Original Air Date: November 13, 2011

Five things: (Full SPOILERS)

1. Darryl’s incredibly crappy day.  Man….that’s a bad day at the office, huh?  About halfway through the show, I tweeted that they should have called the episode “Darryl’s really shitty day”.  Fall off a horse (bad stunt work. No one falls off a horse that way, but whatever), fall down the hill, stabbed by bolt, climb up the hill, fall BACK down, attacked by zombies, hallucinate your mean-ass big brother, stagger back to camp and THEN get kinda shot in the head.  But, I enjoyed this because Darryl is one of the more enjoyable actors on the show.  He’s probably among the more expensive too, so they better use him.  We even got to see Merle!  I was really excited to see Michael Rooker’s name in the opening credits and even if that wasn’t really Merle, we at least know that the show’s producers haven’t lost Rooker’s phone number.

2. Sticking to the comic for a couple of key points.  A fun thing about the TV series is that we’re hitting most of the same story beats as the comic, but we’re getting there in slightly different ways.  Of course, I’m talking about THE BARN and the impending clash between Rick and Herschel over how long they can loiter on the farm.  The scene with the barn was really hot with the way they revealed it.  I don’t know about you, but as soon as Maggie started to pull out that scrap of paper, I knew it was going to say, “Meet me in the barn” even before they showed the word “Hayloft” on the screen.  I’ve given the producers of this show a lot of crap for screwing up scenes, but this was well done.

3. The Rick-Shane scene.  This scene was interesting in a couple of ways.  For one thing, I get nervous every time Rick and Shane head off into the woods with guns.  The producers have been too loyal to the overall source material for me to believe that they’re just going to waste that element of the comic books.  But the scene also showed something else.  In comics, an artist can make a really wordy scene more visually appealing just by making the characters “talk while walking” versus sitting in chairs or standing around.  This scene was the same way, while Shane and Rick talk-and-walk, it’s compelling and interesting because more is going on.  But, once they stop to get “serious” about the conversation, the energy completely leaves the scene because I’m no longer worried that Shane might try to shoot Rick in the back or that they might find Sophia or they might find a zombie.  As for the central argument itself, it’s nice to have a dissenting voice in the group who thinks that maybe they need to cut their losses on Sophia AND this also ties nicely to the conversation between Shane and Lori later where she tells him that he’s just using Lori/Carl as an excuse to cut-and-run.

4. Small successes, but a few missed opportunities.  One other scene the director nailed was when Glen confronts Lori about being pregnant and they instantly cut to Rick and Shane walking back up the driveway.  Wow, well done.  What better way to illustrate that she may not know who the father is and that friction between the three of them?  But, there were a few losers too that hold this show back a bit.  The whole scene where Darryl gets thrown from his horse was an anticlimax.  All those low camera angles and moving shots with leaves in the foreground combined with foreboding music, and the payoff is a snake in the path???  That could have been better.  It’s like the writers argued about whether it should be a zombie jumping out or an evil survivor who has turned to cannibalism and when they couldn’t decide they just made it a snake out of spite.  The other major MISS is that they could have done more with Merle’s appearance.  They made it so clear in the first appearance that he had his hands, so you knew it wasn’t really Merle.  But what if in that second appearance they had done something different? Like have Darryl’s vision go foggy (since he’s hurt), have him look up at Merle silhouetted against the sky and have a blurry Merle walk away and have it appear that he only had ONE hand so that it was arguably really Merle the second time.  Tell me that wouldn’t have caused chatter and excitement!

5. Little stuff (mostly negative and/or funny).  Loved the flashback intro.  The comics never showed us that “fleeing to Atlanta” timeframe when people still had hope.  Loved Maggie a LOT (“11 condoms equals 11 minutes”).  Why didn’t Darryl pull the bolt out sooner?  Was it just so the zombie scene would be more dramatic if he had to pull it out THEN?  Great zombie scene, btw!  How did that zombie not bite Darryl?  Glad it took three weeks to show us Herschel’s generator!  Man, Herschel is pissy and he doesn’t like “Asian boys” because they have to make him less sympathetic for when he kicks Rick off his property next week.  Why do 5 men have to run out there to deal with a lone walker?  Why are they sprinting across the field to take care of a lone walker?  Andrea is never getting her gun back now!  Why didn’t they wipe Darryl off better before putting him in the bed?

Conclusion: Pretty good.  It may seem like I’m harping on a lot of negatives, but that’s just because I find it very frustrating when I read negative stuff online that isn’t specific.  This show is really good.  I’m kinda bored with the Sophia plotline, but that’ll surely wrap up next week and the show has a lot of other good things going on: Darryl being Darryl, Rick/Shane/Lori tension, Herschel tension, Glenn/Maggie chemistry, the Barn, etc.  Good times!

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell