Oct 22 2012 12:30pm

The Walking Dead, S3 E2: “Sick”

Recap and review of The Walking Dead, season 3, episode 2: 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.

treebee72 _
1. treebee72
It’s all about Rick

I'm probably the only person on the planet who hates the Governor arc in the comic books. There are multiple reasons, but one of them is that it cemented that the series is 100% all about Rick and his manpain.
Improbable Joe
2. Improbable Joe
I like Rick a lot better when he's actually acting like a leader rather than a whiner. When he sees a stranger give him looks like Shane used to give him, and remembers that his best friend tried to kill him after giving him those looks, he responds appropriately. And I didn't feel like anyone did anything excessively stupid in order to advance the plot, which is an achievement for this show. Lori said words that didn't make me hate her more than normal, and T-Dog said... well, he said words*. It is amazing how little talking really goes on, and how much my enjoyment goes up as the amount of speaking goes down.

On the negative side, I'm still not sure what that wilted-looking blonde girl is for. No one is watching Carl STILL, and they gave him keys and weapons, so we know that's going to end well. I'm not sure what a handcuff on not-Dale will do with his other hand free and everyone standing really really close to him. I'm convinced mustache-convict is a pedophile, no good reason other than he's awfully well-groomed for being locked in a cafeteria for almost a year.

*That dude has the best agent ever, he gets to learn like 11 words and one facial expression a week and gets paid for it... if he becomes a series regular versus an "also starring" next season, it will be some sort of miracle. You could see him staring at the only other black guy at the end of the episode and imagine him thinking "I'm the token black guy, so back off and stay away from my people and my 11 words an episode!"
Improbable Joe
3. sofrina
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.

you're welcome. you'd think the prisoners would be in much worse shape after 10 months. they still expected a rescue team? they didn't snap and decide to break out and face the walkers come what may? trapped in there with no bathroom and all that garbage? they're all just immune to stir crazy, hunh?

it's hard to believe the smell of hershel's stump isn't drawing every walker in the place, especially considering they had to rush him through the halls on a noisy gurney. and that bloody stump? no walkers wandered into to mess hall to investigate that? unlikely. if they can smell live people in a mob of zombies, they can smell that fresh o-neg through all that trash. frankly, i don't understand why no one moved to cauterize hershels' leg - say, while they were in the kitchen - before he wakes up again. might as well get it done now.

why exactly did big tiny have to die? on the spot? they could at least have given him a day to present symptoms? that and the andrew-killing have put me off team rick for good.
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
@treebee: I am definitely one of those who loved the Governor arc, not because it was well written or inventive, but because Kirkman went balls to the wall with him. He's one of the most frightening comic villains ever written, IMO.

@Improbable: It's always a win for Lori when she opens her mouth and by the time she closes it I don't hate her. And I'll second what you said about the ratio between episode enjoyment and the amount of dialogue. The writers seem to be still trying to figure out what constitutes subtlety, so the less the characters say the better, but once they pass Screenwriting 101 more talking could be a good thing.

Beth ("the wilted-looking blonde girl") is there because Carl needs someone to moon over. And she's the only kid - though she's really a teenager, but she's all Carl's got, and vice versa. Plus, the Governor will need someone young and hot to be creepy over.

@sofrina: I'll chalk up the lack of walkers to there being too much other stimulation going on elsewhere in the prison. There are only so many walkers left, and most of them seem to be lamebrains rather than roamers (side note: I STILL want to know how those subspecies are created, is it a personality thing or are there different strains of the "virus"?). And Tiny had to die because Rick needed a justifiable reason to kill Tomas. Tomas shoving a zombie at Rick and almost cutting him wouldn't be enough. Rick needed to feel like his group was threatened by Tomas' existence, and watching him butcher Tiny was it. Basically, it was a plot device rather than anything real people would do. Shocking, I know, that TWD writers would rely on gory spectacle rather than natural progressions.
Improbable Joe
5. sofrina
I STILL want to know how those subspecies are created, is it a personality thing or are there different strains of the "virus"?

degradation of the brain stem? maybe it's just a matter of how long you've been dead? it has been nearly a year and these corpses are still walking around. how long does it take a body to fall apart? there is still bacteria, right? the one that got big tiny had the will - and the strength - to pull it's own hand off getting out of those cuffs...

(why are there no dogs in this series? what happened to them? at least some feral packs here and there.)
John Ginsberg-Stevens
6. eruditeogre
I'm with Sofrina about the prisoners. They were in remarkable shape and seemed pretty clean for their circumstances. What, do they poop in the dead freezer or something?

There was some good tension in the scenes with the prisoners, but the thing with Tiny was over the top and screamed "PLOT DEVICE!" It would have worked better without that scene, injected more ambiguity and anxiety into the mix.

Given that, I am not Team Rick either, but there are moments when Andrew Lincoln very deftly shows us Rick's struggles. I think this kind of development needs to spread more across the characters.

The Governor arc is one I am profundly ambivalent about, mostly because of what happens with Michonne in the book. The Governor's evil gets broadly, excessively telegraphed in the book and I would like to see them play it a little more subtly, menace instead of raging psychopathy. We'll see how that goes.
Alex Brown
7. AlexBrown
@sofrina: There aren't any dogs because they cost money to rent, and AMC is all about budget crunching these days.

@erudite: I'll hold most of my Governor talk for when he actually shows up (which should be soon...), but I have high hopes for David Morrisey - a man who has yet to disappoint and also he was Col. Brandon *swoon*. It's AMC I'm more concerned about. They can't get too explicit with his actions (this is basic cable after all), but I'm not sure how terrifying he'll be if all his evil is off screen/implied.
Improbable Joe
8. Improbable Joe
You know... the whole Governor nastiness could be creepier with more subtlety. Too bad these writers can't do subtle.

