TV Review: The Walking Dead [SPOILERS]
The Walking Dead – “Sick”
Season 3, Episode 2
Watching an episode like “Sick” reminded me what a strong show The Walking Dead could be when it stuck to its strengths.
While killing zombies would seem to be a fun crutch for the show, it couldn’t last forever without some ingenuity behind the violence. If it could, I’d never have stopped playing Left 4 Dead every day. As season two dragged on, with underdeveloped and boring interpersonal struggles, I gave up on asking this AMC series to be one of the great dramas on television (I stuck to Mad Men and Breaking Bad for that), but I always wanted it to be fun and interesting.
I loved the twists on killing zombies, from Rick and company’s knowing smiles at watching the prisoners trying to shank the undead, to Carol calmly killing one at the fence to teach herself how to perform a cesarean section. Even a rather routine zombie battle later in the episode was elevated to something more enjoyable when the main prisoner attempted to turn one of the zombies into a weapon against Rick.
In one of the good character-defining moments, Rick’s brutal and immediate decision to murder the prisoner he considered a threat was a choice that reminded me of something Shane would have argued for in the past. Without coming across as evil as his friend, Rick looked more and more like Shane this week: a person dead inside. While Shane came off as an argumentative sociopath, Rick was more sympathetic. What Shane was and Rick became are hauntingly similar. It just took Rick, who woke up in the hospital and was the audience perspective on this insane new world order. Now he accepted the new status quo of society; that there is Us and Them and if Them was a threat to Us, you couldn’t afford to think twice about what you needed to do about it. At the end of the day, Shane was someone the audience sided against because he considered Rick a Them.
And while leaving the other prisoner to die in the yard wasn’t as gorey a death scene, it seemed crueler on Rick’s part, even if it was just the most efficient way to get past the problem at the time.
Andrew Lincoln was at his very best when not going for the big melodramatic moments. Hearing the lack of feeling and the utter grim resolution when he told off Lori was a terrific bit of acting. “We’re all grateful for what you did,” was delivered perfectly by Lincoln and was a great blow-off line, distancing Rick from any personal connection to his wife. We tended to forget for a bit that before the zombies and the Shane business, Lori and Rick’s marriage was not entirely smooth. And while the apocalypse might have pushed that to the background for a while, it wasn’t the strongest foundation for them to make it through this as a functional couple. As somebody that never saw what was so appealing about Lori (certainly to the degree that Shane and Rick took their fued to last year), I was somewhat content to see her left alone on that walkway at episode’s end.
The drama around Hershel gave everyone in the group better material. Beth continued to evolve into something beyond an accessory for her sister and father into a more well-rounded character (leaving T-Dogg as the one member of the group I’m not attached to). Glenn and Maggie both impressed as they struggled to face what might need to be done. But the most impressive character continued to be Chandler Riggs, as Carl continued to walk the line between hardened adult (going to get the medical supplies) and overwhelmed child (the terror on his face when it appeared Hershel might have turned).
We didn’t waste any time with Michonne and Andrea this week, which was fine since there was quite a bit a ground to cover, but I worried if this season would lose its momentum when bouncing back and forth between the two groups. The key for The Walking Dead is to keep moving and discovering new crazy and violent things. In past years, slowing down only gave the actors a chance to wallow in their angst and build up unconvincing interpersonal problems to fill the time.
This week, it seemed like after all the loss suffered thus far, Rick finally committed to being as dead inside as he needed to be to protect his people. Whether or not Hershel’s survival undoes part of that character development is something we’ll see as the show moves on.