This review contains spoilers.
2.5 ChupacabraThis week’s episode of The Walking Dead might have had the best opening segment of the show. It was, without a doubt, the best flash-back scene of the program thus far.
While the highways are jammed with people trying to get out of Atlanta, the military is moving into Atlanta, and they’re going to get their General Sherman on. Yes, Atlanta is going to be burning, and it’s helicopter-dropped napalm to the zombie-slaying rescue, while Lori and Shane watch from a hilltop in the distance. Yeah, I guess that refugee camp in Hotlanta just got a little too hot to live in, gang.
From that opening flashback, we return to the post-walker world. The search for Sophia continues, in spite of all the odds against the little girl being found alive, yet the idyllic Greene family farm isn’t quite as idyllic as it seems. Hershel is growing increasingly agitated with the presence of the survivors on his land, taking his horses without permission, making him and his family dinner, and generally starting to ingratiate themselves with their host family like a good parasite. In spite of the safety provided by numbers, and the fact that Rick’s group mostly keeps to themselves, they’re still getting a little too big for their britches, and Hershel reminds Rick of this.
It seems a little crazy to be wandering through the woods on foot when you’ve got horses handy, so Daryl helps himself to a steed and goes off riding through the mountains, only to discover (too late) that his horse is named Nelly. As in Nervous Nelly. The horse throws him after it sees a snake, and Daryl takes a nice rolling trip down the side of a cliff and into a creek. He’s alive, but he’s injured – thanks to an arrow through the side—and stranded miles from his companions. Luckily for Daryl, he’s got hallucinations of Merle on his side, and Merle’s tough love is just what Daryl needs to crawl out of the creek and get back to camp. He’s found Sophia’s doll, which means they’re one step closer to finding Sophia and getting out of Hershel’s hair.
That’s assuming Andrea doesn’t accidentally kill anyone before the group leaves the farm. That’s a big assumption, since our gun-happy-yet-gun-incompetent heroine continues to prove herself to be a little too kill-happy and unstable for anything concerning wet work.
This season of The Walking Dead has been kind of a mixed bag. Most of the episodes have been good, but last week’s episode, Cherokee Rose, might have been the nadir of the show so far.
Chupacabra, though, might be the best episode of season two. It’s weird, because both shows centered around someone lost in the wilderness. Sophia has been the focus so far; this week’s focus was Daryl and his struggle for survival. Boy, what a difference a protagonist we care about makes for an episode. Just watching Daryl struggle to climb the hill, or fight off hungry zombies, or simply hallucinate his brother was way more entertaining than everything that happened in Cherokee Rose.
I think the key here is that a) everyone loved Daryl and b) nobody cares about Sophia; her only defining characteristic is that she’s a little girl. Weirdly, Shane the pragmatist returns this week to remind Rick that they’ve got 8 able-bodied people wandering through the woods in pairs looking for one kid. Given that the average lifespan of a lost child in the woods is 72 hours in the best of times, there’s no doubt that her odds of survival are low after the zombie apocalypse.
I think we all know they won’t kill Sophia off, but man I wish they would hurry up with this storyline. Daryl and Merle’s interactions were great, as was Glenn and Maggie’s exchange at the kid’s table in Hershel’s dinner. Just the fact that Glenn was at the kid’s table was enough to crack me up. This episode was a reminder as to why Glenn was my favorite character from the first season; the scene with him and Dale discussing synchronized menstruation in the RV? That was funny. More Glenn, more Dale, more Daryl, and more dead Sophia.
Kudos go to director Guy Ferland for really working with Daryl’s survivalist jaunt through the woods and really milking the struggle and tension for all it is worth. Ditto the opening scenes of Atlanta being bombed by the military. The green screen wasn’t great, but it was effective in spite of its cheesiness. The very idea of the military bombing one of our own cities is pretty disturbing from a visceral level, and it was handled very well.
That’s another positive for this week’s episode. It was compelling, there wasn’t a lot of stupid dialogue between characters I don’t care about, and it had a sense of humor right until the very end. David Johnson (Orphan, Red Riding Hood) is nominally a screenwriter, but he typed out a good TV episode this week. It’s weird that Shane, who did the most evil act of the entire series just a few episodes ago, can also be the voice of reason versus Rick’s idealism. Plus, he’s saying what every fan of the show has been saying for a couple of episodes now: move on, team!
Fortunately, from the look of what Glenn discovered in the barn at the end of this episode, we’re in for a treat in future episodes. I think that two episodes from now we’re going to get an impressive action set piece; after all, you can’t show a gun in act one and not have it go off in act three.
Read our review of the last episode, here.
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