Oct 24 2011 1:00pm
The Walking Dead S2, E2: “Bloodletting”

We start with a flashback to the day Rick fell into a coma after getting gutshot with Lori having a chat fest with a probably long dead girlfriend. Ostensibly, this cold open is supposed to set up and parallel what has befallen Carl and Rick. Except I don’t see the point of it other than as a time killer. If that was the only time Rick’s coma was mentioned it would have been fine, but every five seconds the writers stood up on their soap boxes and shouted, “CARL GOT SHOT JUST LIKE RICK!!! I HAZ SUBTLETY!!!” Kinda dims the impact of the analogy, dudes.

Otis’s little accident introduces us to kindly Dr. Hershel Greene (that’s Dr. Veterinarian to you, bub) and his family. Because of the extent of Carl’s injuries, Shane and Otis must scrounge up medical supplies at a the local capital of cannibalistic corpses, their friendly neighborhood high school. As expected, the raid goes to pot because nothing these people do will ever go right until they pause to formulate a solid plan before blundering into potentially life-threatening situations. Of course, stopping to think would cut into their shouting and screaming time, and we can’t have that, now can we?

Between Bear McCreary’s music and the look of terror on Rick’s face, waiting to find out if Carl’s gonna make it is probably the most suspenseful thing to come out of this show in ages. It’s stories like this that remind me why I keep watching this show (well, that and it’s so much fun to bitch about the shitty parts). Surviving the end of the world is more than just shocks and walkers, but about the trials and tribulations of being human. Everyone expects to die from a zombie attack or some other random act of violence, but no one counts on getting an infection from an untreated wound or getting shot in a hunting accident. They’re so mundane compared to the constant überhorror of their Revelations-esque world. Yet here we are.

That’s not to say this episode was great. Honestly, it wasn’t even all that good. This was an episode where everyone had something to say about every subject under the sun. Even Daryl felt the need to give a soliloquy on his brother’s drug stash. And as tense and nerve-wracking as the whole “will he, won’t he?” sitch with Carl, if you take a moment to think about it you know that Carl will pull through. This show isn’t ready yet to deal with a dead kid, worse, a zombie kid. True, we’ve seen zombies that were once children, but we’ve never seen a kid actually turn. Amy is the only character to turn on screen and we all know how well that turned out. If Carl dies Rick will have to kill him, and as horrific as this show wants to be, it won’t play that card. Robert Kirkman wouldn’t hesitate — he’s written things way worse than that during his tenure on his comic — but AMC would. And if he is going to make it through just fine then what’s the point of spending at least two episodes on it? Other to introduce Grimes and co. to Hershel and co. in a dramatic fashion, of course.

Lori is a rather strange beast. Rick is the de facto lead, so the show will always orbit around his perspective. Shane exists to fill the show’s douchebag quota now that Merle’s gone. Everyone else is there because Rick needs people to play off of or the show risks turning into the zombie version of Cast Away. Lori, however, has an important role to play: the person who always has to shit on everyone else’s parade. If Shane professes his love for her she has to turn him down. If he dumps her she has to gripe about it. If Rick wants to be stupid she has to tell him off, and when he’s keeping a stiff upper lip to hold his family together she has to whinge about that, too. Lori never has anything positive to say or useful to add. She never acts but always waits around for someone else to do something so she can grumble about it loudly and publically and as often as humanly possible. Some of the Lori problem is due to how the show treats women (always as supporting characters always on the verge of tears who need protecting from the big, bad world), but most of it comes down to Lori being a terrible character. Sarah Wayne Callies is stuck between a rock and a hard place with this character, and unfortunately she isn’t quite talented enough to do anything inventive with the crock she’s been given.

Surprisingly, I didn’t entirely hate Shane this episode, but only by virtue of the fact that he wasn’t behaving like, well, Shane. If this is supposed to be a shade of his personality, fine, but they should’ve established that aeons ago. Instead it just feels like yet again the writers realized they needed a character to do something specific and chose whoever happened to be standing around twiddling their thumbs.

