Even though last night’s “Sick” felt awfully similar to the Season 2 chapter, “Nebraska,” The Walking Dead kept its string of fast-paced and balanced episodes going strong, dealing with five new survivors–inmates of the prison that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the group stormed in the Season 3 premiere.
We’ll recall in “Nebraska” Rick, Hershel (Scott Wilson), and Glenn (Steven Yeun) meet up with two fowl fellows in a bar who describe the situation outside of Georgia, but also prove to be threats. Quick on the draw, Rick exercised hard choices and kills both men, fearing they would hurt the others at the farm house. He felt the threat in their words and actions. Rick and the others were being backed into a corner and no one puts Rick Grimes in a corner.
In “Sick” it is Rick and the others who are the more knowledgeable ones, briefing the five inmates on the wild world outside the confines of the prison walls. But in Rick’s new world order, there was never any real hope for Axel (Lew Temple), Tomas (Nick Gomez), Andrew (Markice Moore), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Big Tiny (Theodus Crane). Rick let them know who was in charge, how they were going to survive, and that half of the food rations belonged to them. How Rick dealt with them afterwards though gives plenty of flesh to chew on.
First there was Big Tiny, who was scratched. Rick knew he was going to turn and probably needed his arm hacked off. You could see it in Rick’s eyes. He had to do it, but wasn’t in a rush to do so because he didn’t care or know these guys from the average walker. Besides, Big Tiny broke formation. But Tomas making mincemeat out of Big Tiny’s head instantly placed him on Rick’s shit list. Seriously, anyone with a spider tattooed on his shoulder is trouble.
From there, Tomas didn’t’ leave Rick much choice. He constantly held a gun to their face, lied about the food supply, shot at walkers when was instructed not to do so, swung his blade close to Rick and then pushed a walker onto Rick. Tomas was one dead amigo. But Rick didn’t wait for Tomas to reach for his gun, or to retaliate from another one of Tomas’ swings of his blade. Rick was judge, jury and executioner with one forceful swing of his machete, right into Tomas’ forehead. This wasn’t self defense, call it payback if you like, for all of Tomas’ near misses. Rick saw a threat, present and future and eliminated Tomas before he could do any more harm.
When it came to Andrew though, Rick took it a step further. He could have let poor Andrew just run into trouble, but Rick followed him, consistent with making sure there were no loose ends to haunt the group. When Andrew knew he was in trouble and saw Rick behind him, he saw him as hope–that he’d help him. And then Rick made the decision to slam the door shut on Andrew, to be ripped to shreds by walkers. For all of those who hated on Shane when he sacrificed Otis to get health supplies for Carl, where do you stand on what Rick did with Andrew? How different is Rick from what Shane became before he died?
Rick: You better run.
Rick led Andrew to his slaughter, and yet he did nothing to really deserve that other than to be associated with Tomas. So what exactly was going through Rick’s head when he did this? Was he really following through and making sure Andrew could pose no threat? Or did was he acting out some aggression he had built up from being wired the last 8-10 months? Or did he just not want another responsibility? He spared Oscar and Axel; perhaps that was a result of what he allowed to happen with Andrew. Axel pleaded for his life while Oscar didn’t. A man who values his life and another who has too much pride to beg for his. No doubt, we haven’t seen the last of them and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both join the group by the end of the season.
In the background was Hershel fighting for his life after Rick severed his right leg off below the knee to keep him from going “Z.” His gory decision saved Hershel momentarily, Carol made sure he didn’t bleed out and Lori saved him one final time when he stopped breathing–a full circle when you consider that Hershel saved Carl’s life in Season 2.
Hershel’s daughters quarreled over whether or not it was okay to let go of him. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) was prepared to say goodbye while Beth (Emily Kinney) was not. Maybe Maggie, who was part of Rick’s front line of attack realized that her father is not cut out for this world. It would be easier for her not to have to take care of him. Maybe she’s overwhelmed by it all and would rather see him die quietly than become a walker like her mother. Beth, still young, still sheltered from the ugly and harsh, remained the hopeful one. There is some small similarities to how Andrea and Amy’s relationship was in Season 1. With Hershel surviving, he is now a major liability given his lack of mobility and blood loss and how Beth and Maggie care for their father from this point forward should be something to watch, as well as it affecting Glenn.
Amidst all of this walker-killing action, we got those great, quiet, character building moments back at the jail cells where Hershel nearly died. But rather than draw his unconsciousness for several episodes like Carl last season, The Walking Dead writers have kept the show moving despite the survivors settling into another building. They’ve made sure to keep the adrenaline and blood pumping vigorously through every minute of the first two episodes. The show has embraced the zombie aspect and has satisfied all fronts so far. They continue to keep the show from devolving into a mindless video game, yet never having the drama between characters dominate the show two or three episodes in a row. With respect to what Frank Darabont helped develop, Glen Mazzara and crew have taken The Walking Dead to a new high.
One more update on Rick and Lori’s disintegrating marriage, for those who care. Lori once again gives him Rick the okay to kill the inmates if he believes that it’s best for the group, only to have Rick throw Shane’s death in her face. There are two key conversations for between the characters in “Sick”
Rick: You say this now…
Lori: I know that I’m a shitty wife and I’m not winning any mother of the year awards… but not for one second do I think there’s malice in your heart. You’re not a killer and I know that.
Rick (later): For the record I don’t think you’re a bad mother.
Lori: Life is a different story. Better or worse, right? What are we going to do, hire lawyers, get a divorce and split our assets? I thought you were coming out here to talk about us.
Rick: I’m awful grateful for what you did.
Notice that Rick comforted Lori to support her parenting, but not to wipe away the “shitty wife” comment. He walks away, thanking her for what she did for Hershel but avoided addressing the problems between them. Time has not healed these two, it’s only divided them further apart as Rick continues to think about Lori hooking up with Shane and then egging him on to kill his best friend. I can’t take my eyes off these two and I know the hate directed at Lori has always been high, but I do think Sarah Wayne Callies does a terrific job.
They are playing this relationship out honestly and how both have been true to each character. The tendency in television is to find some artificial repair, but Rick clearly views Lori as just another person in his camp he has to keep alive and there has been little to feel secure about. It’s as if he’s already made the decision the baby is Shane’s and that he cares very little for it. It’s in serious danger.
Then again, the same could be said about every other plot this season.
More Rotting Flesh
• A whole episode with no Michonne! This season is going to balance what happens with the prison and Woodbury, but I’m not going to lie, after a taste of Michonne, I wanted a lot more this episode. Based on the previews for next week, anyone else starving for some katana-splattering action will get their fill.
• Somebody is watchin Carol playing operation with a walker corpse. Who could it be? Morgan and Duane? The Governor?
• It was no surprise to see Carl and Lori snap at each other when he wandered off to get medical supplies but to see Beth snap at Carl to treat his mother better was. And because Carl developed some sort of small crush on Beth he was probably embarrassed.
Lori: We’ll give Carl a safe place to… do whatever he does these days.
• Those rare moments of comedy really help take the seriousness out of the show for a brief time and The Walking Dead really needs that once in a while. The inmates beating on the walkers in prison riot fashion was one that cracked me up.
How do you think Rick handled the inmates? How many of you were like Maggie, hoping for Hershel’s death? Share your thoughts on “Sick” below.