This review contains spoilers.
The search for Sophia is still on, except the search party is now short of three extra people. Namely, Shane, Rick and Carl. You see, at the end of last week’s episode, Carl got shot by a hunter out looking for delicious deer to eat. That’s right kids, there are more survivors than just the few we’ve been following. Namely, there’s Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), his daughters Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and some other ones, and their portly pal Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Otis is the unfortunate who accidentally capped Carl, and now he’s bringing the gang back to the Greene farm for help.
Of course, Hershel would be glad to help save Carl’s life by extracting bullet fragments from him, but there’s a catch. In order to perform surgery, one needs surgical equipment. Namely, a respirator and a bunch of other things. Otis was a volunteer EMT, so he knows what to get, but Rick can’t go on the scavenging mission to the zombie-overrun high school/FEMA shelter because he’s got Carl’s blood type. That means poor Shane, who promised to do anything for Rick, is saddled with Otis on the rescue mission.
Meanwhile, back at camp, Dale and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) are having some nice getting-to-know-you chats. Granted, those chats are a bit weird, since T-Dog’s horrible arm wound from the season opener has become horribly infected, and that infection has spread to his blood and could possibly kill him, but at least they’re talking. That’s important, right?
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead is significantly shorter on zombie-killing action than last week’s, and there’s less tension (at least regarding the zombie threat) as well. That said, this week sees a whole lot more in the way of character development regarding some less-than-fleshed-out characters, namely T-Dog, AKA Theodore, Dale, and Shane.
Yes, Shane’s a pivotal character, but normally he’s just been acting like a petulant child pining for Lori. In this week’s episode, we see a different side of Shane: it’s a side that’s loyal to Rick and Carl, and a side that is willing to do anything to help the boy survive, hence the suicide mission. Shane and Rick have some wonderful exchanges this week, and it’s nice to see Shane get a bit humanized from his first season role as a source of trouble. It’s obvious he’s best friends with Rick, in spite of everything involving their love triangle, and it’s obvious that Lori, whose relationship to Rick has been troubled since before the zombie apocalypse and the shooting, really does love her husband. Somehow, Lori’s gone from intolerable to a crucial emotional center for the program, and Sarah Wayne Callies has done great work thus far.
As for T-Dog and Dale, they’re stuck at the camper, and T-Dog, in his fevered state, knows why. They’re the weakest members of the group, being a retiree and a guy with massive forearm trauma. T-Dog’s character has been roundly criticised online for being weak and a bit incompetent, but isn’t that kind of refreshing? A black character who looks and acts like he’s a gang-banger, but is actually a normal person rather than a fighting machine who is as quick with a bullet as he is with a quip, and suddenly people are complaining that he’s not a stereotype? From his comments in this episode, he’s a lot more observant and intelligent than he lets on, even if his perceptions are coloured by the raging infection and fever slowly cooking his brain.
The script, from new show runner Glen Mazzara, is a pretty solid one. I like the character interactions this week, and I like how the characters of the Greene family and company were introduced. Rather than getting a meeting, we just get Otis guiding Rick and Shane to the farmhouse. The extra screen time for some previously underwritten characters was also a big deal, and all the main players got some very good stuff to work with this week as far as acting goes.
There’s not as much zombie mayhem this week, but the core of this show are the survivors, not the monsters. We need to care about these people, and they’re trying very hard to establish that. While director Ernest R Dickerson (The Wire, Treme) didn’t have a whole lot of action this week, the few appearances of the walkers are really well done, especially at the end of the episode. His experience is in character-driven dramas, so he’s got plenty of experience with that part, and I was impressed with his special effects set pieces.
So far, the decreased budget of The Walking Dead has shown itself, not in an increased cheapness, but in an economy of special effects. They’re still doing cool things with their makeup budget, but they’re picking their spots a little better and making it more meaningful. That said, I can’t wait for next week, which from the previews seems to feature a whole lot of zombie-killing blood-and-guts action.
You can read our review of The Walking Dead episode one here.