Recap: The Walking Dead 3.02 - Sick

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Beware spoilers. 

The problem with adaptations is that, if you're familiar with the source material, it's hard to buy into the tension. Good writing or a skilled director can sweep you up in the on-screen action, but it's easy to sit there and wait for the next thing you know is coming. 

That's why I'm enjoying this interpretation of The Walking Dead so much. What's happening to Hershel-- bit by a zombie, Rick hacks off his leg to stave off infection, everyone wonders what'll happen-- that's not how it plays out in the comic book. I like that the writers are sticking to good storytelling opportunities (the prison) while not confining themselves to the source material.

That's why I'm enjoying this interpretation of The Walking Dead so much... I like that the writers are sticking to good storytelling opportunities (the prison) while not confining themselves to the source material.

And when Lori performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Hershel, there's a real sense of tension, because that could go either way. As in, Hershel is probably coming back. The question is whether he'll try to eat off Lori's face. 

Ultimately, this was another solid installment of The Walking Dead. While last week was a strong debut for the new season, it felt a bit like a video game. The survivors killed an awful lot of zombies and gave us some broad strokes about how their dynamic had changed in the months since we'd seen them, but the focus was on getting all the pieces into place. Now we're getting a better look at everyone. And it seems that after maligning the female characters for two seasons, the writers are making up for lost time.

Carol deserves a gold star for this episode. This week we find she's not only learning to be a doctor but, faced with the possible death of Hershel, asks for a zombie to be brought to her so she can practice performing a c-section, in case that becomes necessary during Lori's pregnancy. It's a fantastic transformation for a character that, once, did nothing but cry and cower. 

Lori is another revelation. She continues to be sympathetic, and is the nexus of the episode's most devastating moment. After a long, dramatic day, she meets Rick on a bridge connecting two parts of the prison (symbolism!), and is clearly looking for some sort of comfort or reassurance from her husband. Instead, Rick treats her like an acquaintance and blows her off.

I'm sure it's going to come out that Rick blames Lori for everything that happened with Shane and then these characters will head toward some kind of reconciliation, but I really expected Rick to soften a bit last night, and was pretty surprised when he grew even more distant. 

It wasn't the only cold moment from Rick--at the end of the last episode, the survivors stumbled across a group of prisoners holed up in the cafeteria. After an extended pissing match between Rick and their nameless leader (did he have a name?), the two groups make an agreement to split the prison. And when the alpha-prisoner makes a play to kill Rick during a zombie attack, Rick barely hesitates before burying a machete in the guy's skull. 

The entire sequence with the prisoners was pretty fantastic. The characters weren't particularly interesting but the tag line for this season is Fight the Dead. Fear the Living, and they're playing strongly to that sentiment. When the prisoners ignore Rick and Daryl about going for headshots, and instead attack the zombies prison-riot-style, it's a good example of how dangerous other people will come to be in a post-apocalyptic setting. It's not just about arguing over supplies. Some people are just dumb, or they don't listen, and they become a liability. 

I should mention, too, that this is the episode where Andrew Lincoln really won me over as Rick. Throughout the first two seasons he had the tendency to come off as weak or indecisive or altruistic to an unreasonable degree. I think a lot of that could be chalked up to sloppy writing. Rick is suddenly much more interesting: Dangerous, decisive, and weighed down by his leadership role. This is the first episode where it was abundantly clear why he's in charge. 

One of my disappointments from this episode was Carl's jaunt to find the infirmary, during which he killed two zombies. This, while a bunch of grown men are sneaking through the halls and peeing their pants. Having it all happen off-screen felt like a lost opportunity to spend a little time with that character. The comic really plays up (a little too heavily lately, I think) Carl's transformation from an innocent kid to an emotionless sociopath. Having Carl take the initiative and then mouth off at his mom about he can handle himself means we're probably headed there. 

The other disappointment was that we didn't get to see Andrea and Michonne at all. The preview for next week's episode looks like the entire hour will be focused on them, which is good. I'm sure there's a lot of story to tell there. But I would have gladly done without last night's scenes between Maggie and Glenn, and Maggie and Beth, if it meant getting a little more out of the show's wayward characters. 

These two complaints are fairly minor, and can be attributed to the show's running time--there's only so much story they can tell in a single episode. Ultimately, it was another great hour of The Walking Dead, and I think this show has finally hit a good stride. Hopefully they keep it up.

Next week we meet The Governor, and I'm pretty sure I saw a glimpse of Merle in the preview. It'll be nice to have Michael Rooker back, and I hope they give him a little more to do than "be racist." 

Other observations:

  • It's a good thing Hershel didn't die--dude is a farmer and a doctor, i.e.: the only member of the group who really carries his weight (besides Daryl). 
  • Random comment from my wife: "This show should be called How Carol Got Her Groove Back."
  • They are really piling on the gore. Between the close-up shots of Hershel's bloody stump and the handcuffed zombie extracting himself by tearing off his hand, this show is really embracing its roots.
  • In the event of a zombie apocalypse, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should really be taken off the table. I mean, c'mon.
  • T-Dog is a black person name dreamed up by a white person. So it's heartening that Rick is referring to T-Dog as T. Plus, the show added three new minority characters. Two of which they killed, but still, nice to get a little diversity. 
  • At the end of the last episode, there seemed to be an army of zombies outside those cafeteria doors. When T opens the door, there's one, and the hallways that were previously overrun are pretty much clear. Convenient to move the plot forward, but not good continuity. Shenanigans! 
  • Last week I complained that I couldn't recall the name of Hershel's other daughter, not-Maggie. Now I know her name is Beth. It feels nice, to have finally retained that. She'll probably die soon. 

Badass Award

Who was the biggest badass in this episode? I nominate the following:

  • Carol, for the zombie autopsy
  • Rick, for burying a machete into some dude's skull
  • Carl, for taking initiative and finding the infirmary

Vote, and discuss the episode, down in the comments. 

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Renee Miller's picture
Renee Miller from Tweed, Ontario is reading The Wolf Gift October 22, 2012 - 4:06pm

Hands-down, Rick was the biggest badass last night.  Not only for drawing his line in the sand with the inmates, but for not caving with Lori. I think they've portrayed his reaction to what she's done in the past realistically. And like you said, he was so indecisive and good the first two seasons, I never saw that machete to the head coming.

I'm surprised you think Carol is badass for practicing a c-section. It's interesting that she can overcome the ick factor of cutting open a zombie, but I don't see it as badass. Actually, she really annoys me with her whining and her weirdness. I'm kind of hoping that whatever kills Beth takes Carol out too.

I think Carl is almost tied with Rick for badassery. I was pissed when he came back and was all "Look, I went to get this shit you were all whining about needing, but no one got to see what I did because I'm a redneck ninja who's too fucked up for the viewers to handle." Definitely a missed opportunity there. I agree, they could've eliminated the really boring scenes of "oh, I love you" and "oh, it's so awful here and I'm so scared" to show Carl becoming that creepy kid you hope you don't have to deal with when zombies attack.