The Walking Dead: “Sick”

Posted on October 22, 2012

We couldn’t help feeling last night that, even more so than last week’s season opener, this episode was written in direct response to fan and critic complaints regarding last season’s various plot strands, including a long, meandering slog through the woods to look for a character no one cared about, more explorations of the Grimes marriage than anyone wanted to hear, and an ill-advised philosophical showdown between Rick and Shane in which the guy you ostensibly were supposed to be rooting for was an idiot and the dangerous, psychopathic asshole just happened to be the only smart person who made any sense. Also: talking. Lots and lots of talking: outside churches, inside churches, outside farmhouses, on the porches of farmhouses, and inside various rooms of farmhouses. The entirety of season 2 seems to have been nothing more than a series of conversations about the zombie apocalypse rather than actually dealing with the zombie apocalypse.

But they’ve really hit the ground running with season 3 and like we said last week, this is a leaner, meaner, more well-oiled machine which, with the increasingly wild-eyed Rick at its head, is less likely to wring their hands over the kind of sentimentality that got people killed in the past. There’s no question that a dying man, no matter how beloved or useful to the team, needs to be handcuffed, with someone at the ready to put a bullet in his head should he stop breathing. There’s no question that handing Carl a gun and continuing not to pay any attention to where he goes and what he does is probably a net positive for the group if Lori can just learn to deal with it. There’s no question that if you find a well-fortified safe space loaded with food, you should probably just kill the people who already live there; especially if they’re dangerous assholes. And perhaps the most illustrative example of the group’s new hardness: there’s no question that, when you need to perform a C-section and you have no anatomical knowledge, it’s just good common sense to put a spike through a lady zombie’s eye and then calmly dissect her in a prison court yard.

The centerpiece of the this episode was Rick’s wild-eyed -and highly successful – attempt to assert control over the former prisoners of the jail, but to us, the sight of the former weepy, useless, laundry-folding Carol quietly slicing into a woman’s decomposing body for the good of the group was the real eye-opener; the real indication that we’re now in a story well past the point most zombie movies end. We’re in the “living in a post-plague world” portion of the story, where kids get guns and the law is an axe to the head. Where people are hardened to the point that they don’t look or act like people anymore. Where daughters beg their sick fathers to die because living incapacitated in this world would be a kind of slow, humiliating death. In other words, we’re living in a world where the undead are a pestilence and an annoyance, but the sight of other people is an instant indication of danger, and blood is almost certainly going to be spilled.

We’re kind of loving that.

After all, you can only get so much mileage out of “AAAAAHHH, a dead person bit my leg!” Rick and Lori’s conversation in the prison yard was the best scene those two characters ever had because they finally felt like a married couple after the apocalypse, instead of a married couple arguing about child rearing and who’s not doing the communicating, and I might be in love with someone else who might be the father of my child – all that soap opera bullshit from last season that had seemingly half the viewership exclaiming “WHAT IS ALL THIS ‘DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ BULLSHIT DOING IN MY ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?” Their conversation was brief, painful, and cold – but things got said that needed to be said. Earlier, she told him straight out to kill their co-habitants and not give it a second thought. Later, he commended her on saving Herschel’s life. Between those words were years of pain and emotional neglect, but this simply wasn’t the time and place to utter them and besides, they’re exhausted with the business of just staying alive and finding a place to stand still for a second. This is their marriage post-apocalypse, and it’s not pretty. But what’s kind of great is that the writing was bold enough to go this direction, because their marriage pretty much sucked pre-apocalypse and it would have been boring – and quite the cliche – to have the horror bring them closer together. Instead, the story did what all good horror – and especially post-apocalyptic ones – does well: it shines a light on the human existence, turns the dials up to eleven, and doesn’t flinch at showing us what people are really like. Rick and Lori are a mess as a husband and wife, but they always were. Right now, they’re winning the only game there is left: the fight to survive. And that’s good enough. This is first class genre writing and it’s a joy to see. More, please.



[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]

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  • Ridiculous nit-pick: the lady zombie was dissected, vivisection is when the specimen is still alive.  Sorry, I just love that creepy distinction.

  • glennethph

    I thought I was going to miss Shane but there he is — albeit in the pretty skin of Rick Grimes.

