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If there's any one thing generally associated with Frank Darabont, it's deliberate storytelling, generally on the slow burner side. It's hard to tell how well this will pay off in zombie television. While character development is certainly beyond important, The Walking Dead is having trouble shaping up in other areas. It's barely reaching that third dimension that takes it off the comic page. Mind you, it's still more interesting than Sunday night's other offerings, but that's not a proper way to judge things.
In tonight's opening, Merle Dixon, still handcuffed to a pipe on a department store roof, is talking to himself and sounding nuttier and more redneck than usual. The drama reaches maximum levels when a group of zombies break the access door open, though it's still chained on the inside. This causes Merle to wiggle around wildly, trying all he can do to wrangle a hacksaw using a belt buckle and a shirt.
Back at the camp, Shane and Carl continue to bond, setting up a world of discomfort when Glenn rolls into town, followed by Rick and the rest of the crew. Rick and Lori have an emotional reunion as Shane smiles uncomfortably on the sideline. They later kiss and make-up in the tent, and Lori apologizes for everything, guising it as sympathy for his being left behind, and not her infidelity.
The episode's lone example of zombie annihilation disrupts an otherwise pleasant morning. A roamer is found munching on an arrow-ridden deer, so the gang spends thirty seconds walloping the shit out of it before old guy Dale (Jeffrey DuMunn) takes his head off. So who shot the deer? Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Merle's similarly simple-minded brother. This is actually a role that fits Reedus perfectly, which sounds funny when said aloud. The group is forced to admit to leaving Merle handcuffed on the roof, which does not make Daryl a happy camper. So against Lori, Carl, and Shane's better wishes, Rick, T-Dog, Daryl, and Glenn take a trip back to the department store to rescue Merle. As an added (and more reasonable) goal, they're to retrieve the duffel bag full of guns that Rick dropped on the street when he was fleeing the city. In this respect, the plot mirrors the last episode.
Meanwhile, Andrea, Amy, Jacqui and Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) watch Shane and Carl playing, bemoaning the fact that the jobs of washing were left to them, the women. Bonding over memories of lost things such as washing machines and vibrators, the girls enjoy the first fits of laughter afforded to this show's characters. If you can imagine, this is against everything Ed thinks is allowable, causing him to stick his naysaying nose where it doesn't belong, demanding the women stop laughing. He then tries to take Carol, his wife, away from them. Andrea shares a few frank opinions with Ed, and the two use Carol in a tug of war match before Ed strikes Carol in the face. This prompts Shane to take out all of his Lori-fueled rage out on Ed's face, punching him a dozen or so times in the temple. Note that for a gory show, the small amount of blood smeared on Ed's face is hardly enough to match the pulp his skull would be had he gotten hit that many times.
It seems that estranged living is taking its toll on everyone, most certainly those with testosterone flowing through their bloodstream. And the episode ends with the most aggro of them all, or at least part of him. As Rick and the boys eventually make it to the rooftop, they find that Merle has escaped, but not before leaving behind a token of his unappreciation: his sawed-off hand! Dum dum dummmm. Where'd Merle go? Is he going to be vengeful for being left up there to die? Will the group be able to "hand"le what Merle may have in store? Probably, as this would be a short-lived series if not.
I didn't inject a whole lot of opinion into this because one wasn't drawn out of me. Of course, Ed's relentless degradation of women was offensive, but it was handled only a shade less awkwardly than Merle's racist remarks last week. I'm pleased that Shane is a more sympathetic character than he was in the comics. Dale's insistence on haggling over bolt cutters was a nice and amusing character point. That's the heads and tails of it. I can't complain about the things that are there, just about the things that aren't, and I won't bore you with that.