The Walking Dead S2, E4: “Cherokee Rose”

Now we’re back in the game. “Cherokee Rose” was the first really good episode this whole season. It was short on stock horror shocks and run for your life action, but long on much needed character development. It’s hard to get too terribly upset at the death of a character we don’t know anything about, no matter how sudden, gruesome, or cruel his death is (poor, poor Otis), and this episode did a great deal to fill in the gaps. Almost everyone got fleshed out, their recent actions and behaviors explained and justified, and we were even treated with some intriguing new pair-ups — romantic, platonic, and otherwise.

Not much in terms of overall plotage happened this week. Like “Save” last week, “Rose” took place over a few hours (we seem to be averaging a day an episode), this time the morning and afternoon after the raid at the high school where Shane murdered Otis in cold blood. The gang gathers round for a ramshackle funeral in the cold open and Shane’s guilt is so thick I’m surprised no one choked on it. Dude might as well have had a neon sign flashing “I AM A MURDERER” over his head. Sad sack Shane is still stuck wearing Otis’ old, oversized clothes (whee, alliteration!). It’s actually kind of fitting: he looks as small and lost as he feels when he starts his eulogy. But by the end of it, wearing the clothes of the man he sent to hell loses it’s pathetic edge and takes on a veneer of sinister cruelty. Watching the funeral service he almost convinces himself he feels guilty, but as he runs through his big white lie his attitude changes. He stops moping and turns his angst into cold acceptance. Much like Daryl (who didn’t so much grow as get a complete rewrite), this still feels a bit out of character from the person Shane started out to be in the beginning of the first season, but I think I like this change. I see now that the reason I hated him so much was because there was nothing to him. Like Lori, he was a cipher acting out whatever the writers needed him to. He’s got some meat on his bones now, and while he’s not someone I’d want to spend any time with he’s at least becoming a real boy.

Shane believes completely in what he did and realizes he’d do it again in a heartbeat. Even more tellingly, he realizes that he’s perfectly fine with his crime and his willingness to kill. Even Andrea is a little taken aback by how quickly he banished his guilt, but unlike the others she sees in him a kindred spirits of sorts. She carried around the death of her sister like a ball and chain, but after the events at the CDC she refashioned her punishment into nourishment. It keeps her moving, gives her purpose, and fuels her building rage. Interesting move on the showrunners’ part, pushing Andrea and Shane together. We could end up with the Grimes’ versus Shandrea, with the extraneous characters stuck in the middle. Could cost more than Andrea’s willing to pay when it all comes down in the end.

Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods, but Glenn and Maggie are cheek-pinchingly adorable. The apocalypse certainly cuts out all the fluff of dating. When the world’s coming to an end, you don’t wait around for “Will he call me? When can I see him again?” So glad Glenn (and Maggie by extension) is getting a lot more screen time. He’s such a great character who has been woefully underused since rescuing Rick in the first season. Speaking of awesome characters, just when I thought Daryl couldn’t get any better, he went and brought Carol a Cherokee rose and had that heart to heart with her. What a truly fantastic man. Hey Kirkman, Rick and Shane can piss off with their grandiose posturing. I’ll take the Daryl and Glenn spinoff. On a darker note, something very strange is going on with Daryl. I watched his scenes a good five times trying to parse out the subtext to his actions and still can’t decide if he feels guilty (either about his behavior pre-apocalypse or while supporting Merle post-apocalypse), if he’s romantically interested in Carol (seems a stretch, but stranger things have happened), if he’s just a genuinely nice guy, or some combination therein. There has to be some game he’s playing, just can’t figure out what it is.

There’s a deep river running in Hershel, and I very much doubt he doesn’t suspect Shane of something or other. Probably has a lot to do with why he’s so keen to kick Rick and company to the curb. Rick’s wrong: Hershel’s not just blinded by the idyllic landscape of their cozy little isolation or his unfettered faith in the Almighty. He’s well aware what his guests have gone through to get to his doorstep, and that worries him more than he lets on. You don’t wade through a swamp without getting dirty, and he is loath to let them soil what peace he has left. It took him decades to cleanse his farm of his father’s vileness and now that’s being threatened. Not 12 hours after the caravaners forced their way into his home did they get one of his companions killed, and now they’re begging to stay? I can’t hate on Hershel for being more than a little reluctant to take them in.

And then there’s the well scene. The whole thing is pretty pointless in the grand scheme of things. I mean, if it’s a secondary well that only waters the animals, and animals are immune to the zombie contagion (whatever that may be), then why all the fuss? Yet I wasn’t as bothered with this waste of time as I have been in other episodes. This scene was written much better, for one thing, and acted really well, for another. It also seemed a necessary step for the secondary characters. It’s the first time the second string have put their minds together on a zombie problem. Though their idea wasn’t, well, good, I give them an A for effort. They took control of a situation and went for it. Yes, they could have just left the zombie in the water and sealed off the well, but that would have been passive. After the last few days, the survivors need to take a stand. They can’t find Sophia, are helpless to Carl, and are bored out of their minds. They failed in the act but it gave them a well-needed morale boost.It’s also important to note that: a) the plan fails with Shane at its head, just like every other time Shane leads the group; b) weepy, do-nothing Carol is the only one of the secondary characters (save Daryl) who doesn’t participate, thus reinforcing her already resource-draining existence; and c) Maggie is the only Hershel groupie joining forces with the Grimes gang. Also, ew.

