The Walking Dead: "Nebraska" (Season 2, Episode 8)

Flabbergasted

When last we left our intrepid band of survivors, they’d just finished the Barnyard Zombie Massacre. And of course it had been revealed that little Sophia was already dead; she came out of the barn last. Sherriff Rick did the mercy shot to the head.

We pick up exactly there. Everyone is in shock, some sobs sounding. Just to make sure it’s as awful as humanly possible, one of the farm girls walks into the field of dead zombies looking for her mother. Of course her zombie mother isn’t dead and grabs her. The others manage to pull the daughter safely away, with T-Dogg kicking zombie mom in the head and Andrea finishing her off with a scythe. Hershel and company have now had all they can take. An acrimonious retreat to the farm house follows.

Beyond that, it’s a fairly low key episode with a little Clint Eastwood garnish at the end. Yes, the show is still talky. Yes, the show occasionally still does stray into “telling” instead of “showing.” But even in low key mode, it’s got some great moments. And those stem from the core strength it has exhibited up to now—a healthy respect for ambiguity. There are no cartoons on this show. For example, raging Shane still refuses to become the embodiment of evil, because in the very next moment you see him alone looking after Sophia’s broken mother, washing the filth off her hands where she’d been venting on flowers, plants and the earth, and talking to her as best he can. And good old Rick? We get a shot of ice cold Rick at the end.

That’s the show’s strength—people. It’s talky because it’s about people in an impossible situation doing whatever they do. They’re the walking dead, and they’re interesting.

That said, people who were complaining the first half of the season was slow will still have grounds for that complaint. I kind of like it that everyone gets a moment, with some of them even memorable. Lori is horrified when her son, Carl, says it was right for Rick to shoot Sophia, that he’d have done it, too. But of course, it was right. Nothing else to do. And there’s a great little snapshot of desensitization with Andrea. The crew has loaded up zombie bodies in a pickup truck bed. They have to leave the tailgate down and Andrea is sitting on it; as they head out, she yells for the truck to stop. An arm has fallen off. She gets down, retrieves it, tosses it on the pile and sits back down.

Bet that makes the list of 1001 things you never expected to do with your pickup.

The main driver of this episode is Hershel. After the funeral for the immediate family zombies, he decides to go to a bar and get drunk. It’s a bar he used to get drunk at a lot years ago before he reformed. Naturally, one of the women at the farm goes into shock from the day’s events, so they need Hershel. Rick and Glen head into town to get him. Before they do, Hershel’s step-daughter, Maggie, tells Glen that she loves him. Glen doesn’t know what to say, feels like an idiot that he didn’t answer. Rick congenially agrees he was an idiot in the car, while noting on the plus side that it’s not like she has anywhere to go. He’ll get a second chance.

That’s men for you.

In the bar, Rick and Hershel exchange soliloquies about hopelessness. For some reason Lori heads off in a car to rush them back even sooner. That feels like a blatant plot device. And yep, it becomes one when she hits a walker and her car crashes. Obviously that sort of thing isn’t helpful for unborn babies, but we’ll have to wait until next week to find out her exact situation.

The show’s highlight set piece occurs next. Two new survivors, Dave and Tony, show up in the bar. They start chatting up Rick and Hershel while Glen watches. It’s an interesting exchange. Starts friendly enough. No dummies, these strangers, either. They pick up on cues, finally come flat out and say it—Rick and company obviously have some place to stay. They’re looking for a place to stay, too. Hmmm. They do seem a bit menacing. But maybe that’s just how desperate people on the run in an Apocalypse come across.

Rick says no. They kind of plead. It’s a nice bit of writing because, in a tough guy way, they sound like Rick pleading with Hershel in earlier episodes. They can’t take it out there on their own anymore. Shades of “don’t send us back out there.” It’s an engrossing and nasty scene that finally turns to gunplay. And Rick, nice old Rick, who has been such a disappointment to Shane, kills Dave before he can get off a single shot. Tony follows before he can manage a meaningful one.

Was that whole sequence of events justified?

Was it right?

Who can say. It’s the walking dead in an impossible situation, doing whatever it is they do.

Will Conservatives Like This Episodes?

Nice gun play at the end, so I’ll say yes.

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