Monday, November 28, 2011

The Walking Dead Ep 7: Pretty Much Dead Already

Before we start this week’s entry, my Walking Dead writing partner has been looking up some great zombie-themed Christmas ideas for the walker lover in all of you. Next week we’ll be posting some of those little treats for y’all. Until then, it’s time for the last episode until February…

Nikki: I can’t help it. I have to begin with the end of this episode. How can I begin to describe my reaction? After listening to Shane’s big speech about no longer seeing these zombies as people, but things – dangerous things that can kill you – he throws open the doors to the barn and begins shooting at them as they wander out into the daylight. Hershel looks on, horrified, but in most shows there would be a specifically big moment where his wife wandered out, he’d yell, “NOOO!” and Shane would turn, have a moment of looking him in the eye, and then turn back to finish the job. But that didn’t happen. Each walker was like the last, and each “kill” was as painful as the one before it. So for me, I kept thinking how awful it must be for Hershel to watch this, because he knew these people (he knew the ones down by the river, and no doubt knew many of the others in the barn, too). But I couldn’t imagine how he must have felt, because to me, they were just things, too. Just like they were to Shane.

And then… there was one more. I said to my husband, “It must be Hershel’s wife. This is where he’s going to fight Shane.” “No, it’s a little girl, I think,” said my husband. “Ah, it must be the stepson, remember he mentioned the stepson?” And then the camera panned out.

I literally dropped my pen into my lap and slapped my hand over my mouth and whisper-screamed, “Oh my god it’s Sophia!” and without any warning, I began crying. It was such an instant and unexpected reaction to this scene, but with everything Shane had just said about these walkers being things and not people, coupled with Carol’s scream (which echoed mine), and Sophia walking out slowly, quietly, yet with purpose, I couldn’t help it. The little girl was dead. I had flashes in my head of what she must have gone through, how she would have been alone in the woods, scared for her life as the walkers descended on her and mangled her little body. How she’s been trapped in that barn for days, with people continuing to risk their lives for her.

But mostly, I screamed because I still had hope. Unlike Carol, unlike Shane, I was like Carl and Daryl – I had hope. I really wanted her to be alive. SO much. And you know how the other walkers have those blank, evil, nasty stares? Her eyes looked beautiful. They weren’t just white and milky, but ethereal and shining. She was still a lovely little girl, even as a walker. Was I just seeing her the way Carol was?

And of course it was Rick who would pull that trigger. After all his talk and bluster, after getting everyone else on board, Shane just stood there, numb and in shock. Rick was the one who had to shake himself out of his stupor, walk down that path, grab the gun and kill the creature that was once Sophia. He still feels responsible for having left her by that tree, and he feels like he has to be the one to end things for her. Just as Andrea killed the walker that used to be her sister, Rick takes out Sophia. And with that bullet, so much hope died.

It was extraordinary storytelling, putting us in Hershel’s shoes, then in Shane’s, where no matter what side you were on before, you were probably in agreement with him when you saw those things walk out of the barn… and then putting you right back in the shoes of the person who still sees them as people. Devastating, heartbreaking, and extraordinary television.

Josh: Well, because I missed watching live last night, I finished the episode mere moments before sitting down to type these words, and I'm typing clumsily because my hands are still shaking. The entire final act, from the moment Shane first strode up to the farmhouse porch, was spectacularly intense and a perfect example of why my wife won't watch this show with me. And also why, despite its faults, I so enjoy it.

When I wrote that something big was needed to wrap up the story of the search for Sophia, this was not at all what I had in mind. Fortunately, it's much better than anything I had in mind. And when I say 'better,' of course, what I mean is better for the show. For our cast of survivors? Worse. Much, much worse. I'm with you, Nikki, in that I did not see that coming at all. ['THE WALKING DEAD' COMIC SPOILER ALERT] And perhaps I should have done so, but this is another of those cases when my having read the source material serves to heighten my experience rather than hinder it, since the comics are at ninety issues and counting now, and Sophia is alive and well. Bless their hearts for confounding my expectations, too, because it gutted me when she shuffled out of that barn.[END SPOILER]

Now that Sophia's story has ended, my mind reels with possibilities for what happens next. The issue of whether or not the group stays at Hershel's farm would hold a lot more significance for me if I thought they were half as sheltered as they all seem to believe. And after firing roughly two hundred rounds in the barnyard (what happened to quiet weapons? ammo conservation?), every walker in a fifty mile radius is bound to be headed their way. Is this the end of their safe haven? What do you think, Nikki?

