The Walking Dead returned on Sunday after a brief winter hibernation, and I’m not gonna lie, I actually kinda missed it. The show is a massive hit for AMC even if critics and anyone with an internet connection and an opinion are less than thrilled with many of the lackluster scripting and plotting choices—a feat made more impressive given that we’re stuck in an age where networks like NBC struggle to get 2 million viewers for one of the top ten best shows on TV, i.e. Community. But whinging about how Rick is boring and Lori is a soul-killing cipher and Shane is a walking definition of a douchecanoe and why won’t someone give Daryl a spinoff where he wanders the South crossbowing zombies in the face and being gloriously awesome is sooo 2011. With the midseason premiere of “Nebraska,” TWD roared into the Valentine’s Day weekend with an episode full of piss and vinegar. And corpses. So many corpses.
In a way, “Nebraska” functioned a lot like TWD does as a whole season: fantastic beginning, dull-as-nails middle, fantastic ending. Episode 8 picked up immediately where episode 7 left off, and while the cold open and opening scene weren’t the greatest, they did their jobs well enough. Except for the whole thing where one of the zombies wasn’t dead but instead of shooting her with all those guns they had not 30 seconds before everyone just stood around screaming and looking aghast. But since we got to see Andrea killing it with a scythe, it all worked out for the best.
After the slaughter, Shane went stomping about spreading testosterone everywhere, Carol did some very angry weeding, Rick glowered a bunch, Lori was the worst, Daryl did some hardcore whittling, Glenn and Maggie made puppy dog eyes at each other, whoever those other blonde people were hanging around Hershel’s farm did some fainting and wailing and whatnot, Andrea et al. burned some zombies, and T-Dog had more than one line. Okay, so it wasn’t entirely meh. I’m just used to complaining about the student-film level dialogue and the ludicrously awful choices made solely as plot contrivances. “Nebraska” had a hefty dose of each, but overall the show worked.
One of the things TWD has never been very good at is touching on the day-to-day aspect of living in the end of times. It’s not always fraught glances, laundry, and being on the lookout for walkers. There’s also digging mass graves and cremations. None of that was very interesting on the surface, but in the grand scheme of things it gave them all a sense of purpose beyond wild goose chases. For the first time in ages they had a set, concrete goal—do what needs to be done and sort out the ethics later. This gave them a sense of solidity and solidarity, something that’s been sorely lacking thus far. Everyone will eventually have to sort out who stands on what side of the moral fence, but arguing philosophy doesn’t deal with the fact that there are a bunch of rotting corpses baking in the sun that someone has to take care of. It doesn’t change the fact that the world has gone to hell and good people are going to die. It doesn’t change the fact that the living can be just as vicious and callous as the undead.
The biggest problem in the show continues to be Lori, and not just because the writers don’t know what to do with her. She seems to exist only to create dramatic tension by either giving the opposite opinion to anything any other character has said, or making rash and incredibly stupid choices with catastrophic consequences. I just don’t understand the logic of her running after Rick. They’d been gone, what, 30 minutes? An hour tops. Beth wasn’t going anywhere, so what’s the rush? Lori first nagged and engaged in a spat of contrariness with Daryl, meaning that her next scene was contractually obligated to include an impulsive and idiotic choice. For reasons known only to God and the showrunners, she decided that it was a good idea to sneak off and tell no one where she was going and then that she needed to consult a map—while still driving, no less—so she wouldn’t get lost on the ONLY FRAKKING ROAD leading to the ONLY FRAKKING TOWN. Choices she made specifically so she could hit a random walker who just happened to be out for a stroll on that particular patch of highway at the exact moment she looked away and then have the greatest overreaction of an accident in the history of televised car accidents. Can’t say I’m surprised, but ugh.
And then there was the scene in the bar. I’m not talking about all the yakkity-yak with drinky-time Hershel. That dialogue was practically drowning in the ethical morass I was just praising the second tier characters for avoiding. Peepaw was sad that his pie in the sky dreams of everything turning out to be kittens and unicorns got crushed so he picked up a drinking habit I’m pretty sure had never been mentioned before and made the bizarre decision to walk into town to get drunk (the same town that was so difficult to get to that Lori had to pull out a AAA guide). Of course, the only reason he does that is because the writers needed to introduce Tough Guy #1 and Tough Guy #2, thereby undercutting the whole scenario.
The verbal twister between Rick and Britt from Terriers (aka Rene from True Blood) made up for everything else. Tony was obviously a bruiser back in the day, but Dave was a man who knew how to lure in the gullible. There was a sinister veneer to Dave’s affable geneality, a friendliness that was a little too controlled, a little too intentional, a little too much. Rick quickly caught on to Dave’s tricky game of twenty questions and, to keep muddling this review with game metaphors, checked his every move. The shootout was inevitable, but in the space of a single conversation, our hero finally learned to do something heroic. Like his underlings, he found his purpose and accepted that this is a world where sometimes you have to get your hands dirty in order to survive. He was devastated when he had to re-dead Sophia, but braining Tony and Dave was cathartic and, dare I say, enjoyable for him. This is a protagonist I can get behind. Rick’s no Daryl, but fingers crossed he can sustain his bad-assery.
- “Selfish? Listen to me, Olive Oyl, I was out there looking for that little girl every single day. I took a bullet and an arrow in the process. Don’t you tell me about getting my hands dirty. You want those two idiots? Have a nice ride. I’m done looking for people.”
- “You people are like the plague!”
- “There is no hope, and you know it now, like I do. There is no hope for any of us.”
- “Ugly truth is there is no way outta this.”
- Since when does any victim of an attempted rape describe her attacker as a hothead? Seriously? Oh, no, Dale, Shane’s not a psycho selfish jerkface asshat, he’s just got a bit of a temper is all.
- For a man who never had kids, Dale is really good at the Disapproving Dad look.
- Shane acts less like an alpha male challenging his pack leader’s authority and more like an overly hormonal high school jock beating up on the nerd to prove he’s tough.
- How far away is this town anyway? Sometimes it’s so far that they have to ride horses or drive, and other times it’s close enough that an old man can shuffle down to the ol’ watering hole for a quick tipple.
- You know, Lori, please and thank you go a long way when asking someone to risk their life playing errand boy for you.
- If Daryl and Carol hook up, I’m gonna be mighty pissed. And not just because he’s mine.
- I will not watch Comic Book Men for a variety of reasons, but mostly this.
- As much as I love talking about upcoming eps or future storylines from the comics, please be a decent human being and preface your comments with a SPOILER warning. I’ll return the favor and try and keep the comics out of my reviews (unless it’s necessary).
Alex Brown is an archivist and reference librarian by day, writer by night, 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.