October 22, 2012

Episode Review: THE WALKING DEAD, "Sick"

Episode 2 of the new season of The Walking Dead once again kept things relatively simple (if you don't count the massive amount of zombie kills), but it wasn't just chopping and shooting because "Sick" gave viewers a glimpse of what kind of man Rick has become since the start of his dictatorship.

This time around the action was contained to the prison with half of the group dealing with the convicts who were left behind, and the other half keeping an eye on a one-legged Hershel. The main question was what should be done with the prisoners. After Rick went head to head with the Tomas, the leader of the new band of misfits, it was decided that the two groups would share the fortress. Since it was obvious that there was enough food to keep the stowaways alive for almost a year, Rick decided to help them set up shop in their own cell block, and he along with Daryl and T-Dog would give the newbies a crash course in how to survive in this new world for half of their rations. Tomas reluctantly agreed, but things quickly went sideways when they ran into multiple herds of walkers, and he had to take out one of his own guys during one of the skirmishes. At that point, Rick and Daryl were distrustful of Tomas, and sure enough he sicked a walker on Rick but his trusty second-in-command was there to make the save. Rick didn't have the patience to put up with that kind of betrayal, so he embedded a machete into Tomas' head and chased another prisoner into a courtyard full of zombies and let them have at him. He decided to have mercy on the surviving two and let them live on their own side of the prison.

Meanwhile, Lori and the rest of the group looked over Hershel since he had passed out and remained unconscious. Maggie tried to prepare Beth for the real possibility that their father may not survive, but her sister refused to give up hope. Things were not looking good, and they didn't have enough supplies to keep Hershel alive, so Carl took it upon himself to find the infirmary. Even though his side mission was a success, Lori scolded him in front of his new crush, and he ran off after Beth also reprimanded him. There was a moment when it looked like Hershel had passed away, but a quick thinking Lori was able to resuscitate him with mouth to mouth.

After the entire ordeal, Lori was able to get away for a bit until Rick found her and reassured her that she was not a horrible mother. When she brought up their marriage and whether or not she was a good wife, Rick avoided the conversation, thanked her for saving Hershel's life and patted her on the shoulder before walking off.

In some ways, "Sick" was not very different than some of the weaker Season 2 chapters. The story was confined to one location, and there were some discussions about what's right and wrong in the post-walker world, but it didn't spin its wheels like those that came before it. Instead of taking days to figure out what to do with the prisoners, Rick made a firm decision to let them live in a separate cell block without any debate, and he did not hesitate to kill those who posed a threat to him or his group. The Rick of old would not have acted so swiftly or savagely, but this was a new Rick, and boy was he more entertaining to watch.

What made his evolution even more griping was the fact that you can tell that he's still a good person deep down. He may have killed Tomas and let the walkers devour the other guy, but you could still see the toll that his actions had on him. It's this kind of murky morality that should have underlined all of last season, but the show was too afraid to go there. Thankfully, that's no longer the case.

Another reason why "Sick" worked better than previous installments was the emotion that was involved. It wasn't all about dark Rick disposing of random people because the Hershel plot grounded the episode due to its life or death stakes. Hershel and his family probably suffered the most during Season 2 because they were given the least amount of development, but somewhere along the way I started to care about the old guy and his daughters, and this story gave Lauren Conrad and Emily Kinney some good material to work with.

The only downside of the episode was the overabundance of Lori. Again, she drags the show down whenever she's on screen, but at least she was self-aware enough to admit that she's a horrible person. I don't know if it was enough to get me to actually care about her, but at least she's unlikable now instead of wholly detestable. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that her marriage will be a major plot point this season, and I'm already bracing myself for disappointment on that front. Then again, she very well may surprise us all.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Carol's C-plot about her practicing her Cesarean skills made sense, but it also kind of stuck out and felt like it was shoved in to let us know that someone's watching the prison.
  • I don't know why, but the fact that they left Hershel's leg behind in the cafeteria made me laugh.
  • Come to think of it, this was a pretty funny episode in a twisted way because watching the prisoners shank the walkers while our heroes looked on was worth a few chuckles.
  • Honestly, I was a little sad to see Big Tiny and Tomas go. I actually thought they could've made things even more interesting.
  • I still don't like the idea of Carl having feelings for Beth, but I couldn't help but feel for him when Beth scolded him for disrespecting his mother.
  • Speaking of Beth, I'm still digging her in spite of her limited screen time. I guess I really can't blame Carl.
"Sick" proved that it could keep the zombie-killing action revving while also giving the audience some decent character development and emotional moments. It's just too bad that it took the show so long to figure out how to make it all work, and part of me is still not sure it can keep it going, but at least it looks promising after two episodes.


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