The Walking Dead, S3 E2: “Sick”

Oh, The Walking Dead, you continue to surprise me and then crush me with disappointment. Well, okay, so I’m being a little harsh. “Sick” wasn’t as awful as it could have been—as it would have been if it this were season 2—but it was a bit on the meh side. The action/horror scenes were as entertaining and gross as always, but I still don’t care about the fate of Rick and Lori’s shame of a marriage. At least the brooding was kept to a minimum, and it was a nice albeit depressing touch to have Maggie beg her father to just die already instead of praying he pulls through.

This ep takes place over the course of an hour or two, and only a few things go down, but each event is crucial and spirals off far-reaching and devastating consequences. Rick draws a line down the middle of the prison. He’ll help the surviving cons clear out a cell block on the other side of the building in exchange for half of their stockpile of foodstuffs. The men agree, but after killing one of their own, two of the felons turn on our protags. Rick makes sure they live just long enough to regret underestimating him. The other two forge an uneasy truce and Rick lets them alone…for now. Back in Cell Block C Hershel dies then comes back to life with Lori’s help. Carol, meanwhile, does the first proactive thing she’s done the entire show and sets about practicing C-sections on a walker.

With the title, I was sure this ep would be split between Hershel maybe turning zombie and Andrea’s epic case of the sniffles. Instead we saw neither hide nor hair of Andrea or THE COOLEST PERSON EVER, and Dr. Vet spent his allotted screen time dying. No, the person suffering from the sickies is Rick. He’s infected, not just with the undead bug but with a potentially fatal case Shane-itis. Every miserable day, every hard decision, every kill brings him closer to the edge. There may have been a dozen living people on screen, but this episode really belonged to him. It’s all about Rick, even Hershel’s almost death and Maggie and Beth’s despair and Carol’s attempts as obstetrics and the prisoners’ failed coup. The others say their lines and give us a deeper understanding of who they are as people, but at the end of the day it all serves to define Rick and the craptacular situation he’s found himself in.

Before last season’s finale, if Rick and co. had found that prison, they would’ve spent a handful of episodes wringing their hands over what to do about the other prisoners. All that waffling seems to have been abandoned with the farm because now not only does Rick not wait around for them to attack but he also doesn’t even bother discussing it. He tells Daryl to cover him and Daryl agrees straight off. He doesn’t even blink between realizing he has to kill Tomas and planting a machete in the dude’s brain. And though he turns a bit green under the gills, he doesn’t hesitate to let Andrew die a horrible death.

Rick’s growing colder and harder by the second. Gone are the days when he tried to balance being a good man with being a good warrior. On the face of it, this is what needed to happen. He needed to settle into his role of protector, and that means being willing to kill without guilt. But it also means shedding everything that made him who he was pre-apocalypse. For now, that makes for some great dramatic moments, but it’s where he’s headed story-wise that has me concerned. In the season 2 finale, I caught wind of such a possibility, and it worried me even then:

Speaking of the devil, good job, Rick. He had everyone on his team and then turned around and morphed into Shane. I get his transformation. His best friend tried to kill him. He murdered his best friend in cold blood. His son shot his best friend. Their paradise went up in flames and blood. People died. Everything’s gone to shit. It stands to reason that he’d grow colder. It’s an interesting turn, although given what is coming in season 3 (WINTER IS COMING) I’m not sure how long they can sustain it as anything other than a redemption arc. In which case: lame.

Given what’s about to go down—hint: it probably has something to do with who was spying on Carol through the trees—I can’t see any other thematic reason for this. Rick has to hit rock bottom before he can clean up his act, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next character introduced is the one who pushes him down the hole.

Final Thoughts

  • “Bet you got more food than you got choices.”
  • “It was stupid of us to let him go.” Understatement of the year.
  • “Look, I know that I’m a shitty wife, and I’m not winning any Mother of the Year awards…” Lori finally acknowledges what we’ve all been saying for two years.
  • “Word of advice: take those bodies outside and burn ‘em.”
  • So it really has only been, like, a year? Hershel’s farm really was a time suck. It felt like they were there for years. Person who called it in the comments last week, I salute you for your astuteness.
  • Lori’s now apparently okay with Rick killing people. Yay?

Alex Brown is an archivist, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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