gonna be the episode I missed, right?
Anyway, in the interest of keeping this thing to a manageable length , we’re going to combine last week’s writeup with this week’s, so both recaps are going to be a little less in-depth than we all might be used to. Everyone fine with that? Excellent, let’s get started.
Last week’s episode picked up immediately where the mid-season premiere left off, with Glenn, Hershel, and Rick holed up in a dusty little bar with two, dead interlopers at their feet. As you’ll recall, Terriers star Michael Raymond James and a swarthy-looking gentleman had attempted to sweet-talk their way back to whatever place our heroes were calling home, and—when that didn’t work out—Rick had been compelled to shoot James and Capt. Swarthy to keep their location secret. After all, what if there were more swarthy-looking people in this pair’s gang?
Turned out, that’s precisely what happened (to be fair, though, none of the other gang members—all of whom entered the scene shortly after Rick unloaded on James and his companion—were as swarthy as the first guy): before Hershel could even think about lecturing Rick for shooting two people (in cold blood?), the rest of the dead pair’s friends were hammering at the front door and windows of the bar, looking for their buddies and being menacing in a general sort of way. Thinking fast, Rick decides to tell this new gang that he just shot their friends.
While Rick’s thinking might be questionable here (watch Hershel’s face when Rick finally pipes up; it’s priceless), the result is exactly what you’d expect: the new guys get into a firefight with the people that just killed their friends. It was interesting, seeing the dynamic from this other group’s point of view: generally, it’s Rick and Company that’re dealing with the fallout of some calamity. A roaming pack of zombies on an overpass, a Latino gang with a penchant for kidnapping, a scientist who’s hell-bent on killing everyone the zombie outbreak didn’t: these obstacles have been the source of much consternation for our heroes. Again and again, we watch them respond to crisis, but this time, it felt more like they were the ones who’d caused the crisis.
And, yes, of course Rick was justified in what he did (and, damn, am I still happy that the writers had him step up in that way), and of course there’s little doubt that this new gang was not a great group of people (if you’re in a gang that sends a swarthy-looking gentleman and Michael Raymond James out as ambassadors, you’re probably in a rough gang), but still: in the scenes that featured these guys debating how to go about getting their friends back—not to mention their angry response once they’d learned that the Home Team had killed them—it was impossible not to imagine that Rick and Company would’ve reacted the same way.
In other news: Beth—the chick that suddenly fell into a coma during the mid-season premiere—started coming around (apparently, her coma was only meant to last long enough to get Rick and Glenn out on a field trip to find Hershel); Lori woke up in her car at the beginning of the episode, a zombie attempting to get in (the zombie’s face peeling off while it tried to shove its face through the windshield was, in a word, awesome); and the rest of the Survivors realized that, y’know, Rick, Hershel, Glenn, and Lori were all conspicuously absent from dinner. Upon realizing that they had some missing folks—particularly Lori—Shane went off to find ‘em, which led to Shane and Lori having yet another chat about their state of affairs.
During this talk, Lori told Shane that she’d told Rick about her and Shane (get all that?), and we could see in Shane’s eyes that this was not good news. Later on in the episode, Shane got a chance to deliver his own bit of unfortunate news in Lori’s presence when he revealed to Carl that his mother was preggers. This didn’t go over well with lil’ Carl, and…well, it’ll be interesting to see where the writers take this particular subplot. If you’ve read the comics, you know this isn’t much of an issue after awhile (ahem), so I suppose the outcome here is going depend on how long certain characters remain on the show (ahem).
Anyway, the episode ended with one of the gang-o-attackers in Rick and Shane’s care, held hostage with an uncertain future. Tonight’s episode picked up where last week’s left off (my God, it’s like they do that every week; has anyone else noticed this totally unexpected phenomenon?), with Shane and Rick on their way to…well, to get rid of said hostage. But before they could do that, Rick and Shane had to have a talk.
That Shane and Rick’s big chat occurred at a literal crossroads might have been a bit too “on the nose” for some viewers, but I was willing to go with it. I was also willing to go with Rick’s speech in this scene (more on this in a moment), as well as Shane’s response. The whole thing felt a little better-written than a few other “Character Talks For Three Straight Minutes” moments I could name from episodes past, and the whole thing was elevated—yet again—by a remarkable performance from Jon Bernthal as Shane. Watch Shane listening to Rick during this scene. See that? That’s how compelling Rick should be when he talks.
Oh, but I kid Rick. Rick knows I love him. How else to explain the fact that—for the umpteenth straight week—the show’s writers decided to portray “conflict” by having two characters yell sentiments at one another? It happened several times on tonight’s show (Rick and Shane, Lori and Andrea, Beth and Maggie), but the scenes between Rick and Shane were always excellent. It’s worth hypothesizing that I might just be a little more forgiving on this front because the show’s writers have finally moved the action off the farm, but let’s try to be a little less cynical and just say it’s because the scene was handled well from all involved.