Nikki: The discussion my husband and I had immediately following the episode was, did Hershel and his family KNOW that little girl was Sophia? How many little girls could there have been within those woods? They knew that Daryl and Shane and Andrea were out there day after day risking life and limb for that little girl, and they didn’t think to mention, “Oh, she MIGHT actually be undead.” My husband thinks they knew, and I’m desperately trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, there was a clip of the next episode (coming in FEBRUARY… wah) shown during Hell on Wheels that raised that very issue. At this point, the survivors will be lucky if Hershel doesn’t walk into that house, throw his bible in the garbage and turn on all of them with a gun.

My worry is, he’s going to walk in that house and turn a gun on himself.

I’m really hoping that the events of the end of the episode will actually force them off the farm and back into the world, because then the story will pick up again. I was chatting with a work colleague at lunch today about it and he said he’d been ready to give up, and said, “That episode where Daryl was walking through the woods… how long was that script? A page?! ‘Man walks through forest for 20 minutes. Sees spectre of dead brother. Walks back.’” I know a lot of fans were feeling that way, and while this season seemed to be an extended version of My Dinner with Andre and featured more existentialist conversation than zombie-stompin’, I think the end of it was (thankfully) a pay-off. The conversation mostly revolved around the idea of should we stay or should we go? Is Sophia alive or is she dead? You had those who were insisting on staying – Rick, Lori, Carl, Glenn, Carol, Daryl (how have I never noticed their names rhyme before now?) – and those who were insisting on going – namely Shane, with Andrea backing him. T-Dog's been mostly a background character with no dialogue all season; Dale’s always against Shane but it’s not clear he wants to stay on the farm, either.

So after all that talk, it all came down to that moment, and felt worth it. But they really, REALLY need to move on and make things interesting again, or I’m not sure how many people will be sticking around for S3.

Josh: Sadly true. And gee, that's almost all there is to talk about, isn't it? We're concise today, dude! High five!

There were two more quick things I wanted to mention. First, if it turns out Hershel knew that the girl they were searching for was likely the same one he had in the barn, then he's a dead man – Daryl will slit his throat while he sleeps, and that will be that. Second, I really hope they don't kill Shane at the end of this season like I think they will, because this loose cannon stuff is awesome. He's so unhinged at this point that whatever happens moving forward will just feel like marking time until he snaps.

Any final words, Nikki, as we move into the midseason break?

Nikki: Good final thoughts! I kind of agree on Shane… I can’t stand the guy, but he certainly adds a lot of tension in every scene he’s in. Part of me really wants Zombie Otis to come back and feed on him, though. Walker karma.

Speaking of karma, I did have one last thing I wanted to talk about, and it was regarding the use of religion on this show, especially in Hershel and earlier in the season when they were in the church. I was recently having a discussion with a friend of mine. I identify as Christian (I know that makes me a minority in the community of reasonable-thinking people) and this person used to be, but is now a devout atheist. He said he thought the church scene was the most ridiculous thing in the world. “Seriously,” he said, “if people honestly still think there’s a God after the world has turned to shit and their friends and family have become zombies, then they’re more fucked up than they were to begin with.” (Okay, so this person wasn't exactly sympathetic to anyone's faith in the room at the time... hahaha!) He thought it was bad storytelling. I, on the other hand, said I thought they’d handled that scene beautifully (and I think I commented on it at the time): In a time when nothing makes sense, people turn to faith and God often in desperation. They pray because it’s the one thing they know. They believe that if nothing else will get them out of this, maybe God will. I don’t go to church or talk about my beliefs (since most of the people I know are atheists or agnostics anyway) but I know that when something happens to one of my kids, I’m sitting in the emergency room thinking, “Please please please let them be OK…” I’ll pray to just about anything at that point. And so will a lot of other people. But also in that scene you had the atheists who just didn't give the cross a second thought. And you had those like Rick who hadn't really thought about it in a long time, but now began to pray.

