THE WALKING DEAD Recap: “Cherokee Rose”

     November 6, 2011

In the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series, Shane was a one-note character who got killed off early on.   Meanwhile– on the televised version of The Walking Dead— actor Jon Bernthal has turned that one-note bully into the show’s most compelling character.  One imagines this must be a bit of a conundrum for the show’s writers:  Shane’s supposed to be bad, but a whole bunch of viewers prefer him to the show’s lead.  Last week, The Walking Dead‘s writers dealt “Team Shane” a blow by having Bernthal’s character do something really, really evil…but was it enough?  And would tonight’s episode continue his descent into villainy?  And would Rick get any more interesting?  Find out after the jump, folks.

At the end of last week’s Walking Dead, the show’s writers finally got around to giving us a good reason to hate Jon Bernthal’s Shane:  after tracking down some much-needed medical equipment with Otis (a dude who wasn’t all that bad whenever he wasn’t accidentally shooting children), Shane shot his fellow traveler in the leg and left him for dead.  One might argue that Shane’s touchy-feely (OK, rapey) scene during the season one finale was the moment where we were all supposed to start hating Bernthal’s character, but…well, what can I say?  Who among us hasn’t had too much wine in an underground bunker and tried to molest a cop’s wife?

If The Walking Dead really wanted us to hate Shane (or, at the very least, to pledge allegiance to “Team Rick”) the show needed to give us something a helluva lot more unforgivable than that scene with Rick’s wife, something that absolutely no one would be able to justify.  Last week, I submitted to you that Shane’s betrayal of Otis was that unforgivable moment, and—judging from the conversations I’ve had with other fans of the show over the past week—it seems to have been only somewhat successful:  most people I’ve spoken with reluctantly agree that last week’s finale marked the “beginning of the end” for Shane, but the majority of those people also think the show’s going to suffer without Jon Bernthal.  I tend to agree.

Anyway, all of this is a very elaborate way of saying this:  I was curious to see what would be done with Shane on tonight’s episode.  Besides the “Well Zombie” that we glimpsed during the “Next Week On…” promo last week, this what I was most looking forward to tonight.  The way I figure it, the more the writers pile on the “evil Shane” stuff, the quicker they’re looking to write him outta the show.  If tonight’s episode featured very little “evil Shane”, well, that’d be good news for us Bernthal fans.

So, how’d it turn out?

Well, we’ll get to that.  Before we get to the funeral that opened the episode, though, I need to get the following off my chest:  these survivors are really, really stupid.  They are so stupid, in fact, that one might be forgiven for wishing outright harm upon them from time to time.  Over the course of the show’s run, we’ve seen our merry band of survivors do a variety of dumb things, but tonight’s “well debacle” might be their dumbest escapade yet.

See, it’s revealed that the Greene farm has a number of wells on the property—five of ‘em, actually—and early in the episode Dale and T-Dawg decide that they’re going to go investigate each well’s condition.  Upon arriving at the first one, they’re in mid-conversation when Dale realizes that a fat, squirmy, gelatinous zombie has taken up residence in the bottom of the well.  He stops T-Dawg from drinking a dipper full o’ well-water, calls a few of the other survivors over, and that’s when the dumb happens.

First, the group realizes that a zombie in the well probably means that the water’s contaminated…but not for certain (idiotic thought #1:  it’s definitely contaminated, and even if it isn’t, how would you find out?).  They then decide to kill the zombie in the well below, but not while it’s captured down there.  Y’know, ‘cause that might contaminate the water (idiotic thought #2:  use one of the four other wells, jackasses).  So, they decide to lure the zombie into a loop of rope with a ham (!!!), but when that fails, they decide to use “live bait” (!!!) in the form of Glenn (idiotic thought #3:  for obvious reasons).  All of this shoots by in a matter of moments—I rewound the scene and watched it twice, trying to catch the logic here—going from “Hey, there’s a zombie down there!” to “Quick—let’s get an unarmed man as close to it as possible in order to save the water!” in record time.

