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Maybe it’s because I didn’t agonize over a New Orleans Saints game today. Maybe it’s because “Pretty Much Dead Already” is a mid-point, the quasi-finale to tide fans over until the show’s February return. Maybe the damned thing earned it. Said simply: I liked last night's episode. Well, half of it, but that half was better than anything else from this uneven season. The usual tactic of talking until something happens is dropped, and actual inciting incidents occur. Like real TV!

If you aren’t drowning in naivety, you know Walking Dead isn’t a roller coaster, where excitement is constant. This Farm plotline, however, has earned a coveted “Water Slide” comparison. A long, heavily populated, slow-moving line culminating in a rapid, splash-filled descent, where the splashes are zombie blood, and none blasts straight up your swim trunks. Do those fleeting moments of intensity validate the wait? Nah, but they shed light on the meaning behind the wait, which is more substantial than “Zombies bad. Humans good.”

Glenn, unable to perform actions of importance without someone first nodding approvingly, astounds the gang with astounding news of the barn’s zombie horde. Collective blood pressure skyrockets. The zombies must die, or everyone must leave. But what about Sophia? After all, Daryl “found that doll a couple days ago.” Even Carol later admits defeat, pissing Daryl off even more. But after Shane, guided only by Shane, peeks between the barn’s wooden slats, the fates of the living and undead are both sealed.

Barely Worth Mentioning and Never Worth Repeating Moment: Carl won’t leave the farm until Sophia is found. Hey Carl, shut the fuck up and get shot in the face next time. Shane doesn’t care what you think. Neither do we.

Inciting Incident #1: Rick uses Lori’s pregnancy to evoke critical thinking.

Given a week to leave the farm, Rick tells Hershel this ravaged world is no place for child birth or child rearing, pledging to help him in any way possible. Quick to call in the favor, Hershel acquires Rick in leashing up two stray walkers mired in a nearby brook. Knowing the inherent risks, Rick thinks of the Greater Good: help Hershel, and their eviction is delayed. But he won’t ignore his principles, fudging when Hershel asks if he’s able to stop killing. It’s a convincing scene of forced cooperation between characters with opposing motivations, and their return to the farm is highly anticipated.

Meanwhile, you can feel the sweat forming on the back of Shane’s neck when he is told about Lori, intended to stall his insistence on vacating the farm. Shane confronts her, at once dismissing fatherly urges while demeaning Rick for his inadequacies. Rick didn’t repeatedly save Lori’s life; Shane did. Rick isn’t for this savage world; Shane is. Though it’s obvious Shane carries a huge torch for Lori (but not at all obvious how anyone would), he’s unable to have a conversation with her (or anybody) that isn’t spoiled by anger and resentment. While annoying, it’s probably the most realistic relationship on the show.

Inciting Incident #2: Dale gets, like, so jaded.

Admittedly, the ending was going to happen even without Dale intervening, but it adds further tension. Dale really doesn’t do much when he’s not sitting on top of the RV. His “horny stepfather” emotions for Andrea are weird, and his sudden intuition of Shane’s murderous past is highly paranoid and unjustified, though correct. In any case, both come to a head. He alienates himself with Andrea and refuses to continue looking out for her. With fill-in-the-blank as inspiration, he secretly takes all the guns, meaning to hide them in the woods. Shane eventually tracks him, leading to a most impolite standoff. Dale doesn’t follow through on flimsy threats to shoot Shane if he takes all the guns, instead choosing to insult Shane’s behavior before letting him take all the guns. Fueled by manic rage, Shane returns to the farm, arming everyone with weapons, even Carl. Lori doesn’t have time to bitch much before everyone sees Rick and Hershel leading the two walkers.

