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.

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