THE WALKING DEAD Recap: “Chupacabra”

     November 13, 2011

For the past few weeks, the survivors on AMC’s The Walking Dead have been using Herschel Greene’s farm as their base of operations during their search for Sofia–the missing little girl who’s become season two’s indisputable MacGuffin—and ever since that farm was introduced, fans of Robert Kirkman’s long-running Walking Dead comic series have been waiting for the “big reveal”.  Well, tonight, after much hint-dropping (and about 40 minutes’ worth of water-treading), Herschel Green’s barn-based secret was finally revealed.  What happened, and how was the rest of the episode?  Find out in this week’s Walking Dead recap, folks.

Ever since the survivors on AMC’s The Walking Dead showed up at the Greene family farm, every audience member who reads Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic series has been waiting for the scene that closed out tonight’s episode.  The show’s writers have been teasing us with hints about the barn-O-doom for two episodes now, and when the truth was finally revealed tonight, I found myself wondering:   did anyone other than Walking Dead readers realize what the writers were getting at?  Or were the hints too subtle?  Oh, well:  guess it doesn’t matter now.  The cat—or, as it happens, the barn full of zombies—is out of the bag now.

Now, here’s where you might say, “Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself there, Chief?”, and normally I’d agree.  But tonight’s episode—titled “Chupacabra”—turned out to be very light on story development:  if we consider where the survivors were at the beginning of the episode and where they were at the end, very little actually changed.  We could argue all day and night about whether or not that’s a “bad thing”, but rather than ranting and raving about it (and not for the first time), I’ll just say this:   I like it when the television shows I watch have things of genuine substance happening each week.  In fact, the more “story”, the better.  That might not be your cuppa tea, and that’s fine.  But for someone like me—who likes to see the story progressing and characters changing as often as possible—episodes like “Chupacabra” can be a bit of a chore to sit through.

But let’s not dwell!  Let’s keep things positive, yes?  Yes.

Tonight’s episode started with a flashback, another look back to the pre-apocalypse lives of Lori and Shane.  This flashback seemed to be taking place immediately after the fecal matter struck the rotating air-circulator, with Shane and Lori having a little back-n-forth before napalm was dropped on the streets by soldiers overhead (at least, I’m assuming they were soldiers;  maybe they were just chemical warfare enthusiasts).  I dig these flashbacks, and continue to support The Walking Dead’s interest in using them as cold-opens to the show.

From there, we found ourselves back on the Greene farm.  There was a little interaction between Maggie and Glenn, who you’ll remember boned on last week’s show.  This week, Maggie was doing that thing girls always do after a zombie apocalypse, where they’re sleeping with ya one minute and then ragging on you the next.  You know how it is.  Understandably, all this weirdness left Glenn feeling a little pissed, and his mood was further darkened after running into Lori, who admitted that, yeah, she’d used the pregnancy test that she asked Glenn to pick up for her last week, but no, she hadn’t told Rick what the results were yet.  Poor Glenn:  figuring out women is hard enough as it is without having legions of the undead to contend with.

Soon thereafter, most of the other survivors were sent out on another search for Sofia, whose disappearance has taken up a whole bunch of screen time this season.  Of course any season of any television series is going to have a MacGuffin—sometimes it’s a mission to blow open a hatch buried on a mystical island, sometimes it’s a search to replace the manager of a paper-company in Scranton—but I think we’ll all agree that this one’s gone on way longer than anyone anticipated it would.

At this point, the show has pushed the missing-little-girl storyline so far that I can’t help but fear that the show will end up being damned no matter how it gets resolved:  if Sofia turns out to be alive after all this, people are going to call B.S., demanding to know how a defenseless little girl could survive on her own in a zombie-filled countryside for what feels like about two weeks.  If she turns out to be dead, people are going to bitch about the fact that the majority of the second season was wasted looking for her.  My money’s on “dead”, but that’s only because I’m actively hoping that her character’s dead after wasting so much of the other survivors’ time.

A heartless sentiment, to be sure, but I know there’s at least one guy around here who’d agree with me.  That’d be Shane, who engaged Rick in a long (though well-written) scene early in tonight’s episode regarding the senselessness inherent in their search for Sofia.  This was—without question—my favorite sequence from tonight’s episode.  Things started with the two discussing their high school-era romantic conquests, and then quickly turned to the futility of searching for Sofia:  Shane believes she’s gotta be dead by this point, while Rick believes that there’s no way of knowing that for sure.

“And besides”, Rick argues, “what if it was Carl?”  Carl is Rick’s all-purpose trump-card, a convenient excuse to lay down whenever someone questions his sometimes-absurd behavior.  Rick and Shane don’t ever reach a middle ground on this particular debate, but they do drag it back to the farm with them, at which point Lori gets roped into the conversation.  This leads to another moment where Lori seems to blow Shane off, and it was at this point that I decided that I completely sympathized with Shane.

