Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: The Walking Dead "Bloodletting"

Non Spoiler Review:
Rick and Shane deal with the fallout created with Carl's injury, leading to the introduction of several new characters. But Carl isn't the only one suffering, as T-Dog's wound from last week causes him some grief, as well. With an urgent need for medical supplies, it falls to Shane to embark on a dangerous mission.

A more character-driven episode highlights the relationships between Rick/Shane and Rick/Lori. Daryl is continuing to reach new heights of coolness. Most exciting is the introduction of the Hershel farm, a major plotline from the early graphic novels, and a fresh infusion of new blood. There are few plotlines diverging from the book again (Sophia's disappearance, for one), but that's making it interesting. 

Bloodletting achieved a good balance, with enough character development to further advance the relationship between our band of survivors, while allowing some action to end the episode. Andrew Lincoln really shone this week.

Spoilers Now!
Bloodletting begins with a pre-apocalypse flashback, where Lori waits for school to get out and confides in a friend how pissed off she gets with Rick, given he tries to be so reasonable all the time. She regrets getting married so young, and it's evident they're having some marriage problems. They're interrupted by Shane pulling up in a police car to let her know Rick's been shot and he's in surgery. Shane feels it's his fault. Carl comes out of school and Shane watches as she tells him about his father.

Rick runs across the meadow carrying Carl. Behind, Shane is pushing along another man, the shooter, Otis. He's told them to take Carl to Hershel, and they approach a farm house, where a young woman watches from the porch. She calls for her father. 

After hearing what happened (and confirming Carl wasn't bit) Hershel takes them inside to examine him. He and his daughters look after Carl and tell Rick they need some room. Shane tends to a stunned Rick who is second-guessing all his decisions. Otis explains the bullet went through his buck, which actually slowed the bullet down and saved Carl's life. But it's broken up into pieces inside him. Rick has the same blood type as his son, which is fortunate, as they'll need a transfusion once Hershel manages to extract the fragments.

In the woods, Lori has heard the gunshot. She knows Rick wouldn't risk a shot to put down a walker so is very concerned. Daryl tells them to continue working their way back to the highway and assures Carol they'll find Sophia.

T-Dog's wound has become infected. Dale needs to get them some antibiotics so suggests they look through the cars some more. Unfortunately, they come up empty-handed, though T-Dog scored some cigarettes. As they sit, he suggests the two of them leave together, as the rest think they're the weakest in the group. T-Dog suggests that the others will eventually target them, but Dale reminds him Daryl went out of his way to save him several times. T-Dog just wants them to take the RV and go. Dale realizes he's feverish and beginning to get delirious.

Hershel explains Carl's out of danger for the moment, but he has internal bleeding and there are more fragments to get. Carl needs to be immobilized and must be put under. They need a respirator, as well as a lot of other surgical supplies. The high school had a FEMA shelter five miles from the farm, but it was overrun. Shane volunteers to go for the supplies. Otis offers to take him there, given his responsibility for the whole mess. His wife doesn't want him to go.

Andrea is suddenly attacked as they make their way back to the highway. Out of nowhere, Maggie rides in on a horse, kills the walker, and asks for Lori. She tells them Carl's been shot and takes Lori with her, giving them all directions to the farm.

The rest get back to the RV to explains things to Dale, though Andrea's even more furious with him now after yet another attack. Carol refuses to leave to rejoin Rick and Lori. Daryl suggests they go to the farm in the morning, but leave supplies and directions for Sophia should she get back to the road. Dale tells Glen to get to the farm so they can reconnect and see what's going on. He also has to get T-Dog there for medical attention. That's when Daryl saves the day again and reveals he had his brother's stash of drugs from his motorcycle, which has some painkillers and antibiotics.

Rick muses on the serenity of Hersel's farm, and the old man explains they lost friends and neighbours, including his wife and step-son. His daughters were spared and he's grateful to God. He's hoping they can ride it out in peace until there's a cure. Rick explains there won't be a cure given they've already been to the CDC. Hershel says he's seen that all before, but it's just like any other plague as far as he's concerned. It's just nature restoring some balance.

Maggie returns with Lori, and she and Rick sit by their son's bedside. Lori's not so understanding regarding Otis, however. She asks Hershel to explain about the surgery, and it comes out that he's a veterinarian. She's horrified. Rick, already weakened by two transfusions, has to sit down and is pretty much of no use to anyone at this point, though he seems to feel he should go after Shane given they're overdue. Lori and Hershel tell him he's being foolish. She lays down the law that she can't do this alone and he's not leaving.

At the high school, Shane and Otis find the area swarming with walkers. Shane finds some flares in a police car, so they use them to draw the walkers away from the supply trailer. They get all they need, but when they leave they're quickly surrounded and have to make a run for it. Pursued by a horde, they flee into the high school behind a tenuously locked gate.

The Verdict:
Carl's shooting allowed for some great bromance between Rick and Shane to show the strength of their friendship. Despite Shane's turmoil and some of really bad decisions he's made in previous episodes (i.e. pointing a rifle at Rick), it was refreshing to see him automatically default to his close bond with his partner.

The writing continues to be mature and avoids some standard dramatic pitfalls. Lori could have bitched out and blamed Rick for getting her son shot, but the two of them kept it together. It could have been so easy to paint Otis as a gun-crazy buffoon, but his character was very sympathetic and likable (and smart—he's a volunteer EMT, as well, for Pete's sake!), and after the initial shock, there was no animosity from Rick or Shane, either.

The casting for the Hershels appears to be very fitting, though we only have the father and Maggie to get a sense of so far. Maggie's ride to the rescue kicked ass and there's no doubt she'll be a favorite. And can Daryl get any more awesome? Whether it's shooting walkers in the head with his goddamned crossbow or producing an entire pharmaceutical supply from his missing brother's bike. What's Kirkman's plan for him? And how soon before Andrea falls for him?

Finally, still no sign of Sophia and she's apparently not at the Hershel farm. But kudos for following up on T-Dog's inevitable infection from last week. I can't think they'd kill him off soon, either. Like he said, he's the only black guy left, and granted, he's not a character from the books, but I doubt Kirkman would be getting rid of him so quickly given he went to the trouble of keeping him with the group.

What was the deal with the missing dead baby and what appeared to be fresh blood? I wasn't sure if Kirkman was implying people shot themselves, or if a walker stole it, or if it's something more recent. It's probably nothing important, but like last week's civil defence broadcast, I'm wondering what these short bits are leading to, if anything.

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