Sometimes the better parent is the one who isn’t the child’s parent. Rick reacts the way any parent would if they just watched their only child get shot and suffer through battlefield surgery, but Shane’s the one with the better plan (ill-conceived plan that it is) because he isn’t clouded by emotion. He has the luxury of thinking clearly and logically because as much as he might care for Carl, he has a hell of a lot less to lose than Rick. Hence his decision to take on the high school. On one hand it’s a bit selfish. He was planning on ditching the gang anyway and this way he gets to go out with a bang instead of a whimper. But on the other, less cynical hand he knows that when it comes to Carl (and, by extension, Lori) he’s expendable and Rick isn’t. Lori will only ever turn to Shane as a last resort and as a way to hang on to the past, but with Rick in the picture she’ll never choose Shane over her husband. If Shane dies, people will be sad but the world will continue to revolve. If Rick dies so does Carl and Lori won’t last much longer.

This is probably going to be one of those episodes where you either liked it or didn’t, and where you fall will depend entirely on your tolerance level for what I call shout-acting (the louder you are, the more emotion you impart; see: just about every actor on the CW) and endless conversations that don’t move the plot forward. You liked this show if you thought the conversations were riveting and that Rick, Lori, and Shane gave realistic and powerful performances. You didn’t like it if you spent the scenes where Daryl didn’t appear waiting for him to show up. Guess which side of the fence I land on.

Final Thoughts

  • Daryl has become my favorite character on the show. He is all kinds of awesome, the straight man of the horror genre. It’s like he’s completely unfazed by all the insanity that surrounds him.
  • T-Dog, they didn’t leave you on the interstate because you’re black. They left you because you’re a dumbass who dropped a key and who couldn’t even manage to save your life without frakking it up by slicing open your arm and leaving a blood trail for hungry walkers.
  • It’s Mose from Deadwood (aka Pruitt Taylor Vince)!
  • Scott Wilson is another one of those “Hey, it’s that dude” character actors who’s been in just about everything.
  • Seeing the blood on that car seat was heart-wrenching.
  • Well, there goes my theory that Sophia was chilling out at Hershel’s farm. If she stays AWOL the rest of the season I’m changing my vote to Woodbury. Unless that car seat was foreshadowing her fate...
  • Did you spot the Breaking Bad ref? Walter and Jesse must be pleased as drug-infused punch.
  • AMC sucks at previews. They are never much more than a random selection of emotional scenes squashed together.
  • The Talking Dead is pointless in theory, execution, and title.
  • Walker Theory: With the walkers at the high school, there seem to be two main “species” of zombies: the hunters, like the ones from the last episode that wandered the highway looking for meals, and the waiters, the ones pacing in circles who couldn’t manage to shuffle their way out of a paper bag. The waiters saw the flairs and went after the shiny lights, but the hunters would have looked to see where the flairs came from. Does the difference lie in how long it’s been since they turned or what kind of personality they had when they were alive? Maybe there are different strains of whatever causes the reanimation? I suspect the longer this show is on the more we’ll discover about the living dead.
  • Darylism #1: “Am I the only one who’s Zen around here? Good lord.”
  • “One down. Five to go.”
  • “If you had all that you could save him?” “If I had all that I could try.”
  • “There is no cure.”
  • Darylism #2: “Climb down outta my ass, old man.”
  • “It’s nature correcting herself, restoring some balance.”
  • Darylism #3: “Merle got the clap on occasion.” I almost made this the jump cut quote. It’s just so fantastic.
  • Remember to include spoiler warnings in your comments.

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.

Ashe Armstrong
1. AsheSaoirse
Well great. I had high hopes for this show. Season 1 was good and did a good job of getting people introduced to the concept and get things rolling, not great but good for an intro and now we're two episodes into season 2 and I'm bored and annoyed, sometimes at the same time. Daryl really is about the only interesting thing in the show right now. And you're spot on about what AMC is hesitant to do. I'm current with the comics and the things Kirkman's done, the really crazy stuff, will not show up on TV. And I really have to wonder about Andrew Lincoln's ability to play Rick farther down the line. It just seems like the writers have forgotten there's a source material to refer to.
2. sofrina
i don't know what the vision for the show is, but they are allowed to make it it's own story, diverging from the comic.