And, as my friend suggested, I think there would also be a lot of people who had faith before the apocalypse, and would think exactly what he suggested -- I don't believe there could be a God if He allowed this to happen.

As this episode implies, when you have time to stop running from the walkers and think things through, maybe the Bible just isn’t effective anymore. It was written in a time when walkers weren’t in the world, when you weren’t running for your life from demons. New religions will no doubt crop up to take the place of whatever religion doesn’t work anymore. That said, I found it interesting that Hershel was reading Luke 8, and I’m pretty sure I know exactly what section he was reading, Luke 8:26. When you see what it is, you realize the faint hope he was holding onto so desperately, praying to God that maybe this one story just might be true…

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.


Colleen/redeem147 said...

I hate being spoiled - I was home too late for the 9pm showing, so I watched Hell on Wheels first and then the 11pm WD. And there was a clip - with a line from a February episode asking who put her in the barn = and I knew Sophia must be the her. I KNOW I should have gone in the bathroom.

I also know whether Hershel knew, but that's from watching Talking Dead. They're all very chatty.

Batcabbage said...

They're working really hard to make Shane completely unlikeable, aren't they? From his full-on 'they're not people (unless I've met them, of course)' rants to his 'I don't wanna here you talkin' like that again' usurper-parenting of Carl, don't you just wish he'd get bubonic plague and, I don't know, explode or something? I know I do!

Batkitty and I are discussing the episode right now, and she's just come up with something interesting. She says 'I can see Dale's point of view of hiding the guns. As good an idea as it was, the downfall is that Dale would be the only one who knew the hiding place, and like Shane says, they haven't really explored the swamp, and in an emergency, like a surprise herd showing up, it doesn't seem logical having the guns so far away.' I think that's valid, given that the walkers are completely unpredictable.

I loved the ending. Rick's now shown why he is the leader. He's the one who can make those decisions, the hard ones needed for the group to survive. That must have been hell for him, doing what he had to do, but he did it, walked straight on up when everyone else was frozen, and took care of it. It was a great final scene, and worthy of what we'd come to expect from this show. I feel sorry for him, because that's a helluva burden, but that's who he is.

I was thinking on the 'wow, this season is REAL slow issue'. You know, last year season 1 was over an episode ago. I'm glad they've got more time to tell this season's story. OK, so it slowed down a little (alright, a LOT!), but they've got more to work with this time. I tell you, though, the wait for episode wait will suck most hard.

VW: leggis - an alternative to haggis for those too squeamish to eat the original.

Batcabbage said...

Er, that should have been 'episode eight' rather than 'episode wait'. DURRRRRR!

Page48 said...

Ranger Rick steps up and shows us why he's the real pack leader. He's the only one who should've taken that shot. Nothing else would be fitting.

Glad Maggie gave Walker Magnet the go ahead to fire away. Someone in Hershel's family has to show some sense.

Who gets to clean up that mess? Is there room in that well?

Shane is a lawman? I'm glad he opened the barn door and dropped the hammer on those barn dwellers, but dude is an outta control hothead. He may have to be put down.

I hope the farm saga is over. It's time for new adventures and I really feel like a road trip. It might do Shane some good. And it will give Hershel some time to reflect (and maybe re-stock the barn).

Michele said...

I actually figured out that it was going to be Sophia walking out of the barn right before she did. I was talking wildly to myself "OMG it's going to be Sophia! It can't be Sophia! It's going to be ner! No, it can't be!!" I actually started sobbing right before she walked out the door so figuring it out didn't change how big an impact it had. Fantastic story-telling!

HoH8 said...

