Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Sick"

Non Spoiler Review:
Rick is faced with some difficult decisions (no surprise) in getting Hershel medical help while managing five prisoners who are oblivious to the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Lori's disintegrating marriage is weighing heavy on her, and now she must deal with Carl's lack of respect, as well.

Sick continued the momentum of Walking Dead's exhilarating premiere. While the action wasn't as much the focus this time, we got to see a huge amount of character insights and shocking decisions. 

There is no Andrea or Michonne this week, but the prison has enough going on to carry the episode. Everyone is getting their chance to shine, including Carol, and the oft-neglected T-Dog, who finally feels like he's part of the group again.

Spoilers Now!
Daryl orders the prisoners to come out slow, but one has a gun and a stand off ensues while Rick tends to Hershel. T-Dog opens the door and begins to clear a path as they take out the injured and leave the prisoners, but they follow after.

Back in the secure cells, Carol (who has received some training in the months since) takes over Herhsel's care, while Daryl stands guard outside waiting the prisoners to arrive. And they do. They quickly realize there isn't going to be a rescue, given the others have broken into the prison. 

Rick goes out to talk (but tells Glen he needs him with Hershel to take care of him if he should die). Rick learns they've been locked in the cafeteria for ten months after a riot broke out. A guard locked them in but never came back. Rick confirms their fears that there is no help coming. It comes as a shock, of course, but pseudo-leader Tomas refuses to believe it. They let them outside to take in the scene of carnage and walkers. 

Tomas seems to think the prison is theirs, but Rick kiboshes that. More agreeable Axel tries to find a common solution by sharing the cell blocks. Rick says he'll take half what's in the cafeteria in exchange for helping to clear out a cell block for them. Tomas agrees. But Rick warns them to stay away from their people or he'll kill them. 

Rick is shown the pantry, which is still well-stocked. Rick opens the cooler but finds they've been using it for their bathroom. 

Carol manages to stabilize Hershel. Glen tries to console Maggie who wonders how her father will get by if he survives. Rick and T-Dog return with the first batch of food.

Lori isn't keen about living beside prisoners. The only other option is to kill them, Rick muses, but he tells her she'll say that now, then judge him for it after. She admits to being a shitty wife and knows he's not a killer and tells him to do whatever he has to do with a clear conscience.

Maggie needs a minute alone with unconscious Hershel (and he's handcuffed to the bed as a precaution). She pretty much tells him it's okay to die and rest in peace as she and Beth will be okay.

Carl has gone off and found the infirmary on his own and cleared out the supplies for them (and killed two walkers, to his mother's horror). He tells her to get off his back. Beth tells him he can't talk to his mother like that, so he storms off. 

Carol takes Glen outside in private and wants to use a walker to get more experience working on bodies. Glen isn't confident in the wisdom of that, but she needs to learn how to cut through the abdomen and uterus without cutting the baby should Lori's pregnancy prove difficult. She kills the walker and with her practice corpse, starts experimenting, unaware she's being watched from the woods. 

Daryl tutors the prisoners on the best manner to kill the walkers and proceed to clear out a cell block for them. But when they encounter their first group the prisoners proceed to attack and beat on the walkers. They quickly learn they need to focus on the brain. Big Tiny is scratched and protests he's fine. The others suggest they quarantine him but Rick is adamant there's nothing he can do. It's Tomas that abruptly kills him. 

Next up is the laundry room where they unlock another room of walkers. But wild card Tomas throws open both doors which creates chaos, and allows him to push undead in Rick's direction. Rick realizes what he's trying to do and stares him down, then kills him with a machete. Prisoner number four flees into the corridors with machete-wielding Patrick Bateman Rick in pursuit. He runs out into a courtyard full of walkers and Rick shuts the door on him, leaving him to die horribly (or become a zombie). That just leaves Axel and Oscar. Axel pleads for their lives, protesting they aren't murderers like Tomas. Oscar won't beg. 

Rick opts to let these two live and takes them into a cell block where they find prisoners shot in the head. Rick leaves them in there and locks down that cell block. It's theirs. 

Maggie hears Hershel stop breathing and steps away. Lori tries CPR and he starts breathing, freaking the hell out of them all. Carl has his gun on him, but it appears he's still alive. Rick, T-Dog and Daryl return. Hershel hasn't developed a fever yet. He wakes up to everyone's delight and takes Rick's hand. 

Lori and Rick have a moment alone. They'll start cleaning the dead in the morning. He informs her he doesn't think she's a bad mother. She muses they can't really get divorced. They have food and Hershel is alive. It was a good day. He tells her they're all very grateful for what she did, and with a pat on her shoulder, he walks off. 

The Verdict:
Another winner, presenting lots of action and difficult character choices. Rick's outlook has changed considerably since we last saw him taking pains to herd walkers into Hershel's barn, to the point that he now sends someone to a horrible (un)death rather than take a simpler route by killing him mercifully. Is he acting out his frustrations with Lori on the prisoners?

It was satisfying to see that there is no easy answer to their marital problems at the end of this week. Rick's pat on the shoulder was a bit chilling after Lori's series of mea culpas. But it shows the strength of this series' writing in choosing no simple outs for its character dilemmas.

Hershel's zombie fakeout provided a bit of adrenaline in that scene. And Carl's very brief but effective moment securing medical supplies and dismissing his mother was a great one. Carol is also shining with her extra duties, and a much stronger character than we've seen. I was a little leery about her working on that pregnant walker—envisioning her getting bit by a live zombie baby inside. But maybe that revelation is for next week.

Despite Andrea and Michonne's absence, surely that must be some Woodbury spies watching from the woods. Or... dare we hope—Tyrese (who I was sure one of the prisoners was before the Ricktatorship massacre).

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