i agree with pretty much the entire review except, lori did say something positive last week when she told carole to stop blaming rick when he's working so hard to find her ditzy daughter. as for t-dog, well... merle was certainly in the wrong for forgetting that there are no enemies in a foxhole. but t-dog is the one thing that is worse than having an enemy in your foxhole: a doofus. what else is he going to drop/cut at a crucial moment? if i'm drowning, please don't let the guy who can't swim try to save me.

the raid on the school was incredibly stupid. the best distraction they could come up with was flares? why not turn on the sirens in one of the ambulances? or start a car and send it racing into the distance? start a bonfire in a field and circle back? who would agree to this mission with a guy who can barely run two steps as his partner?

after what happened in the woods, they really need to give that woman her gun back.
Ashe Armstrong
3. AsheSaoirse
For the record, I'm all for making the show its own thing but most of the characterization could use a good swift shot from the source.
4. brentodd
Don't people have to be bitten to become zombies? If Carl dies from a gunshot wound, won't he just be dead? That's why the first thing Doc asks is if he was bitten. Unless a zombie strolls into the farm house and starts gnawing on little Carl, I don't think we need to worry about him raising up as a walker any time soon.
Ashe Armstrong
5. AsheSaoirse
@4: In the comics, no but they haven't established whether that's the case in the show yet. Or at least, I don't remember. However, they did establish that a bite will straight turn you.
6. Improbable Joe
I'm still on Team Shane, although what either of them see in Lori is totally beyond me. Bony brittle PITA who exists to jerk people around and complain. Maybe Rick and Shane need to have a slash fiction moment or something, it couldn't make less sense. Shane might suck, but at least he's given some sort of inner conflict. Everyone else is one dimensional, at least Shane has two crappy dimensions. Think about it:

Rick- I'm going to do everything I can to hold things together.
Lori- I'm going to be a complete PITA to everyone.
Dale- I'm going to sit by the RV and be pretend-wise because I'm old.
Carol- I'm going to be weepy.
T-Dog- I'm going to suck at everything. EVERYTHING!
Daryl- I'm going to do every damned thing perfect, and when they surprise-kill Rick at the end of this season(SPOILERS!) I'm getting first billing and my own trailer!
Glenn- I'm going to eat their food, drink their water, stay quiet, and maybe no one will notice that I haven't done anything useful in like five episodes.
Carl- I'm going to get shot and plug Gerber knives.
Andrea- Screw it, I'm giving up on all that acting stuff, and I'm just going to wear this "who farted?" expression until they kill me off.

And then Shane- I'm going to bail on my best friend so I don't try to get in his wife's pants again... unless I need to stay and support my best friend in his time of need... but then I might lose my cool and shoot him in the woods because I like bony chicks with abusive personalities. What am I going to do?

Not that we care which one he chooses, but at least there's a question of what he's going to do next. No one else has that sort of conflict on the whole show.
Alex Brown
7. AlexBrown
@Ashe: I haven't reached The Killing level of bored and annoyed, but I'm getting there. This is probably going to always remain a middling show with a few very high and a few very low points just to spice things up. And that's fine. It's not terribly exciting, but it keeps it on the air and that's really all AMC's looking for. The 2 shows their channel is best known for (Breaking Bad and Mad Men) only air on AMC, they aren't produced by the network. And so far all the shows AMC has self-produced have been at best lackluster (Rubicon, The Killing, TWD, and probably Hell on Wheels).

@sofrina: I'm all for diverging from the comics. Hell, Daryl is my favorite thing about the show and he's a completely new creation. But since there is such good source material, if they are going off script there should be a reason for it (such as a better storyline) and right now it seems to be purely for production reasons. Take Shane for example. I won't tell you what's happened to him by this point in the comic, but it ain't what's happening on the show. But on the show, as soon as he and Rick got Carl to Hershel's farm, Shane should have gone off immediately to track down Lori. Instead he hovers around for an hour or so hemming and hawing and doing nothing useful but sucking up air. Why? Because the writers wanted him around so he could "happened" to be there when Otis brought up the high school. Could they have structured that better so there was a reason Shane couldn't go find Lori and only Maggie could? Sure. Did they? Nope.