It’s moments like these that I have to wonder how long these people might actually survive following a zombie apocalypse.  I mean, really, folks:  this is just ridiculous.  Of course their plan goes totally awry (somehow, the inch-thick length of rope they decided to lower Glenn down the well with doesn’t hold), but eventually they manage to get the zombie up onto the rim of the well.  At that point, it rips in half, spewing guts, viscera, and what might’ve been worms directly into the water below.  T-Dawg gets a “Case of The Mondays” face, and that’s that.  It is no exaggeration to say that if Glenn had been killed, he totally would’ve had it coming.

Meanwhile, Rick and Herschel are having a heart-to-heart over by the barn about how long Herschel wants these idiots hanging around his farm (I’d be saying the same thing).  Rick is made to understand that– once Sofia is found and Carl has recuperated—the crew will need to hit the road.  Later in the episode, he challenges Herschel on this, but in the beginning he just kinda goes along with it.  Fans of the comic series probably know where this is headed (check out how prominently that barn is featured in this scene, or how…uhm…what we know from the comics fits with how the Greene family behaves on tonight’s episode), and I couldn’t be happier to assume that the show is moving this storyline in that direction.  If they follow through on this subplot, it’ll be interesting (Sorry to be all cryptic about it, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler-free for those of you who haven’t read the books).

In other news:  Shane and Lori have yet another conversation about whether or not Shane should stick around (Lori appears to have powered down the “Bitch Switch” of the second straight week in a row, and it’s a mood that suits her);  Daryl spends a good amount of time traipsing through the forest in search of Sofia (he finds an abandoned house with what looks like a kid’s insta-camp inside a cupboard);  Carol’s still sitting in the RV, whining;  Andrea’s still acting kinda pissy, and has a conversation with Shane about killing (which seems to reveal just how screwed up Shane is over Otis’ murder); and Glenn and Maggie…well, let’s talk about Glenn and Maggie.

In a scene that begged for Daryl to come bursting through the door yelling, “Dr. Jones!  No time for love!”, Glenn and Maggie final got it on (Side Note:  generally, when I’m working on a recap, I’ll watch the show once, and then write the recap while watching the encore that AMC runs immediately afterwards.  Because Hell on Wheels replaced the encore show this week, I was forced to take notes that were slightly more detailed than usual during tonight’s lone broadcast.  My notes for this scene read: “Glenn/Maggie ride horses, go shopping, bone [Maggie = ho?]”) while on a shopping excursion.  Fans of the comics know that these two are a couple, and that particular plotline kicked into gear during last week’s episode, but it was still somewhat shocking to see it in action tonight.  Nice for Glenn, I suppose, but when the answer to “Why do you want to have sex with me?” is “Options are limited”, that’s not really cause for celebration.

Besides the need to get laid in a pharmacy, Glenn had another reason for being on this trip:  to track down a “personal item” for Lori.  At first, the way she requests this item (written on a separate sheet of paper, telling him it’s located in the “feminine hygiene section”) seems to indicate that Lori’s got some not-so-fresh issues going on—which, given the zombie apocalypse and the general state of hygiene amongst the survivors, is understandable.  But it turns out that she’s sent Glenn to get a pregnancy test, and the episode wraps with Lori pissing on the device out in Greene’s field:  turns out, she’s preggers.  Ruh-roh!

Overall, I thought this was a decent episode.  I wasn’t overjoyed with any one thing in particular, but I certainly wasn’t annoyed with the plot (maybe some of the characters’ decisions, but definitely not in the “this is just bad writing” way that the show’s annoyed me before).  I wish the show were delivering a bit more on its awesome premise, but a lot of what I’d like to see these characters doing would be impossible with this particular set of characters.  Overall, I think this season’s better than last season, but I’m still hoping against hope that an episode of The Walking Dead is gonna knock me on my ass at some point.  Were I grading tonight’s episode—and I’m totally not—I’d give it a B+.

How will Lori’s pregnancy effect the rest of the survivors, the show, Rick, Shane?  Whose baby is it, do ya think?  Think the survivors are dumb, or do you think I was a little hard on ‘em over the “well debacle”?  Didja notice Merle’s coming back (he was glimpsed in the “Next Week On…” promo), and are you excited about that? Sound off in the comments section below, folks, and stay tuned for our next recap, same Dead-time, same Dead-channel next Sunday.

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