Oh, yes, I’ve been on “Team Shane” since…hell, since the beginning, but it was this moment that finally solidified those sentiments.  Put yourself in Shane’s shoes for a minute, and imagine how maddening it must be to have Lori telling you to “stay” one minute and then telling you to “leave (her) and (her) son alone” the next.  Over and over again, never making up her mind.  It’s no wonder Shane’s going crazy.  It begs the question:  who’s more dangerous in the world of The Walking Dead—the zombies, or the women?  At least the zombies don’t toy with your emotions.

Meanwhile, a huge portion of the episode was devoted to Daryl’s time in the woods.  After traipsing around for a while (and, perhaps, after ingesting some ‘shrooms;  I wasn’t clear on this), Daryl spotted Sofia’s doll laying in a shallow puddle of water somewhere in the forest, and upon further inspection he discovered…well, not much else, actually.  Just the doll.  This meant that Daryl had to keep looking for Sofia (bo-ring!), but once Daryl got back on the trail, a nearby snake startled him right off his horse (huzzah!).  During the fall, Daryl manages to land on a crossbow bolt, and this led to a series of scenes where Daryl’s still-missing brother, Merle (Michael Rooker, always welcome) taunted him in an elaborate hallucination.  Yes, folks, the Merle-footage from last week’s “Next Week On…” promos turned out to be a shroom (or exhaustion)-induced vision.  Bummer.

Merle sure had a lot to say to Daryl during these visions, though, most of it a guilt trip about the whole “leaving your brother handcuffed to the roof of a highrise surrounded by zombies” thing from season one.  Merle also had some not-so-nice words to share about Rick, who “he” (Daryl’s subconscious?) seems to feel has turned Daryl into a rent-boy:  go here, fetch this, look for that.  On the one hand, Merle’s a dirty, despicable racist that no one should be listening to.  On the other hand, Rick sucks (Team Shane!), and he’s kinda got a point.  Will these visions inspire Daryl to give Rick a little attitude in the future?  We’ll have to wait and see.  There was a moment where we might’ve found out tonight, but before we could, Andrea shot Daryl in the face.

Oh, yeah.  That.

After spending the day crawling out of the woods, Daryl finally gets on his feet and reaches the edges of the Greene property, but as soon as he breaks through the tree line, the rest of the survivors believe him to be a zombie.  Andrea’s on sniper-rifle duty at the time, so she takes a shot at Daryl just as Rick, Shane, and T-Dawg reach him, hitting him right in the side of the face.  It was obvious that she grazed him (you can’t fool me, commercial break!), but still…that’s probably gonna cause some tension next week.  Again, the “Who’s more dangerous?” question comes to mind.

Finally, after everyone had returned to the farm—after another largely fruitless day of Sofia-searching—the entire crew sat down for a big-ass dinner inside Herschel Greene’s house (hilariously, Maggie, Glenn, and Herschel’s other offspring are sitting at a “kids’ table”).  Everyone’s quiet at dinner, probably reflecting on the group’s ongoing and inexplicable ability to survive (one character even remarks on this at one point, which literally made me applaud a little), when Maggie slides Glenn a little note.  It reads, “Tonight.  Where?”  Apparently, all those mean-spirited remarks Maggie tossed at Glenn earlier in the episode were of the “pulling the girl-you-like’s hair on the playground” variety.  Glenn responds, but Maggie doesn’t read his response until later in the night…when it’s too late.

And this, my friends, was when we got the “big reveal”.  They’d been teasing it forever, but finally all the non-Walking Dead readers in the audience were let in on Herschel Greene’s big secret:  Glenn instructs Maggie to meet him in the hayloft (“Ever done it in a hayloft?” is his exact response, and—being that she’s a somewhat-slutty country gal—we gotta assume that, yeah, she has), where he discovers that Herschel Greene’s barn is filled with the undead.  Like, dozens of walkers (no Texas Rangers, however).

It’ll be interesting to see how the show deals with the fallout of this discovery.  In the books, Greene just comes right out and tells Rick that he’s holding on to all these zombies (he’s hoping for a “cure”), but on the “Next Week On…” promo, it appears that Glenn is going to keep this information to himself for awhile.

And so, the big questions we’re left with tonight are:  will Glenn tell the others that Herschel’s a zombie-hoarder?  Is Herschel hoarding zombies for the same reason that Herschel hoarded zombies in the Walking Dead comics?  Who is the father of Lori’s baby, and who’ll she tell first?  Also, will Daryl start giving Rick crap once he recuperates?  And, finally, how long can we expect to have the awesome Jon Bernthal (who plays Shane) on the show?  Sound off with your guesses in the comments section below, and stay tuned for our next Walking Dead writeup—same dead-time, same dead-channel—which’ll hopefully contain a few answers.