@brentodd: Ashe's right, in the comic (and in Kirkman's prequel novel Rise of the Governor) when you die you turn, bitten or otherwise. So far the show has only established that you turn when you're bitten. I assume the show will continue with Kirkman's Turning Policy, hence my comment about Carl becoming a zombie. If they get rid of that then the death of a character becomes immensely less interesting to me.

@Improbable: I think you're giving Shane too much credit, but spot on with the rest of them. And I would gladly take a half hour series of the Daryl Zombie Killin' Hour over The Talking Dead any day.
8. Loft
There's something you don't understand. These poor people are up against zombies. ZOMBIES!!!!!!! How are they able to focus on acting when they're face to face with zombies? You can say what you want but this is the best documentary I have ever seen! ..........................Not a documentary? Fiction? No!...........It can't be!!!!!!!
9. Improbable Joe
To be fair, I'm not saying that Shane is a good character with complicated motivations... except in comparison to the rest of them. On a better show Shane would be the worst character, but here I feel like the actor shines because he has two facial expressions and his accent comes and goes less often than everyone else's. And while Shane hasn't actually done anything interesting and unexpected yet, he seems like the only one with the potential to maybe at some point do something like that.

What we need is a show where Rick, Lori, and Shane all shoot each other dead, like Reservoir Dogs. Then Daryl adopts Carl and makes a man out of him... a zombie-killing man. Also, someone slaps that look off of Andrea's face before I fly down to Georgia and do it myself.
Alex Brown
10. AlexBrown
@Loft: Henry, I thought you were joking about copy and pasting your FB comment here. Never again shall I doubt your veracity.

@Improbable: I love your new version of the show so hard.
William Fettes
11. Wolfmage
The show is far from perfect, but I think the criticism here is perhaps a bit harsh. It's true that they haven't replicated the greater subtlety and light and shade of the pilot, and there remains weak elements in terms of the dialogue, characterisation and plotting. And after Lori's promising defense of Rick last week, the writers disappointingly put her back into the same box with that flashback showing her conflicted attitude to Rick's reasonableness, and then the braying tone later in the episode.

But I think we should pause a little here and reflect on whether her character has really crossed the Skyler-syndrome Rubicon quite yet.
Skyler-syndrome is what I call the phenonemon of a female character who is written as a check on the protagonist, whether she mediates the plot or the relationship dynamic, she tends to add to the irritation of the audience accumulatively, even when she is being reasonable or good. It is enough that she is interfering with the protangonist or making discordant noises. If the writters repeat this portrayal too often, then the character earns infammy and a strong form of irrational fan rage will always surround her until she becomes an enabler for the protagonist.It's a somewhat troubling though predictable response.

As for the comics, honestly they aren't much deeper than the show, sorry. They are entertaining, darker and perhaps more fearless in the anyone can die gimmick. But the characters themselves are still archetypes or caricatures who spout pithy catchphrases. The writing isn't really that much better.
Kevin Connolly
12. Cross777
Looks to me like the show will stay with bitten, else why are the people in the cars on the highway not turned? (and yes I saw Kirkman's idiotic answer on Talking Dead, problem being they didn't all have head trauma.)

The Zombies are really starting to piss me off. They track by smell (except when the humans hide under cars) and sound (but not church bells). There are seamingly smart zombies mixed in with the brain dead (the guy getting in the RV and the guy going around the truck to chase the girl) and now they head for the flares? Oooh pretty lights. WTF.

And Shane and Otis are too stupid to live. Why didn't Shane drive the police car, hit the siren and lead the zombies away and let Otis get what they need?
13. Improbable Joe
I figured out what it is about the show that makes me keep watching even though it is crap: each bit is completely watchable on its own, but on Monday you realize that none of the bits hangs together with any of the other bits, or makes much sense in the context of the overall picture. It is like listening to a beautiful melody while someone is singing gibberish over it, except in reverse because the underlying "melody" of the show is garbage but each scene is competently put together and often pretty compelling.