As for the Lori and Andrea argument, we listened while the two women had it out in what amounted to “their version of an argument we’ve seen several times on this show already”: life’s worth living, maybe it’s not, we’ve all gotta decide that for ourselves, priorities, and so on. The whole thing happened because Beth—now totally awake and feeling a little suicidal—hid a knife in her room, prompting Lori to take it away and sound the “Beth’s Trying to Kill Herself” alarms (yes, there are alarms specifically for that; Home Depot sells ‘em). Lori’s position was, “No one should kill themselves; life’s still worth living”, while Andrea’s position was, “She’s gotta decide that for herself, and if she thinks it isn’t, who are you to get in her way?” Points were made on both sides of the aisle, but in the end, the two characters reached a stalemate (for the moment).
Rick and Shane, meanwhile, entered into the second argument of the episode, this one revolving around whether or not Rick oughtta murder the hostage they’d taken after last week’s gang fight (first they were gonna abandon him, but when it became clear that he knew where the Greene family farm was, well, his days were suddenly numbered).
In the moments leading up to this, Rick had Shane on total lockdown: telling him what to do, how to do it (including Rick’s seriously good idea to stop using ammo to kill zombies), when to jump and how high, etc. But once Rick revealed that he didn’t have the stones to kill the hostage where he laid, Shane snapped, and their argument quickly escalated to violence. Specifically, Shane tossed a massive wrench at Rick, missed, smashed it through a window, and brought a whole gaggle of zombies swarming the both of them. Because they’d just been on the verge of killing one another, Rick and Shane spent the first part of this sequence fighting on their own (the hostage, meanwhile, had escaped his restraints and was doing his best to survive, as well), but after awhile, the three ended up fighting side by side to GTFO.
But wait! There’s more arguing! Back at the farm, Maggie and Beth were arguing about whether or not Beth had the right to kill herself. This went back and forth for a few minutes, ending with Beth’s plea that Maggie should hang out with her later that night while she offed herself in bed. As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with Maggie, but it turns out it doesn’t really matter: Beth proved too impatient to wait until later that night, anyway, and used a knife to slit her wrists while Andrea was supposed to be watching her.
And so, of course everyone gets all bent outta shape at Andrea over the situation. Maggie goes so far as to tell her she’s no longer welcome in the house, while Lori just gives her one of those catty looks that women sometimes give one another when someone’s just been served. Andrea was happy that Beth had decided to live, of course, but just try telling that to Maggie and Lori: they’ve gone full-blown mean girl, and they’ve got no interest in whether or not Andrea had just proved a point (actually, Lori comments on this right after Andrea stalks off, but Maggie’s only response is an eyeroll—she’s still too pissed off to accept the idea).
In the end, Shane and Rick end up standing next to one another on a highway. There’s no crossroad this time, but they’re having the exact same conversation they’d had early in the episode: Rick tells Shane that his wife is his (Rick’s, that is, not Shane’s), his son is his (Rick’s), and “that unborn child is mine”. Further, he makes it clear—for the second time, and even after Shane tossed a giant-ass wrench at Rick’s head—that if Shane wants to continue hanging out with the rest of the Survivors, he can damn well start taking his cues from Rick. It’s that, or leave (at least, that’s the inference). Shane kinda nods at all this, but on a very effectively directed drive back to the farm (with the hostage—alive and well—in the trunk for the second time tonight), we can see in his eyes that this truce ain’t gonna last long.
It ends with most of the characters where they were when the episode began, but ya know what? I didn’t mind. Both this week’s episode and last week’s episode kept me watching, intrigued, and interested throughout. Even when the writers resorted to “Characters Yelling Sentiments at One Another” in this episodes, I wasn’t bothered. This is either a testament to an increase in writing quality, proof that the show really, really needed a change of location, or maybe I’ve just mellowed out over the past 14 days: whatever the case may be, I found myself connecting to the material (and having far less complaints) than normal over these past two episodes, and I’m hoping that—now that we’re off the farm—the good times will continue to roll.
I hate grading these, but if I were under threat of zombie attack, I’d give both episodes a strong B+ (and maybe even an A- for this week’s), which is a helluva improvement from the past, what, seven episodes? Let’s hope this trend continues and the next three weeks prove to be something really special.
A few other things worth considering: it was recently announced that the part of “The Governor” has been cast for season three. This seems to indicate that the writers are skipping over the prison for now (though not necessarily). Here’s the questions: do ya think they’ll skip the prison, or work it into next season? What about Michonne? Isn’t she a vital part of the Governor’s storyline (if only to show how brutal he is)? Think we’ll see her sooner…or later? And were this week’s and last week’s episodes markedly better, or am I just imagining things?
Sound off in the comments below if you’ve got anything you’d like to add to all this, folks!