On last week’s episode, our intrepid group of zombie apocalypse survivors found a prison and killed a lot of zombies to enter said prison. Hershel got bitten in the leg, Rick cut off said leg, and they found five other survivors who were prisoners.
This week’s episode had a few different narrative threads going on – Hershel on his “death bed,” Lori’s issues, Rick and “the men” deal with the prisoner survivors, and Carol decides that she wants to be a midwife. Only about half of these worked, unfortunately, and this episode seemed to backslide somewhat from last week’s strong season opener. That being said, this week’s episode didn’t shy away from some pretty awesome kills and did take us into some interesting places with Rick and Lori’s relationship, as well as with the new prisoner characters.
Relating to the Hershel thread, we pick off right where we left off from last week. Rick and the others swiftly hoist the old timer onto a cart, his stump gushing with blood. Rick wheels Hershel away, leaving his amputated calf in a pool of blood in the middle of the floor as the prisoner survivors watch in horror. Hershel spends the rest of the episode in a pseudo-coma as the women and Glenn watch over him. When he stops breathing, Lori makes the extremely rash decision to give him mouth-to-mouth, and, yes, he does start breathing again. But really, mouth-to-mouth if he is bound to come back as a flesh-eating zombie at any minute?
Tying right into the “Lori’s issues” thread here, Lori seems to do a lot in this episode to take away from any viewer sympathy she might have gained last week as she voiced her fears over her unborn baby’s future, as well as the strain in her marriage and her relationship to Carl. This week, for instance, she even says to Rick, “Look – I know that I’m a shitty wife, and I’m not winning any mother of the year awards.” And how! Lori risks her life and her unborn baby’s life by trying to resuscitate Hershel. He is technically dead and is liable to “rise again” and bite off her face, infecting her and her baby. Is Lori just so depressed about everything that she just doesn’t care? Is she really hard-pressed on saving Hershel? Perhaps both, but even if she does have a death wish, she still has a little boy to take care of… if she could ever find him, that is.
As he does many times in seasons past, Carl wanders off… AND NO ONE NOTICES. He comes back with a bag of medical supplies after having found the prison hospital all by himself. After all, he has to make the best use of his time while being completely unattended – and does what the adults probably should have done some time ago. Lori yells at him, almost out of habit, it seems, but when she has a talk with Rick later, she acts completely blasé about the boy, saying, “We’ll give Carl a safe place to do whatever he does these days.” She probably should know what Carl is doing at all times, given that there aren’t too many other people in their group, and while he is wearing a ten-gallon hat, it’s only sitting on about a five-gallon kid’s head.
“Where’s Carl?” is still Lori’s catchphrase this season. The fact that Lori is being painted as so unsympathetic doesn’t exactly bode well for her mortality.
Lori and Rick’s extremely strained relationship does work in this episode, however. After Lori revives Hershel, she and Rick go outside to talk alone. The typical thing that would happen here is that they would be reunited by their shared careless abandon in saving Hershel at various points. Instead, they go the more realistic route and talk about how getting a divorce would be pointless, as, yeah, it’s the zombie apocalypse. In lieu of a hug, Rick puts his hand on her shoulder, and without looking at her he says of the Hershel rescue, “We’re awful grateful for what you did.” He speaks as the leader of a group, not her husband – their marriage is over. This scene is very well done and diverges from the expected.
Apparently, in the gap between Seasons Two and Three, Carol was under Hershel’s tutelage to learn medical stuff. This “development” is really tacked on, it seems, as it is only mentioned now. Carol is dead-set on learning how to perform a C-Section on Lori (because she can foresee her needing one and all) and with Glenn’s help, obtains a lady zombie to practice on.
Yes, that’s really what they do.
Now for the much cooler prisoners thread. These five surviving prisoners are really out of the loop of the zombie apocalypse. When Rick and the others tell them that Hershel “got bit,” they are really confused. While they have heard rumors about people coming back from the dead and attacking others, they are completely in the dark about there no longer being a government structure or phone service, and that no one is coming to save them. Daryl tries to kick them out of the prison, saying, “Today’s your lucky day, fellas. You’ve been pardoned by the state of Georgia, you’re free to go.”
Led by Tomas, the prisoners eventually strike up a deal with Rick that they will give Rick and company half their food in exchange for ammo enough to help clear out another cellblock. Prisoners with ammo? Sounds like a great idea, guys! The prisoners aren’t too adept at zombie killing – ignoring the tutelage of Rick, Daryl and T-Dog, they go at the zombies prison riot style, carelessly stabbing them in the stomach instead of the head.
After some continuous zombie slaughter, they get the hang of it, though the majestically sized Big Tiny is scared and starts to back away from the zombies into an empty room. In perhaps the best sequence of the episode, a prisoner zombie wearing handcuffs comes from behind him. Big Tiny offers a swift blow to the head, but it’s unfortunately not enough. Recalling the limb-rotting of the Brundle Fly, the zombie tries to wiggle it’s hand out of the cuffs – and the hand rots off completely, leaving a sharp string of bloody, pulpy wrist/forearm bones, which the zombie uses to stab poor Big Tiny in the back. The Cronenbergian zombie kill is very impressive indeed – and is sad because Big Tiny is by far the most likeable new character.
The other prisoners balk at killing the infected Big Tiny, who pleads for his life, but Tomas goes all Scarface on his ass, bashing Big Tiny’s head in with sadistic glee, spraying blood all over his face and the wall behind him. Tomas continues to be a bad seed, as when the prisoners join forces with Rick, et al in a larger zombie fight, he throws a “live” zombie onto Rick, who knows this guy is a loose cannon. Rick and Tomas then wordlessly declare a staring contest, which Rick ends fairly quickly by whipping out a machete and smashes it into Tomas’ head.
Rick locks one remaining prisoner outside to get eaten by zombies, and the remaining two in an abandoned cellblock. Way harsh, Rick. The prisoner scenes were the most intriguing in the episode, but because of that, it’s almost a waste that these new characters are eliminated from the show so quickly. Big Tiny was great, and Tomas would have been a good foe for Rick. There does promise to be bigger fish for Rick to fry, however, as the sadistic Governor is poised to make an appearance in the prison later on this season.
The Upside: There were some notable zombie effects (especially the Brundle Fly-esque rotted hand), the prisoner scenes were top-notch, and the dissolution of the Rick/Lori relationship rang very true.
The Downside: Lori’s continued issues with keeping track of Carl, wannabe-midwife Carol, and getting rid of the prisoner’s too early.
On the Side: Next week seems to take us out of the prison altogether, as Andrea and Michonne meet The Governor – looks exciting!