Basic questions, like why isn't there a single set of coherent rules for the zombies, or why they don't have any sort of actual lookouts pretty much ever, or why they all had to go look for the little (hopefully zombiefied) girl if they were going to walk in a tiny little group and cover the same ground as one person walking alone? Has nobody loaded the water on the Winebago yet, and if so why the hell not?

See, if Daryl were in charge they'd scavenge all the supplies from the road, they would have hooked a truck up to the medical trailer and brought the whole thing to the farm, and then they would have destroyed or blocked every path to the farm except a hidden trail that only Daryl knows how to navigate safely. 10 years later when civilization gets back on its feet, Daryl and his crew will be safe, secure, and ready to rejoin society.

Rick, Lori, and Shane? Leading everyone they meet straight to the jaws of the walkers, every damn time.
Alex Brown
14. AlexBrown
@Wolfmage: I think you misunderstand me in re: Lori. I don't suffer from "irrational fan rage," but rational fan rage. I don't care if Lori enables or creates verbal obstacles for Rick. My problem is that she constantly says exactly the opposite of what everyone else says. If Andrea had said she didn't want her gun back, Lori would have been all up in her face about how she has to have it and how could she be so stupid as to refuse to bear arms. And that behavior makes her less than a character and into a plot device. Which is the same problem I have with Shane. Both characters are defined solely by their reactions to and behavior toward other people. They have no unique personality traits. Whatever the writers need doing they plot Shane or Lori in there and off we go. Hence their wildly shifting attitudes.

@Cross and Improbable: I'm less harsh on Otis because he hasn't been wandering the mean streets of Atlanta but instead has stayed isolated on the farm all these months. He hasn't had to learn how to outwit zombies. Shane, however, has no excuse other than if he planned things out right ahead of time the writers wouldn't have been able to end on that cool shot of the key jiggling out of the lock.

As for the turning stuff, until I see otherwise, my only options are to go with the mythology laid out by the comics. But that doesn't give me an advantage or anything, it's just a different mindset. Besides, like I said, if the dead just stay dead then that sucks a hell of a lot of dramatic tension out the door. I have a feeling they'll play that up in later episodes. But it's just too good of a plot device to get rid of. I think there is a coherent set of zombie rules, but the showrunners haven't gotten around to clueing us in yet.
Ashe Armstrong
15. AsheSaoirse
@13: Sir, your previous response was gold (Daryl's own show, yes plz) but this, if I could, I would give you a slow clap. Daryl has really screwed up the dynamic Rick is supposed to have, it's ridiculous. I would want Daryl in charge before Rick every single time.
16. Jexral
Daryl. I've really been liking him lately - he's always been a bit of a badass, but they've recently removed every one of his character flaws, which makes him basically God. And that bugs the hell out of me. Lori comes of to me as believable - I mean... maybe I'm the only one, but I've known some pretty irritatingly contrary people - and even Rick I find to be likable (if a bit annoying), but Daryl has broken the show at this point.

The thing about him was that he was badass, but he didn't like anyone, and no one liked him. He knows what he's doing, but he would be a terrible leader. Turning him into the badass that everyone likes and apparently likes everyone else puts him in direct competition with Rick which doesn't make sense, unless they're playing the splinter factions for the long term. Which they could be, absolutely. But the other thing is that it isn't really believable. I mean - look at him when he's introduced, and then look at him now. There hasn't been all that much time, really, and, if his brother is any indication, his racism was hardly a new development. It seems unrealistic that it would have magically disappeared.

There's the other thing. I think that both this episode and the previous episode will look better after the season has concluded and we see some of where they're going. Perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part. I was really irritated by the first episode when I thought they were going to spend an episode traipsing through the woods and find the little girl. That they didn't suggests to me that they are still focused on the long term plot, and will pull most of these loose threads together into something at least close to cohesive.

That doesn't mean that it will be good, though. I think the main thing the writers have to do is kill Sophia. Or they could kill Carl. He would be better, actually. Either way, it would show pretty firmly that anyone (except good 'ol Rick Grimes) could die, and that the writers would go through with it, which would make the show a lot more interesting.
Ashe Armstrong
17. AsheSaoirse
And that is why I'd rather watch the Daryl show at this point. He is so badass that Rick serves no purpose.

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