One of the biggest complaints of the second season of The Walking Dead was the drawn out mystery of what happened to Sophia (Madison Lintz). Geez, give a show six episodes and everyone complains it’s too rushed, give them 13 and everyone says not enough happens. Sophia’s disappearance in all honesty derailed our group en route to Fort Benning. Instead of being on the move, our main survivors remained stationary while they searched for a missing girl and questioned: At what point do you throw your arms up and give up? Carl (Chandler Riggs) got shot, patched up and healed in the first half of this season. We got to know our main characters more, saw them mingle with others who are blissfully ignorant of the degree of the apocalypse, and watched how everyone is getting on each other’s nerves. Pain and anger from season one still sits on the tips of tongues and yet the safety of the farm gave the group time to reflect and figure out what kind of catharsis would help trigger their evolution in the end of the world. But when the walker formerly known as Sophia emerged from the barn at the end of last night’s episode, it made every minute of season two worthwhile.
How many of you said under your breath, “Noooooooo,” as she staggered into the sunlight? It was as if she had been reborn, taking her first steps… and eventually, her last. How many identified with Carol (Melissa McBride) who knew she would never hold her daughter again? How many felt Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) rage as Sophia was one of the things keeping him hopeful? How many of you were agreeing with Shane (Jon Bernthal) moments before, when he exposed the truth about walkers to Hershel (Scott Wilson)?
It was such a heart-breaking scene to witness, but to have viewers wait all that time to find her hiding in a tree trunk or a shoe closet of an abandoned house, alive, would have served no purpose. Sophia’s fate has much more significance–more gravitas. Often times we shrug off the deaths of most zombies. We cheer on the gore as if we are watching gladiators battle–not this time. This wasn’t the bloated well-walker or the ones that attacked Daryl in the forest gorge. Since the barn walkers were known, it made it harder to stomach the massacre. It was necessary, but once again, the The Walking Dead writers found a way to humanize the walkers, no matter how well acquainted we were with the fallen. Let’s remember Morgan (Lennie James) unable to shoot his wife, the early stages of Jim’s sickness (Andrew Rothenberg) after being scratched and then there was the overnight turning of Amy (Emma Bell) after her neck eaten off.
For all the big talk that Shane spewed before his guns went blazing–and no matter how correct he was–he couldn’t pull the trigger when it came to Sophia’s reveal of becoming a walker. We are so trained to see it all work on television, to see the happy ending. But that’s not The Walking Dead. It was so easy for everyone to pop a cap into walkers that they didn’t know, but the minute Sophia emerged, all remaining hope disintegrated. But she couldn’t be spared, not after what they did to Hershel’s loved ones. It was extremely poetic, a just and fitting way it all unfolded and brought the arguments between Shane-Rick, Rick-Hershel, and Shane-Daryl on a crash collision course; most importantly, it made Sophia, a character who only had a handful of lines have the most significant death within the group so far. So why was Rick (Andrew Lincoln) the only one who could do it?
First he is their leader and after being questioned about being able to do what’s right, it was the only thing he could have done. Secondly, he felt responsible for her disappearance, for his failed search and rescue, and that she became a walker too underlined Shane’s argument to Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) against Rick.
Shane: Rick ain’t built for this world.
Shane has done more to protect the group than Rick. Even when Rick seemed like the hero, Shane pointed out that his debt to Daryl to retrieve Merle/guns put the others at risk. Amy, Jim, and even Carol’s husband all got attacked at the camp while Rick was away. It left the camp undermanned and inexperienced. Rick may always have the best intentions in mind but his actions have put the group at risk time and time again. Maybe Rick isn’t built for this world, but that last act may have his first step in Shane’s mad (but appropriate) world. Lastly, Rick needed to send a message to Hershel about what must be done with all walkers no matter who they were before.
More Rotten Thoughts
• Robert Kirkman revealed some of Sophia’s back-story on The Talking Dead special that aired at midnight with Chris Hardwick. He explained that it was Otis’ job to corral any walkers that were found stuck in the swamps that surrounded the farm. When Otis’ died, so too did the regular checks for trapped walkers. Otis found Sophia as a random walker and put her in the barn before he even shot Carl or could have told Hershel. He was still nice enough (or ridden with guilt) to help Shane and Rick out by helping get the medical supplies.
• Rick has now shot two young girl walkers in the head, which would lead me to believe that he will have karma bite him back by giving him a baby daughter (if they choose to keep it).
• Rick was not happy wrangling the walkers for Hershel. Did anyone else notice when Hershel was advising Rick to lead the zombie and “be the carrot, not the stick,” that Rick turned the zombie away from him behind Hershel’s back so that he was the carrot.
It’s hard to believe that there’s still another half season to go, thankfully. We head into mid-season break with so many questions and so many possible directions that could result from the barn massacre. We’ll explore what those storylines will be later this week, so be sure to check back and tune into The Walking Dead on AMC when it resumes on February 12, 2012.