Yeah, Talking Dead told us bout Sophia....Otis was the only one who knew bout her and he died before he knew they were looking for a little girl....Hershel said in the epi that it was Otis job to find the walkers and put them in the barn....

i would love to see a Flashback in Feb and see how sophia became a walker and how Otis grabbed her and brought her to the barn..☺..

Christina B said...

Nikki, you and I had the EXACT same reaction to Sophia walking out of the barn!
I slapped my hand to my mouth, yelled, "OH MY GOD, IT'S SOPHIA!!"
and suddenly, without warning, started sobbing!
My boyfriend thought I was nuts! (He doesn't watch the show, but often hears my reactions!) LOL

Also, as has been mentioned, Robert Kirkman was on Talking Dead afterwards and he did say that Hershel had no idea Sophia was in the barn.
It had been Otis's job to corral the walkers, and Shane killed him before Rick's group had mentioned or started searching for Sophia. Otis didn't know they were looking for a little girl and never bothered to tell Hershel he'd found one and put her in the barn.

Anonymous said...

There are only three shows that truly had me caring for the characters - Lost, The Sopranos & the Wire. Not even Breaking Bad.

This episode brought me there.

-Tim Alan

Lisa(until further notice) said...

I am now a much bigger fan of Rick than I had been. First he goes and forgives Lori for her infidelity with Shane, and then he has to do the right thing for Sophia. The cinematrography shots of all their faces when they realize it's Sophia is heartbreaking. I really *heart* Daryl too.

yourblindspot said...

Colleen: Boy, do I hate being spoiled, too, and I'm really sorry that happened to you. When Nikki and I started this project, one of our intentions was to offer a bit of insight into the show through the eyes of someone who knew the source material. Unfortunately, I don't think I have been sensitive enough to those who still intend to read the series from the beginning, having already given away several details that in retrospect I should have kept vague. I tried to correct that for this review and will continue to do so moving forward.

BatClan/Pg48: Act Three was downright rancorous this week, with Hershel race-baiting Maggie at the sink (“Is this about you and Asian Boy?”), Shane trying to bully Lori out of loving her husband (“Rick's not made for this world!”), and Shane (again) dismissively humiliating Dale (again) at the swamp, not to mention as much as admitting his own compromised humanity. I'm loving the contrast between Daryl, who doesn't trust himself so therefore keeps busy being helpful, and Shane, who doesn't trust himself so therefore spends all his free time on target practice and externalizing his internal debates. [If this were a teen movie – and I think maybe in Shane's mind, it is – he'd start cutting himself next. So look for that in January, I guess.] I commented last week that the group felt really fractured and spends almost no time together any more; after this episode, during which every gathering seemed to degenerate into a shouting match/Mexican standoff, I'd say that's probably for the best.

yourblindspot said...

Nikki: Watching that scene with Hershel at the table, I couldn't help but notice how genuine it seemed. Something about all the little details at the start – the fingers on the page as he reads, the canned peach he's eating, the light in the room, the actor's performance – combined to make that feel so real to me. In fact, I was so bowled over that I didn't even think to check where he was reading.

Did I ever tell you I'm a preacher's kid? My father teaches now – he's a professor at the Candler School of Theology here at Emory – but when I was young, he was a regular church minister, and so religion and spirituality were always a big part of our lives by default, Bible study included. I know that section of Luke pretty well, and you're right that it's a perfect match for the material throughout, with multiple miracles of healing and cleansing and raising of the dead up through the end of chapter nine. Exactly the sort of scripture that someone might be looking to for comfort in a situation such as this.

I thought Scott Wilson's performance in this episode (as usual) was exceptional, from his after dinner dust-up with Rick through those desperate, horrified moments in the dirt there at the end. And while I can't deny a certain degree of know-it-all headshaking going on inside my collar, the idea that he – that anyone – would feel no choice but to cling to whatever notion of spiritual safeguard he could muster in a landscape so bleak and desperate is beyond tragic, and the mere thought of it kind of breaks my heart, regardless of my own beliefs.

