The Walking Dead made its grand return for the second half of its second season on AMC tonight, and with it came an appearance by the underrated but adored (by Terriers fans like myself, anyway), Michael Raymond-James. True Blood fans might recognize him the baddy Renee from Season 1. As laid back as he was in Terriers, he really can play up the creepy, can’t he?

We’re getting way ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the start. “Nebraska” kicked off a breath after Episode 7 ended. Sophia’s especially-lifeless body lay on the ground as the living began the reaction process to Barn Walker Massacre ’11.

At first, the groups were relatively divided, with Hershel’s people angry, and Rick’s people in shock and devastated over the loss of Sophia. Hershel’s daughter Beth was especially broken up after digging through the pile of zombies to find the body of her mother, who was still not completely dead. Andrea rectified that situation using some sort of barn tool to stab the woman’s brain.

The decision for how to handle the bodies was to gather up the dead walkers and separate them into two groups: People we care about and everyone else. The cared about people were buried and the rest were burned. I’d say it’s kind of cold to separate people that way but in the end, there was no real ceremony for the buried people. So aside from the added effort it took to put them in the ground, their funerals were more or less the same as the “everyone else” pyre that took place at some off-property location.

Carol
Carol couldn’t even bring herself to attend Sophia’s burial. The way she spoke about the realization that Sophia wasn’t doing any of the things she had envisioned, shows how deep this disappointment goes for her. Sure, picturing her daughter hiding out somewhere, wandering through the woods, hungry and crying herself to sleep at night, wasn’t likely to be the best mental image, but it was a mental image that saw her daughter alive, when all along, Sophia was dead. That’s Carol’s reality right now. Her devastation led her to wander into the woods. She came out later and Shane helped wash her up. He also semi-apologized for what happened at the barn, admitting that he had no idea Sophia was in there.

Shane’s apology shows that he does see the impact that was made by his big explosion at the barn. While I doubt he regrets it all that much, he was compassionate enough to see how it affected Carol. She shouldn’t have had to find out like that.

Shane
Speaking of Shane, Dale is determined to make sure people understand what Shane is all about. While he and Shane had words tonight, it was Dale’s conversation with Lori that was most interesting. He laid it out for her, telling her he has strong suspicions that Shane threw Otis to the walkers to save his own life, which he basically did. I think Lori’s going to take what Dale said into strong consideration and the question will be, whether she’s willing to believe Shane would do something like that or not. Given her relationship with Shane, which has had it’s ups and downs, it could go either way.

Lori
But Lori may not be talking to anyone anytime soon. I think it's worth noting this is the second time this season someone yelled at Lori for sending them on a mission. Previously, Maggie told Lori off after her and Glenn’s trip the the pharmacy to get the “abortion pills.” Tonight Daryl yelled at Lori for asking him to go after Hershel, Rick and Glenn. Given what Daryl went through trying to track Sophia down, his grief and temper are understandable.

I was wondering why Lori doesn’t go after the men herself, to begin with. And then I considered that sending Daryl might be safer because he’s better with the crossbow and braver and all that. It didn’t occur to me that Darryl might also be a better driver, or one who doesn’t read a map while driving and not look up enough on a virtually deserted road to see a walker hobbling along. I don’t mean to be especially harsh on Lori (ok, maybe I do a little bit), but that accident seemed so unnecessary, all things considered. Yes, Beth’s in shock, but her situation wasn’t so immediate, nor did it instill such panic in Lori that she couldn’t have taken a minute to map out her route before hitting the road, or pull over if she needed to figure out where she was going. In a world where dead people are eating the living, some basic safety precautions could be taken while driving on a nearly deserted road in broad daylight... like watching the road.

Lori flipped her car, which could put her life (and the life of her unborn child) in mortal peril. As annoyed as I was by the accident, I do hope she’s ok. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of condition she’s in and hope she can get to safety, or that someone finds her before the walkers do.

Hershel and Rick
Lori was taking the trip to town because Hershel went there to get un-sober in the aftermath of the barn situation. As it turns out, Shane’s big show got through to Hershel. Seeing Shane put bullets into the chest of one of the people he once knew and watching the man keep walking was an eye-opener for Hershel. Unfortunately, it all but destroyed his hope and made him feel like a fool.

You can’t fault Hershel for wanting to hope for a chance at life after walkeritis. I keep wondering how the survivors keep their sanity after everything they’ve been through. How do they look at Sophia’s lifeless body and believe that there’s some chance for life beyond this mess. Or are they all just trying to live to make it through another day?

Rick’s argument to Hershel’s hopelessness made sense. Death has always existed. Sure, the walkers make it a bit more extreme and the world is far less predictable, but in the end, everyone still dies sooner or later. That hasn’t changed. It’s not exactly a hopeful message, but it does sort of point to the idea of adjusting. Hershel wasn’t really accepting the new reality before the barn incident. Feeding walkers and believing beyond all logic that there could be a cure for them wasn’t moving forward. They might not be able to hope that the world will return to the way it was before the walkers came, but they can still hold out hope for some kind of future and life for themselves and their children.

The episode was capped off by the arrival of two men, who showed up at the bar where Hershel, Rick and Glenn were, Tony and Dave (one of whom was the previously referenced Michael Raymond-James). At first, they were friendly, and for a second I thought maybe the situation was ok. And then they started asking questions about where they were staying. While Rick and Hershel were polite, they didn’t want to say where the farm was. They’re sort of at capacity and they really don’t need to be inviting strangers - especially ones who make mention of how long they’ve gone without the company of a woman, and getting their hands dirty for the sake of survival - back to the farm.

In a way, the men’s interest in the farm might not be all that different than Rick and his group’s arrival there. For all Hershel knew, Rick and his people could have been dangerous. They could have robbed them for all they were worth, and left them for dead (or just dead). Hershel’s eyes are opened wider now, but even if he wasn’t an adjusted version of himself, I don’t think he would have felt comfortable bringing those two guys to his house where his daughter’s were. Rick was also on his guard, and he proved what a quick draw he was when Tony went for his gun. Rick was faster, and after firing a bullet into Tony, he turned fast and fired a few rounds into Dave.

Has Rick killed any living people on this series yet? Or have all the bullets he’s fired been aimed at walkers? I can’t remember. Either way, this felt like a big moment, and not just because it happened sort of cowboy style, saloon and all. Maybe it was the fact that he didn’t hesitate that was the most telling. He was ready to kill them and he did what he had to do. A second later and it might have been him dead on the floor of Hatlin’s bar.

Glenn
One of the things I love most about this show is how it finds time for a little bit of normal. Not all the drama is directly tied to zombies. Well, technically all of it is because there is no point at which walkers are not affecting the characters’ day to day life. But Glenn’s issues with Maggie felt especially grounded. Maggie wanted to talk about their relationship not long after the barn incident. Glenn didn’t think it was the right time. Maggie told Glenn she loved him. He didn’t say it back. Glenn’s never told a woman he loves her, so it’s kind of a big deal for him. And with everything they’ve been through, and the fact that their romantic relationship began with pharmacy-sex, a bit more thought on the matter is fair.

While Rick was a champ tonight, and Lori’s fate hangs in the balance, Glenn wins the episode for being a relatively balanced character, who offers as much to the series as he does to his group. He’s not so caught up in his own drama that he’s virtually useless to his group. And he’s not so caught up in survival that there’s no character to him. While he’s willing to open up about his girl troubles to Rick, he does it in the truck on the way to track down Hershel. Rock on, Glenn.

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