Original Air Date: November 27, 2011

Five Things: [SPOILER WARNING]

1. Whoa! Sophia! – I made a note right before the final commercial break that this episode had a LOT of ground to cover to be a decent mid-season finale.  And then, as we descended into the scene of Shane going nutso and busting open the barn, my thought was, “Really?  We’re going to end on this?”. But those final moments with little Sophia shambling out of the barn were so well done.  For one thing, without seeing Sophia like that, you couldn’t really understand where Herschel was coming from.  He just seemed like a nutty old man for keeping zombies in his barn, but when you saw Sophia and the decision that the group had to make about her, you really understood why Herschel did what he did.  The final scene also scored BIG TIME for not beating us over the head.  Early this season, the writers were always talking down to the viewer and if they’d handled this scene that way, we would’ve ended with Rick telling Herschel, “Now I understand what you’re going through.  I didn’t understand before…” and that would’ve been ham-handed and it would’ve spoiled the moment.  THIS is how I want the show to handle these kinds of moments.  Bravo. [Although I did wonder how Sophia ended up in the barn from a timing standpoint….]

2. Will they stay or will they go? – Now this issue was left unresolved and I think the episode suffered for it.  If the comic book has taught us anything, it’s that you cannot keep the survivors in one place for too long or a kind of inertia sets in.  Even if events don’t happen the same way as the comics, let’s get the gang back out onto the road.  The fun of this show lies in (a) the zombie scenes, (b) the eternal struggle for safety and (c) watching the group continually finding a new equilibrium based on their new surroundings, not watching them chop carrots around a campsite.

3. What an ass! – Could Shane become any more unlikeable?  We had his talk with Lori where he tries to undermine Rick.  His little scene where he screws around with Carl, his scene with Dale in the forest, his scene with Glen right before that…  I almost expected that Shane was going to get killed in this episode somewhere.  But just as they were making him so nasty, didn’t he look like 100X the leader once the group saw Rick wrestling that zombie along with the “rapid dog pole”?  Rick just looked like a weak-ass guy who would compromise anything to stay on the farm, even if that meant being friendly with the local zombies.  Suddenly Shane looked sane by comparison.  And then, when the whole group pitched in for zombie-killing except for Rick… Well, Shane looked much better than Rick (even that overhead visual that showed him apart from the group).  And the only thing that really saved Rick was that final scene with Sophia.  It’ll be an interesting dynamic with Rick and Shane in the second half of the season.

4. Lots of well done 2-person chats. – This show has really struggled in the past with the one-on-one scenes.  In the early part of the season, I almost wanted to start cutting myself every time Rick was alone with someone.  But that problem seems fixed.  Maybe they got new writers?  Maybe the actors are more invested in their roles?  Maybe those early shows were shot with the upheaval of Frank Daramount’s departure hanging in the air?  Anyhow, it works now because I enjoyed the Rick/Herschel scene, the Darryl/Carol scene, the Glen/Maggie scene and even the Dale/Andrea scene.  Much better job, writers!

5. I liked Carl better when he was in a coma. – There were a few areas where this episode struggled, but the most disappointing one for me was that Carl sucks now that he’s talking.  The kid is 8-9 years old.  No one wants to hear wise proclamations from kids that age: “I’m not leaving until we find Sophia.”  Everyone is just thinking, “Shut up kid.  You’ll get your ass in the car if we say it’s time to leave.”  The show’s writers would be better served to show us Carl’s inner mettle by letting him DO things rather than giving him stupid lines of dialog because a child actor just doesn’t have the gravitas to pull that stuff off.  Hell, they could have let HIM be the one to “kill” Sophia when none of the adults could pull the trigger.  The show needs a “Carl becomes a man” moment because the comics are really as much about Carl as anyone else.

Conclusion: This was a weird episode.  It has lots of subtle indications that the series is headed in the right direction and the end was shockingly unexpected.  But, the episode didn’t really do much for the first 50 minutes other than demonstrate that Shane is an ass.  Still, it gets major bonus points for that ending because I don’t get that thoroughly surprised very often.

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell

 

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