In my opinion, there are two kinds of people: those who think they know everything, and those who realize it makes no difference what you think you know. Hershel wants to believe that faith alone will be enough to make things right, but the events in the barnyard should serve as one hell of a potent reality check. Whether the group stays at the farm or not, I really hope his character sticks around a while, because I think the back end of this conversion will be fascinating.

yourblindspot said...

Michele/HoH8/Christina/Lisa: It's funny – I've been going back over my notes from the season thus far, and every little mention of Sophia is tinged with such sadness now. Daryl going to “walk the road” when he couldn't sleep (“...shine a light down in the forest, give her somethin' to look at.”); the Cherokee Rose story (“She's gonna really like it in here.”); the note on the car at the traffic jam (”SOPHIA STAY HERE / WE WILL COME EVERY DAY”) with that little pile of food and supplies sitting on the hood; all of 'em hurt to even think about now that we know the whole story. Should heavily tinge any future re-watch, that's for sure. I like the idea of doing a flashback that fills in a few of the details; could serve as a particularly dramatic lead-in to a funeral come February...

Tim: Me, too, man. But not 'Breaking Bad,' really? That show is like manna from heaven to me.

yourblindspot said...

Also, thanks for all the great comments and discussion these past couple of months, everyone. It's a great honor for me to be here in any kind of official capacity, but the acknowledgement would ring hollow if it weren't for the fact that you guys keep coming back each week to hang out with us. For that, I am truly grateful to all of you.

Which is why you all get a goofy zombie-themed gift guide next week. Call it my present to you. :)

Meanwhile, if you happen to be reading this on the Tuesday I posted it (Nov. 29th, 2011), you can visit and start your zombie holiday shopping right now with an awesome (and awesomely cheap) limited production t-shirt in honor of George Romero's original 'Night of the Living Dead' -- the one that started it all!

SenexMacdonald said...

I also was shocked/saddened by seeing Sophia come out of the barn. I said to Justin, my husband, that there was one more from the sound coming out of the doors to the barn. When the shot of the feet was shown, I said, "Oh, no - it's a child." Then when the reveal came, I gasped also and started to choke up. I think I really cried as I watched Carol run towards her and Daryl grab her and hold her down as she cries.

The shock felt by Hershel as the walkers are gunned down was just magnified as each walker fell and then was compounded a thousand times more by the looks on everyone's faces when Sophia came out. No one knew what to do even though they had been doing the "right thing" only seconds ago.

I totally agree that Rick was the one who rose above his feelings at that moment and stepped up to the plate. He did the unthinkable and yet, the only thing that could be done.

Truly a memorable episode and one that touched everyone watching I am sure. It is going to something to be run over and over until the show returns in February.

I watch Talking Dead for insights into the show. I find it interesting hearing from the people who watch the show - whether regular fans or celebs. The insight from the actors is also very neat to hear. So when they talked about Otis bringing in Sophia, I was sorely pressed as to whether or not any member of the group actually said to someone on the farm that there was a child missing. I remember them repeating her name a lot but did anyone say she was a child? Can someone confirm that?

I do actually own the first two compilations of The Walking Dead but I have not read them yet. That is something I will do before the show returns.

Okay, I will also rewatch the first half of the season at least once to see if I see more now that I know what is coming.

Thankfully, Leverage's second half is now on and that will keep me busy the rest of the time until Feb. :) Another excellent show, if you are interested.

yourblindspot said...

Senex: Most of my regular tv diet is heavy material -- stuff like this and Breaking Bad and Fringe and Justified, all amazing but also dark, violent, by and large thematically dire. There are a few brighter spots in the schedule, though, and one of my favorites is Leverage. That cast is nothing but fun to watch. (More people should be checking out Warehouse 13, too.)

Joel said...

I dove into the graphic novels part way through the first season of the show. In the comic, "No one is safe". But thinking I knew Sofia's story, I expected her to be found safe. Sure, it was always a possibility the writers would diverge and she would have ended up in the barn or dead. But the way the transition was handled from the firing line to the close up of Zophia... Wow. After the shock, the "no no no's" and tears, I realized something. It was like Kirkman was saying, "Hey, comic fans. Remember... no one is safe. No one." The writers have brought that to the screen in a big way.