Nov 8 2011 5:00pm

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.

David Thomson
1. ZetaStriker
I'll elaborate more later, when I'm not busy at work, but I felt the exact opposite - this episode was a few good moments with Shane and Daryl surrounded by the worst aspects of the show to date. Then again, every time you complain loudly it usually is about my favorite episodes, outside the amazing pilot we both agreed on. And the subpar second episode, of course.

As for the pharmacy, I assumed the breathing device they needed was special-use, and not something a pharmacy would have. The drugs too, since they're for use in surgery; that would necessitate going to the equivalent of a hospital to get it. Don't quote me on that though, I'm no medical professional.
Improbable Joe
2. Improbable Joe
That's right! Get on the Shane Train!!! I think you almost completely misread the character, though. He seems to be seriously torn, and hasn't really come to grips with everything. If he were cool with it, he wouldn't be wearing that sickly grin all the time.

And Daryl? Can't you just feel the writers getting ready to make him act in a way that is the polar opposite of how he has been written so far? I'm betting that they're going to ruin the best and brightest part of the show, and have Daryl betray them for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

I barely care about the rest of the episode, although it moved better than most... although Glenn and Maggie is cute.
Improbable Joe
3. Cain S. Latrani
They went to the high school for certain pieces of medical equipment a pharmacy doesn't carry. I don't recall the names of those pieces off the top of my head, but it was hospital grade equipment. The truck they took it off of was setting up a triage center at the high school when it got over run, and was far closer than any hospital, making it quicker to get to and from.

At least, that's what they said.
Improbable Joe
4. sofrina
they did not bring the water truck from the highway. then they went back, and did not bring the water truck again. but they put an awful lot of work into trying to fish a bloated zombie out of well #2 when they are four more wells on the property. what would make that water drinkable after hauling that infected corpse out of it? not if it were the last water on earth, bleached, boiled and strained through a holy man's robe.

but there's a truck full of water just sittin' up on the highway...
Improbable Joe
5. Cain S. Latrani

I was wondering about that, too. Best I can figure is they didn't want to leave old man Herschel to deal with it and were trying to be helpful. They failed, miserably, but they tried.

Still, why didn't they bring the frakking water truck??
Jack Flynn
6. JackofMidworld
For me, the absolute best part of the episode was listening to the chorus of groans and half-gags around the living room when they got the zombie out of the well (all of a sudden, I've got "the zombie's in the well, the zombie's in the well, heigh-ho, the merry-oh, the zombie's in the well" jingling through my head)

I'll have to check out the fan-trailer when I can access it from home; thanx for the link.

As far as the water truck goes, if it was me out there knowing that we'd probably end up back on the road again, there's no way in hell I'd be volunteering that water truck to anybody else, especially not somebody with five...er, I mean four wells!
David Hawkins
7. dhawkin4
The water truck most likely sucks down diesel which would be a pain to find out on the road. It wouldn't be practical to bring the truck and after showing it the audience is to assume that they took all the water they could carry from it.
Improbable Joe
8. sofrina
i'm not assuming that. the story has not told me that. it told us an awful a lot about what these people did and none of those things was offloading water bottles. they don't have to give the water to herschel. he doesn't need it. but leaving it there for someone else to find is dumb. they could park it along herschel's dusty road. maybe diesel fuel might be a little hard to come by, but it would be the worth effort to try.

my point about the well is that was already a lost cause. they should have just patched the cover and given up on that one. who cares if there's a zombie down there? it can't get out and will eventually fall apart anyway.

i'm surprised alex liked this episode so much. we were much in accord on the past few episodes. this was another wheel spinner for me.
Alex Brown
9. AlexBrown
@Improbable: Not yet on the Shane Train, but I don't actively loathe him anymore. And yeah, something awful is going to happen to Daryl. I just hope he's not attacked by zombie Sophia.

@Cain: Thanks for the recap. Makes sense.

@sofrina: That was also bothering me. I get why they wanted to de-zombie the well, but there's no way in frak that water's potable. They could use it for other things, but certainly not drinking.

@Jack: I watched this episode in SFO and when I jumped and gasped the entire gate turned and looked at me. So gross.

@dhawkin: They didn't have to bring the whole truck down to the farm (though that would've been easier). At least they could have piled it into the RV or something. I don't think they brought it with them, because they didn't show the bottles anywhere. They're too big for the car, and weren't in the RV (the motorcycle's obvious), so that means they either drank it all in 12 hours or just left it on the highway.

@Zeta and others: I guess I liked this episode (though that really only means that I liked it more than the rest of the season) is because if you're going to do a show all about how a group of people get by then you have to make the audience care about the characters. Up until tonight, the only people I gave a shit about were Daryl and Glenn (from the comics, I knew he'd meet Maggie). The rest were either ciphers (Lori) or took up valuable air time (T-Dog). I favor shows that are heavy on character development, so this ep played well for me. It certainly had it's problems (the well scene could have been done better, i.e.: smarter), and Rick and Lori continue to try my patience, but overall it got high(er) marks. If the rest of the season has been a B-, this episode was a B+.
Bill Capossere
10. Billcap
I'm really curious how many writers work on this show and if they ever talk to one another or share scripts; it's got such a split personality.

The well scene, as many have pointed out, just made no sense. Did anyone seriously buy that anybody, anybody, was going to drink out of that well if they'd gotten the swimmer out? The thing has open sores all over it, its skin is sloughing off, spittle is running down, and they're worried about if it "bleeds" down there if they shoot it? Seriously? Which is too bad because the utter senselessness/pointlessness of the scene ruined the best line of the show: "living the dream." If you want a reason to get the thing out, hmm, let's see. You've got an well with a broken top and a panicked girl gone missing from the area. Hmmm, what could make them look down there . . . must be something . . . something . .

