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Thanks to the affable Steve West for filling in last week with a thoughtful recap that I agreed with wholeheartedly. Thanks for making me feel haphazard and irrelevant, Steve. Just like "The Search for Sophia" that is clearly only being used to split the group apart for storyline purposes. And even though the emotional crux of the series is now lodged inside of Carl's bullethole, I'd rather be back at the RV with Dale and Daryl.
The sizable number of tiny problems within The Walking Dead, to me, end up taking away from the larger successes of the show, and I eventually view things from a negative place. Last week succeeded in giving us new characters, and this week mires these characters in repetitive actions between points A and B. At one point, Rick tells Lori a light-hearted story about Shane that she's already heard a thousand times, in order to ease her worries about his absence. Balancing the surreal subtext the scene offers to viewers, is the old-timey-television dialogue that the characters are given. The writers are pretty lackluster in showing us that characters are emotional without the characters specifically referencing the fact that they are emotional.
That said, I was convinced by Lori's near-pleading for Rick to quell her doubts about wanting Carl to receive a possible life-saving blood transfusion. Her stance is Carl shouldn't live in a world so devastated and dangerous. I think that kind of thing about everybody's children, and the zombie apocalypse isn't even officially upon us. (In case you wondered, Carl's blood transfusion, which Lori eventually condoned, was a success. Despite Herchel Greene being a veterinarian.) I was also convinced by Jon Bernthal as Shane in this episode, which is different from my usual opinion, that he should die multiple times an episode.
The Adventures of Shane and Otis, which cliffhung off of last week's episode, continues in the same vein of running from zombies inside a hospital. Otis gives his own "convince me otherwise" speech where he uses being overweight as an excuse not to keep on surviving with Shane, who indeed manages to convince him otherwise. It's a good scene that decreases expectations for the ending, which follows Shane's sudden reappearance at the Greene's Farm, sans Otis. Wide-eyed and shell-shocked, Shane tells his grim story about both men running out of bullets, and Otis meeting his demise. The episode's uppercut comes in the end, in a scene that mirrors the opening, in which a hardened Shane shaves his head. In reality, Shane put his last bullet into Otis' leg, dropping him as zombie bait. Almost worse is the way he violently strips the backpack of supplies from Otis's back before limping off.
Now that Shane is legitimately interesting, all blander moments seem that much more intriguing. Glenn and Maggie share thought-provoking words on the front porch. (Comic Fan High Five!) That Glenn got to the house because T-Dog's arm is infected just means that more people have to go to the farm for medical attention, but at least T-Dog gets to casually reflect on how "blood poisoning" would be a ridiculous way to die amidst all the undead. Dale eventually gives Andrea her gun back, telling her not to make him regret that decision. Carl wakes up from his coma reflecting on how beautiful that dumb-ass deer was before lapsing into a seizure that will undoubtedly be Carl's best moment in the series, as far as my hatred for Carl is concerned.
Within this episode's context, my favorite scene involved Daryl and Andrea, as unlikely as it sounds. Looking for Sophia in the woods, they find a tree that has a noosed zombie struggling as it hangs from one of the branches. Daryl notices a suicide note written near the base of the tree, showing audible disdain for that person opting out on life. This disturbs Andrea, especially that the zombie's legs had been picked clean by other hungry zombies. Daryl asks if this strengthens Andrea's desire to live, trading her this answer for an arrow to be used to end the zombie's misery. Andrea's response is anything but concrete, and Daryl feels gypped by this. The simplicity and adherence to character makes it stand out for me. Every incidental scene should feel like this one.
This week's unintentionally hilarious moment? Shane shaving his head in an extremely steamy bathroom in front of a steamed-up mirror, breathing hard enough to cause the mirror to steam up again. It wouldn't have been so bad if his breath weren't so audible in the sound mix. I can't complain. I loved it.
This season is already in need of an action-romp episode to combat the character-building that's been going on. The effects aren't nearly as captivating as they were last year, so the action should come from a suspenseful angle that feels organic to the story, and isn't just characters running from zombies that show up wherever those characters need to be. I know the time is coming. I just want it to happen now. Beware the barn.