The Incited Incident

Incredulous, Shane screams at them, finally just letting his bullets speak. He shoots a walker multiple times in the chest and stomach, demanding Hershel explain how something still living could still walk away, punctuating that question with a head shot. As Hershel drops to his knees in shock-turned-rage, Shane pries the barn’s doors open. The zombies slowly pour out, and each is picked off, shooting gallery-style, by Shane and eventually Andrea, Daryl, T-Dog and a reluctant Glenn. A tad heavy handed, it’s presented as more wicked and monstrous than violence shown toward actual attackers, as there are personal connections in these executions. Still, it’s a victory against a possible threat that everybody but Hershel accepts. And just as I’m wondering why this enormous amount of screaming and gunfire hasn’t attracted any more random walkers…

Out walks motherfucking Sophia, the Greek Goddess of B-Story Hoarding, now a zombo. This is a personal connection affecting everyone, especially viewers who put up with this unsweetened molasses of a storyline. (Slow and mostly pointless.) All at once, Carol starts sobbing, and her glimmer of relevance is finally stubbed out. Rick, whose wayside leadership Shane correctly described, is the only one who can step up and do the deed. Now, I’m pretty sure the Real Rick Grimes, should one exist, would have at least asked Carol to shield her eyes. Anyway, this wraps up both major plotlines, and everyone is left to ponder how the next few minutes of that incredibly awkward situation will go. I don’t foresee everyone laughing around a dinner table.

The final twenty minutes, imperfect as they still were, had me completely inside the show, and it was rewarding. Really, there was nothing different about it, either. We knew exactly what would happen, the dialogue was still on the nose, and none of it made any sense when removed from context, but the rapid pace kept perspectives at bay, and the drama was genuine. This is all I want from this show when it returns. And hopefully we explore Hershel’s possible awareness and subsequent cover-up of Sophia’s location, an interesting trail of thought to follow.

What I don’t want, though, is more mishandling of potentially interesting things. I liked the idea of Glenn and Maggie hooking up until Glenn lost his personality’s backbone. I understand Maggie’s reluctance for forgiving his blabbermouth, but their scenes tend to be identical and unnecessary, even if the yolk was on Glenn here. This was cleared up by the end of the episode, but the writers are bound to return to this in the future.

As well, I don’t know what to think about Carol and Daryl. There’s no point in referring to Carol (and Daryl) by herself anymore. He calls her a bitch when she admits to thinking Sophia is dead. He later apologizes, confessing without this hunt for Sophia, he’s got nothing else to do. It’s a nice, subtle moment for over-the-top Daryl, but is that also a confession from the writers? Do these two characters essentially amount to nothing as far as a long-term story is concerned? I hope not. I guess.

Before the randomness, let me say thanks for reading, guys. Have a Merry Z-mas, or Happy Holideads, or something. See you in 2012.

Brain Storming

Given how active and loud the zombies have gotten inside the barn, how is it that no one noticed them before? Did they attribute the noise to horses, ones that never need to be released into the open world and have to stay behind doors locked several times over? Does the barn have a game corner where the zombies play Four Square and Connect Four to bide their time until that raw chicken supper?

When did Sophia get to the barn? Was it before the gang got there, or was she brought in quietly when the gang wasn’t looking? Either way, how does it fit into Daryl’s previous venture when he found the house with the makeshift bed and half-eaten food?

"Hey, guys. So...the barn's full of walkers." My first thought would have been, “Well, nobody here is so elderly or so plagued with leg injuries that they need assistance getting around, much less such an excessive number…Ooh, he means zombies.”

Near the end, I wish Rick’s gun would have misfired, and the bullet would have lodged itself behind Carl’s forehead. Child actor Chandler Riggs does not have the face for badassery.

What up, T-Dog? How you been, bruh?

As curmudgeonly and misguided as he is, I really can’t find a whole hell of a lot to fault Hershel with. Some people keep the preserved corpse of their loved ones in glass coffee tables. Whereas everyone who has been out in the world has come to grips with trying to deal with the unimaginable horrors that lurk around every corner, this guy is being allowed ample time to grieve for his wife and step-son.

Despite everything, Maggie will kiss you if you say you don’t want to see her in danger.

Watch a preview of the next new episode ("Nebraska"), airing February 2012, here!

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