Walking Dead Episode 202
The second episode of the season features medical drama, family drama and flashback drama. Maybe the thing we have to fear the most in a zombie apocalypse is that we’ll all bore each other to death.
The opening flashback scene showed us what it was like when Lori found out from Shane that Rick had been shot, way back before the dead began to walk the Earth. The only notable thing about this scene (aside from reinforcing the ongoing tale of Rick and Lori’s struggle to hold their family together and the bond of friendship between Rick and Shane) was that the soccer moms milling around in the background of the scene waiting to pick their kids up from school totally reminded me of the zombies shuffling around the high school when Shane and Otis make their medical supply raid later. Intentional?
The first tension of the episode comes from zombie apocalypse ER, including surgery on a child with no anesthetic. We meet veterinarian Hershel Greene, his daughters, and Otis the hunter. Otis is played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, who should be familiar to horror fans as he has an impressive genre pedigree. His roles seem to alternate between creepy, psychotic weirdo and pitiable oaf (he’s also the second X-Files alumnus I’ve spotted in The Walking Dead — Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea, had an ongoing role in seasons five and six as one of Mulder’s informants, Marita Covarrubias).
Daryl once again cements himself as the best character on the show. Aside from his overall competence, he’s got the no-nonsense attitude you’d need to get things done in a world wracked by an undead plague. His best line this week reveals that he’s way deeper than the redneck stereotype you probably had him pegged as: “I’ll tell you what it’s worth: not a damn thing. It’s a waste of time, all this hopin’ and prayin’…am I the only who’s Zen around here?” So, bad-ass, bowhunting Daryl also has the pragmatism of a practicing Buddhist? Nice.
Unfortunately, revealing this hidden depth of Daryl’s character highlights one of The Walking Dead’s biggest flaws. The show is supposedly character-driven, which might excuse an episode that’s 95 percent people flappin’ their gums at reach other. The problem is, other than Daryl and Rick (and to a lesser extent Shane and Lori), most of the characters are boring and one-dimensional. Quick, tell me something interesting about Glenn. T-Dog? Describe Carol’s personality without using the phrase, “worried mom.” Not much to talk about is there? Yet talk they do. It makes you wish this was more of a zombie-driven series than a character-driven one.
It seems the writers realized the episode was a little light on the undead, so they threw in the random attack on Andrea in the woods. That’s cool, it provided an excuse for Maggie Greene’s impromptu game of zombie polo. All the build-up was for Shane and Otis and their assault on the FEMA medical station at the nearby high school. Using the flares as a distraction was a good idea, but we continue to see inconsistencies in zombie behavior. They’re drawn by the light of the flares, but not the movement of Shane and Otis throwing them?
The chase as they fled the trailer was intense. Admit it, you were worried that chubby, friendly Otis wasn’t going to be able to outrun the zombies. The cliffhanger ending leaves Otis and Shane trapped with a horde of zombies clawing at them mere inches away through a security cage that looks all too precarious.
There was plenty to speculate about in episode two, though. Let’s talk about the Greene family farm. I can understand finding other pockets of survivors here and there, but that place was pristine! Gleaming white walls, fancy linens on the bed (before Carl went and bled all over it). None of the windows were broken or even boarded up. No corpses. Nothing burned. What’s their secret? It’s not just isolation — they’re only five miles from a hive of zombie activity.
Hershel Greene brought up an interesting idea, too. He described how nature tends to bring plagues back into balance. If we examine a zombie plague from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, can we extrapolate some kind of endpoint? The plague spreads via bite. Carriers of the plague need to devour living flesh for some reason. Not for survival, because zombies seem to go on unliving no matter how long they go between meals (or are all those corpses in the abandoned cars zombies that starved to death?). We can see from the example of Bicycle Girl and other zombies that natural decay processes go on even after a person is infected. At some point, all the zombies in the world will rot away to nothing. It takes a non-embalmed corpse left open to the elements less than a year to decompose to dry bones. Maybe the survivors only need to hold out for a few more months.