EPISODE REVIEW: The Walking Dead: "Bloodletting" (Season 2, Episode 2)


As you may recall, when last we left our band of survivors they were split up. The little girl, Sophie, was still missing. Aged mechanic Dale and T-Dog were holding down the base camp on the Interstate. Woodsy Darryl was leading the women back that way while searching for Sophie on the other side of the creek. And Sheriff Rick and Deputy Shane were scouring the church area with Rick’s son Carl in tow. They saw a deer, Carl approached it and got hit by a hunter’s bullet that went through the deer.

All in all, not a good day. So what now?

We open with a flashback to pre-Apocalypse times. It’s when Shane showed up while Rick’s wife, Lori, was waiting to pick up her son after school. He was there to tell her Rick had been shot by criminals (the precipitating event that left Rick in a coma through the Apocalypse). We see Lori breaking it to Carl about his father.

Flash to the present. Rick is racing frantically, the stricken Carl in his arms. A nice juxtaposition, that. Some overweight guy named Otis (the unfortunate hunter) is trailing with Shane, yells for Rick to keep going in that direction. It’s heartbreaking to see how Rick is spent. We see him heaving for each breath, slowing down with each breath, at his physical limit but still pushing forward. He reaches a farm house with several woman and an old man named Hershel. They clear a bed. Hershel’s daughters start bringing in supplies while Herschel tends the boy. He tells Rick to give them room.

The show does have nice bits of humanity here and there. Shane fell in love with Rick’s wife while they both thought Rick was dead, so he’s personally out of sorts, even beyond the whole zombie Apocalypse thing. But as Rick stumbles out on to the porch, Shane stops him to wipe Carl’s blood off Rick’s face. It’s a touching gesture of concern and compassion.

Fortunately, Rick has the same blood type as Carl. Hershel says the bullet lost velocity passing through the deer, which is why Carl is still alive. But it broke up into fragments, and he has to get them out. Rick provides the first transfusion while Shane holds a screaming Carl down. The first fragment comes out.

Darryl’s group heard the gun shot that hit the deer. They’re freaked that it was only one gun shot, say Rick and Shane wouldn’t have risked a bullet on just one walker (loud sounds attract them). Darryl says there’s no point wasting energy wondering about it, that they can’t do anything where they are and have to stick with the plan. Back at the interstate, Dale notices that T Dog is acting odd, deduces that the arm he cut yesterday might be a problem. He forces T Dog to let him look. It’s definitely infected. The two of them start scavenging abandoned cars for any antibiotics.

Back at the farm, Hershel says there is internal bleeding. He can’t operate without anesthetic and a respirator because the boy will be thrashing about. Otis, the overweight hunter, volunteers that he was an EMT. He knows of a FEMA disaster center that had been set up at a high school five miles away that might have the supplies they need. Otis and Shane load up in the farm’s working car and head out. One of Herschel’s daughters heads out on horseback to find Lori and bring her to her injured son.

That last bit synchs up nicely later on. Andrea strays from Darryl’s group and is set upon by a walker. She of course stumbles and is now in the classic horror film prone position, kicking back while unable to get up. The walker gets hold of her leg and looks about ready for a nice juicy bite. That’s when the horse bolts in out of nowhere, Herschel’s daughter pulling a baseball bat out of the saddle. It’s zombie polo! She knocks the zombie down and pauses just long enough to inform Lori of her son’s condition and tell the others how to find the farm. Lori then takes off with her on the horse, leaving Darryl again with the best single bit in an episode. The zombie whacked with the baseball bat starts to get up slowly. It does the zombie moan/groan. Without missing a beat, Darryl says “Shut up” and puts an arrow though its head from his crossbow as he walks by.

Lori’s reunion with Rick and Carl is emotionally effective. She lays down on the bed with Carl, telling him he’s going to be okay, that mommy is here, like any mother would. Her free hand slips back to hold Rick’s. Shortly thereafter, Rick is rendered ineffective by his second transfusion. He deliriously mumbles that he needs to go help Shane. Hershel tells him he wouldn’t get across the front yard. And the big survivalist shocker for this week goes to Hershel, who reveals that he’s actually a veterinarian. But at least a very experienced one. With big animals, too. Thank God for the family farm.

Darryl and company arrive back at the interstate. Once T Dog’s condition is revealed, Darryl has the episode’s second best line. They need antibiotics? He snorts and goes over to the motorcycle he’s been driving. It belonged to his vanished low-life of a brother, Merle. Darryl pulls out a stash and starts going through it, runs off a couple of illegal drugs. Then, voila, antibiotics. The line: “Merle tended toward the clap at times.” Or some such. A regular font of humanity, that Merle. But on the positive side of human nature, Dale and Darryl send the others to the farm. They intend to stay on the interstate in case Sophie makes her way back.

The high school with the FEMA center has zombies all over the place. One of the interesting things about mass zombies is the group sound effect. It’s an odd rasping magnified by their numbers. A little too guttural to be insectoid, but quite creepy nonetheless. Shane and Otis work their way to an abandoned police car. It’s getting dark now, but Shane finds a whole bunch of flares and starts tossing them to lead the zombies away. While the raspers stare at the pretty lights, Shane and Otis hit pay dirt.

They’ve got everything they need. Alas, the zombies tumble to them and they get cornered. They shoot out the front doors of the high school and pull a metal gate down over the opening just in time. But they’re pinned with a whole lot of weight is pressing on that gate. And Carl is running out of time.

All in all, pretty entertaining. The Terra Nova producers could learn something from this group about real tension, real dramatic stakes, and keeping your eye on the storytelling ball.

Will Conservatives Like This Episode?

I would think so. Lots of decent, responsible behavior on display and some solid family values.