I can buy the special equipment needs for why they had to go to the mobile hospital. What I can't buy is the idea that they
a) haven't cleaned out the pharmacy already and
b) go with a small shopping list and take only what they need that week. We've got hordes of zombies in the area and they set things up so they have to keep going back and forth?

and again, the pointlessness/implausibility of the premise ruins the best scene of the show--the Maggie/Glen scene.

I like the conflict over guns. I have a hard time reconciling a firing range (not to mention the hog) with the concern a day or two ago about keeping quiet so as not to attract zombies.

I liked Shane's guilt/putting down his guilt, and his having to wear Otis' clothes; I could have done without the Sling Blade/Lenny look though. I kept waiting for him to ask Herschel if he could tend the rabbits

Daryl. So consistently so good. Part of me wishes the zombies would eat half these characters so we get more of the good ones, but then I worry if given the burden of being "main" characters they'd too be prone to pronouncement rather than dialogue and self-important symbolic gestures rather than simple actions.

speaking of symbolic gestures, Lori pissing in a field spoke to me as a metaphor, though I'm not sure it was the one intended.

It's always a war in this show between the good and bad moments. This one the good won out, but I wish it weren't always such a pitched battle.
David Thomson
11. ZetaStriker
I was going to come back today now that it's quieter here at work, but it looks like Bill beat me to most of my points. It's not that I disagree with character development; it's that I felt this episode had some of the worst writing of the season and it hampered my ability to enjoy said development.

Now, Shane was easily the highlight of this episode for me; he has consistently been a highlight of the past several episodes, which is a huge change from both last season and the comic. I agree with others that say that Shane isn't remorseless over the issue, but I do think he can and will act out again. He can't help himself, really, and that's what makes the character so interest now that we have more understanding of it. He wants to do the right thing. He may even try to do the right thing. But he's not very smart, and he's not a very good leader, so the good thing will fail for him. And when it does he wont hesitate to snap and take drastic action.

The rest of the episode failed to varying degrees in my eyes. I'm bored by Rick's scenes now - he had some dimension before, when he first reconnected to his family, but he feels as much a cipher as Lori now. Maybe it's his lack of screen time, or his lack of agency while he's weak, but I'm getting tired of him lying around moping. If they have to mention "you just gave blood!" one more time, I'll probably scream. Herschel is adding some interesting dimension to these segments, but I don’t quite buy the enlightened doctor act. I’m not sure if it’s the actor or what, but something seems off about our farm-vet’s performance and dialogue to me. I suspect I’ll get over it when he gets more screentime, but for now I’m on the fence about his scenes with Rick.

The well scene takes my award for worst inclusion of the century though. My biggest problem with the majority of the writing this episode was how stupid it all was. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They went out of their way to make the characters look like a rock was the valedictorian of their class in the absence of any decent candidates. First they find a zombie in a well, and never question how and where it got past Herschel’s fence. Then they decide they have to pull it out to save the water . . . which has had a salivating zombie with open sores and wounds wading in it for God knows how long. “We can’t let it infect that infected water any more than it has already infected it with its infection” would about sum up the situation. They decide to lift it out, but they need bait? Or something? And live bait at that. And so, being on a farm, they decide not to use any livestock and drop the Asian down the hole. How anyone agreed to this, much less everyone, I don’t know.

And Daryl goes uselessly looking for Sophia for the umpteenth time – I don’t think anyone watching thinks she’s alive at this point, and I know we’re getting tired of seeing these useless scenes. Why did Dale walk to the edge of the road last episode? Why did we have to watch Daryl tramp through an abandoned house in the woods for several minutes? There’s no drama behind the search any longer, and it feels like we’re just padding for time with those moments now. I did like the Cherokee flower bit when Daryl came back, mind you. I agree with others that have said something seems off there though – Daryl suddenly seems too nice, and he’s either doing it with a hidden agenda as a character or because the writers decide to change his personality without real development. With the kind of writing we’ve had so far, I wouldn’t put the latter past him.

And like Bill, I also had a huge problem with the Maggie/Glenn scene that ruined how “cute” the two were supposed to be. I drew issue with a different glaring problem with the who debacle, however – rather than the absurdity of their shopping lists, I was struck by the stupidity of their infiltration plan. We know zombies eat horses. Glenn knows zombies eat horses, because he saw a herd eat Rick’s. Yet they tie them up outside the pharmacy and proceed to hang out, have sex, and ignore them. Meanwhile the moving meat on those horses would draw every zombie anywhere in the town by standing these like a pair of delicious horseburgers. Again, it felt like poor writing.

Anyway, those were my thoughts on the episode. I think it’s the weakest of the season because, without an immediate threat such as a lost child, the poor writing really hampers their attempts at doing anything serious with the characters. The last season had its problems, but the change in writing staff has definitely had a profound negative effect on the show. Things were never quite this bad before, and I don’t think we’ll ever manage to see the greatness of the pilot ever again.
Improbable Joe
12. tigeraid
- I'm not sure why Lori couldn't just do the test in the bathroom with the door closed.

- I figured they had to go to the school because they specifically needed a respirator. Maybe they don't have a respirator for sale in a little small-town pharmacy, or maybe it was already stolen/missing?

- Maybe I misunderstand how water tables work, but if the zombie infected the water in the well, would it not eventually bleed through/seep into the water table and get to the rest of the water? They take a big chance drinking any water around there, I think...

- How did a group of five-six people living on that property not notice the zombie down there for days or weeks or months on end? It had to have been there quite a while to get that bloated with water...

Still, I enjoyed the episode. For me I can ignore plot holes if the character interactions and development are good... and TWD gives us that, sometimes.

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