Plus, I've decided to be Team T-Dog. No good reason, but I've decided that he's such a blank slate that I can project an entire interesting back story and internal life onto him and enjoy the show much more that way. For instance, instead of the traditional way of naming a stereotypical black character by using the first letter of his first name, a hyphen, and then a word like "dog" or "money", his name is actually T. Doggett Furguson III, former professor of sociology at Georgia State. He's also an heir to the Ferguson shower curtain rod empire started by his grandfather, and a bit of a family outcast for joining academia rather than being directly involved in the family business.

He's using his years of expertise in group dynamics to subtly-yet-completely dominate the people around him, and get them to do the dangerous stuff like be leader and not take care of Carl. It is a much better show this way.
John Ginsberg-Stevens
9. eruditeogre

I have high hopes for Morrissey too, given his work on The Water Horse and Blackpool. But I worry how limited he will be by budget and inconsistent writing. The challenge is to make him evil in a setting where the good guys have to be pretty bad to survive, but not go overboard or keep it so out of sight that the writers have to explain things on the talk show afterwards.
Improbable Joe
10. tigeraid
Probably the best episode in a very long time. For the first time, it felt like the comic book. None of the characters did anything particularly stupid, there were chills and spills and thrills, Rick is acting more like RICK, and the only "DRAMA!" moment was Rick and Lori's brief interlude about their marriage, which felt perfect to me. Anyone who's read the comic knows where that aspect of the show is going, and it works for me so far.

Also, T-Dogg is still here and still doing things. GO TEAM T-DOGG.
Improbable Joe
11. tigeraid

you're welcome. you'd think the prisoners would be in much worse shape after 10 months. they still expected a rescue team? they didn't snap and decide to break out and face the walkers come what may? trapped in there with no bathroom and all that garbage? they're all just immune to stir crazy, hunh?

That doesn't bother me too much. For one thing, they're cons, they might be lying. Secondly, even if they were cooped up there, they're prisoners... And judging by how they dealt with the zombie combat, they're vicious, ruthless criminals, at least a couple clearly murderers of some kind... So they're likely the kind of people who spend a lot of time alone, in solitary, and may not regularly see daylight anyway. Probably not hard for them at all.
Alex Brown
12. AlexBrown
@Improbable: T. Doggett Ferguson III sounds like the most interesting person in the show. Come on, internet, make it happen.

@Improbable and eridute: I have a lot of confidence in Morrissey's ability to out-act the shoddy writing. He can't do anything about the plot problems, but at least he can shine over the cheesy dialogue.

@tigeraid: You and I were apparently watching two different versions of "Sick." Frankly, I'm ready for them to break even more free from the comics. I'd prefer the approach that True Blood takes, that is, using the books as source material then streaking off in an entirely random direction and doing something new with it. I suspect TWD will do that with the Governor arc - because there's no way they can show all of that in, what, 10 episodes? - but I'd like to see the writers take a little more ingenuity and creativity with the zombie apocalypse rather than sticking so close to Kirkman.

And no matter how much time a prisoner spent in solitary, that's very, very much not the same thing as being trapped for 10 months in a cafeteria with 5 other felons while zombies try to break down the doors. I think "hard" doesn't even begin to cover it. Besides, only one of them is/was a known murder, the other 2 remaining dudes were convicted of a B&E and the other was doing time for pills, probably just for possession or maybe he had enough on him to get him an intent to sell charge for good measure. Those kinds of criminals don't spend time in solitary. Only 1 of them was "vicious," and Rick machete'd him in the brain. The others were puppy dogs in comparison. Not that something else isn't going on - it's TWD, the writers have always been a little too good at foreshadowing.
Improbable Joe
13. tigeraid
Besides, only one of them is/was a known murder, the other 2 remaining dudes were convicted of a B&E and the other was doing time for pills, probably just for possession or maybe he had enough on him to get him an intent to sell charge for good measure.

You mean they CLAIM to be in for B&E and possession. If they follow the comic book's story arc, they're lying. :p

I never immediately jump to conclusions about why something I see on a tv show EPISODE is wrong or implausible. I wait a few episodes to see it explained or fleshed out. I have a feeling a decent part of this will be, as so many other Complaint Points tor reviewers come up have been over the course of a few episodes.
Improbable Joe
14. monkat
@Improbable: Team T-Dogg! Yes!

The cooped up convicts. I get that it was a handy plot device to contrast Our Group with people who haven't seen or fought zombies before, and, yes, handy to show The Moral Crumbling of Rick, but, like others, I find the idea of a handful of convicts locked up in the cafeteria for 10 months without trying to get out or figuring out things have gone to sh*t beyond their locked door RIDICULOUS. Forget how they dealt with sanitation, food, muscle deteroration, heat, light, etc. etc.. They seemed to think a rescue team was coming?!? After 10 months. Yeah, your more-brutal-than-usual prison riot lasts 10 months, during which time no one thinks to get to the food. Riiiiight. Well, that solves the question of what they were all in for: Criminal Stupidity.

Oh, show. You make me facepalm so much I'm going to get a bruise.
Alex Brown
15. AlexBrown
@tigeraid: Yes, they are only claiming to be in for B&E and drug charges, and if they go with the comics that will end up being total bollocks - but as far as Rick and the gang are concerned, they're only dealing with two convicted murderers and a couple of petty criminals. Again, all they needed was one line in there about Rick not believing the other two and that would've sufficed. These actors just aren't good enough to convey the complex emotions the writers think they can get across through facial expressions.

@tigeraid and monkat: I'm not sure how close the writers are going to follow the comics in this prison version of the prison arc... So yes, I do harbor the same suspicions as you and many other do, but there's just not enough info to go on right now.

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