By Karen Moul
As The Walking Dead
approached the halfway point of the season, the writers took a step back and gave us some character development and group dynamics. Episodes like this are needed to sustain the major themes through the rest of this season and into next. While it seemed as if not a lot happened, we had a huge advance in the Rick-Lori-Shane storyline. Add in some compelling action among the supporting cast and overall this was another excellent episode.
The Grimes family reunion was handled beautifully. I actually had a knot in my stomach waiting for Shane and Lori to see Rick. I can't remember the last time a TV show made me feel that much tension and anticipation, probably not since Lost
. Sarah Wayne Callies was excellent in this scene, in just a few moments you could see the disorientation on Lori's face, then the recognition, and perhaps a split second of joy before her expression turned to horror. Andrew Lincoln's reactions as Rick saw his son were also moving. Nice work all around.
I'm no fan of Lori, but I'm pleased to see the writers give her a bit of wiggle room in her affair with Shane. She's not off the hook for sleeping with him, but we now know that Shane lied and she believed Rick was dead. It gives her character added dimension and allows viewers to begin to sympathize with her. She's clearly pleased to see Rick. Despite their pre-apocalypse marital woes she still loves him, and we'll see if they are strong enough to stay together through the inevitable revelation of her betrayal.
However, I'm much more interested to see if Shane and Rick stay together. This is a much more interesting part of the love triangle. These guys were partners, which is a very deep and trusting relationship, much more complicated than a friendship. A police officer has to trust his partner with his life. What happens when Rick learns Shane has betrayed that trust? It would be interesting to learn more about Shane's motivations and feelings as he entered into a relationship with Lori. It’s possible that Shane knew Lori would never flee while Rick was alive; with the hospital under zombie siege he assumed Rick was a goner and told the lie to get Lori and Carl to safety. How does he feel about Rick now?
In the final third of the episode we were introduced to a potentially great new character, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). He's not quite as offensive as his brother Merle, but he's not at all likeable either. However, Daryl has valuable skills, notably his ability to hunt animals for food. Daryl is currently livid at Rick, but I could see a friendship emerging. Rick's going to need a friend when his relationship with Shane hits the fan.
Assorted observations, in no particular order:
- The final scene seemed to telegraph Shane's current feelings about Rick pretty clearly. I'm not sure that Wifebeater Ed will be a major character, that subplot seemed to be more about setting Shane up with a punching bag to vent his anger, shame and confusion. Was he thinking of Rick with each punch?
- Ed's unauthorized use of firewood cemented Shane’s role as the leader and the guy who enforces this rules. He's probably going feel challenged by Rick, a natural leader with a more laid-back style. I think we can guess that Shane is going to lose more than Lori.
- The writers are good at creating loser redneck men that nobody likes. Unfortunately all the women (including Lori) are still pretty much blank slates letting the men call the shots. And while it is true that in most of the world women do all the work while men sit around, it would be nice to see some of the women show some leadership or important skills or take a leading voice in the group.
- Going back for Merle shows us Rick's conscience is still functioning. But it turns out he maybe doesn't care about Merle all that much. Rick wants his bag o’ guns and, more importantly, he wants the radio to talk to Morgan. I'm not sure what he wants most.
- How many viewers saw Merle's severed hand coming? I did not, I guess I am a bit dense but I had a great OMG moment. How long can Merle live with a self-amputated hand and no medical treatment? That is a major artery in your wrist, he is probably squirting blood everywhere and can't the zombies smell it?
- As far as we know Rick still has that grenade.