On “not very interesting except in terms of its repercussions in the long term” plot development news, Lori’s preggo. Given the timings of her romps with both Rick and Shane this definitely complicates things. Even if the child was really Rick’s — and that’s assuming she even goes through with the pregnancy, though, let’s be honest here, there’s no way AMC greenlights an abortion — Shane will always believe it’s his. Lori will choose her husband as the father regardless of reality, and without DNA testing she can pretty much do whatever she wants. With Shane now being more open in his rebellion against Rick’s authority (acting more like a petulant teenager than an alpha male in a pissing contest), he’ll never keep quiet about their affair. The back half of the season is setting itself up very nicely indeed for a spectacular showdown between Rick and Shane. While it’s easy to guess at the inevitable outcome, it should still make for an exciting journey.

The Walking Dead isn’t structured like your average television show. Construction-wise, its closest relatives are Mad Men, Deadwood, The Wire, and Treme, shows that aren’t so much telling a specific story as letting the audience take a peek into the lives of a particular set of people trapped in a particular time and slowly coming undone by a particular set of circumstances. That’s not to say TWD comes anywhere near the high quality mark left by even the worst episodes of its cousins, but it’s clearly the format the showrunners are desperately trying to ape. Sometimes I think they might actually pull that off. When they grant us charming scenes like those between Daryl and Carol and Glenn and Maggie — heck even between Dale and T-Dog and Shane and Andrea — I’m reminded why I keep watching this show: because TWD is a show about the horror of surviving, about what happens after the apocalypse when you’re left behind to pick up the pieces.

This wasn’t a perfect episode by any means, but it kept my attention and even delivered a few laughs and gasps along the way. Not every episode can function like “Rose,” nor should they, but this was a nice, leisurely break in an otherwise lackluster season. As we near the home stretch for the first half of season two, we still have a lot of ground to cover and cliffhangers to set up. Here’s hoping the lovely cake doesn’t turn out to be a damn, dirty lie.

Final Thoughts

  • “You were the last one with him, you shared his final moments. Please…I need to hear. I need to know his death had meaning.”
  • “He died as he lived. In grace.” I call shenanigoats.
  • “I don’t recall being asked to lay down your weapon.” You’re not my dad! I don’t have to listen to you! *slams door*
  • “You got a point, or are we just chattin’?” “My point, it lets you off the hook. Don’t owe us anything.” “Other plans fell through.”
  • “Don’t worry about it, bud. We’ll get you out in one piece.” “Living piece. The living part’s important.”
  • “Turn off a switch. The switch. The one that makes you scared or angry, sympathetic, whatever. You don’t think, you just, you act. ’Cause odds are somebody else is counting on you. It’s your partner, it’s your friend. And there ain’t nothing easy about taking a man’s life no matter how little value it may have. But when you get it done, you have to forget it. Hm. I guess I haven’t quite gotten that last part down yet.”
  • “Condoms. You got a girlfriend I don’t know about?”
  • “Doing ok?” “Yep, doing great. Living the dream.”
  • “I’ll go saddle your horse.” “Horse?”
  • “For the first time in my life, I’m betting on the snowball.”
  • “Looks like we got ourselves a swimmer.”
  • “Tells me God’s got a strange sense of humor.”
  • My goodness, but that caravan is frakking loud. But I bet even if Daryl was off playing lone ranger zombie killer he’d still ride that loud-ass hog.
  • Only been 24 hours since he murdered an innocent man and Shane’s already balking at Rick’s orders. Andrea’s going to be an instigator this season. Quite the little shitstarter, isn’t she.
  • I don’t understand, if there’s a pharmacy just a mile down the road why the frak did they trek all the way into a zombie-infested high school? Did I miss some explication somewhere?
  • Glenn is almost as awesome as Daryl. Almost. Cutting it very close. He tries so very hard to look all tough and manly in front of Maggie.
  • That well zombie was some serious Sloth from The Goonies shit.
  • You sure they look to you for answers, Rick? Seems like you just turned up and starting handing out commands like candy on Halloween.
  • As much as I like the opening credits (especially the way the score bleeds into the cold open), the fan-made one is far superior.
  • Sorry about the delays for the last two reviews, been out of town for a while (read: stalking Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer). But the rest of the season should be back to the regular Monday schedule.

Alex Brown is an archivist by passion, reference librarian by profession, writer by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare.


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