  • jilly_d

    I havent read either of your reviews yet but I just scrolled down to say how FUCKING OUTRAGEOUSLY EXCITED I am to have AMC back on Dish. I have two episodes to catch up on, which is exciting enough, but half the fun of watching is reading your recap afterward! I’ll be back in a couple days TLO!

    • TropiCarla

      LOL about Dish. I was really enjoying AMC unabashedly shitting on them at any and every possible opportunity. Too funny. Capitalism at its finest.

      • MilaXX

         YES, the shade AMC was throwing on Dish at every opportunity was hilarious!

        • And totally deserved if you’ve read about the reasons behind it.  I guess DISH must have gotten a lot of complaints in the past week.  They didn’t cave for Breaking Bad.  Also, if what I read is true, DISH ended up paying $700 million to the company that owns AMC.

          • MilaXX

            Little more complicated than that. Fees were paid on both sides, but the 700 million that was a source of contention as split between the 2 companies. At least that’s what I got out of the articles I read in the NY Times

  • evolutionista

    okay, so that had to be merle watching carol disect the zombie lady, right?

    • KateWo

       Or maybe Michonne?  Merle was left pretty far away…I think.  Not sure how far away from Atlanta they are supposed to be, but I feel like other people would know a prison existed outside of Atlanta that was most likely stocked with supplies. 

      • I think Merle did time in prison? So it may of been that one. But I think Daryl would of known about it too – then again, he might have.

      • MilaXX

         I believe it was mentioned that no one knew how to clear out the prison. My guess is the prison went into lock down when the crisis hit, so basically the prison was over run with walkers making getting at the food supply very dangerous.

  • Frank_821

    Yes the sight of Carol practicing her surgery skills was unnerving and powerful

    Personally though I would have been pissed at Carl as well going off on his own to find the infirmary. But he’s at that age where kids do thoughtless, reckless things-even in a post apocalyptic zombie world

  • Paigealicious

    Shit happens.

  • MilaXX

    When Tomas threw that body on Rick, I knew it was on, cause this is life in the Ricktatorship. Compare this encounter to last season when they met those guys at the bar. Kicking butt and taking names.

    • Another comparison between this episode and that one is Rick just letting the most “boy” like guy get eaten by zombies. Last year he saved the other kid and that destoryed the group. This year he’s all “not my person, not my problem.”

    • TropiCarla

      Yes! I knew it was on then too. Prior to that, I thought Rick would let Tomas live as he had potential to become an asset – strong, hardcore, and dispassionate enough to do what needs to be done in this world (read: “criminal”).  
      Hubby had been yelling “Yo Rick, KILL that dude!” from the beginning of the episode; becoming especially agitated when Tomas brutally killed “Big Tiny” (or whatever his name was), even though I thought that was technically the right move at the time.  But Mr. Tomas showed no loyalty and couldn’t be trusted after that zombie-toss onto Rick. Buh-Bye!

      • MilaXX

         My only quibble is that NO ONE, not Rick chasing after Andrew, or Carl scouting for the infirmary, should be going off alone.

        • Exactly what I said last night while watching, “That’s pretty stupid to be running off in the dark by himself.”  In reference to Rick, not Andrew (the convict) because Rick should know better.

        • Karyn Washington

          THIS.  I was yelling at my TV: “LET HIM GO! WHY ARE YOU RUNNING INTO THE ABYSS?”  He does something awesome and smart one minute (killing Tomas without a blink) and then something so incredibly rash and stupid the next…

  • mjude

    once again walking dead nailed it.  it is such a brilliant show. 

  • Jennifer Coleman

    Actually, the scene with Rick & Lori drilled home that Rick might not be specifically pissed at her, but he just does not have the capacity in his head/heart to be a ruthless leader keeping his tribe alive and loving husband. He had to let go his tenderness and maybe even love for her in order to keep her alive. We have not really seen him & Carl really interact this season, but I’m guessing it’s true of both of them, too. At the end of their talk, Rick can’t even say that he is appreciative of what Lori did for Herchel, but he says ‘we’ are appreciative as he touched her shoulder. And Lori knows and appreciates this. I agree this is the best scene ever with these two.

    •  That was one of my favorite moments.  I snickered at it.

      • dress_up_doll

        I actually guffawed!

    • JasmineAM

      Good lord I DIED when those prisoners went all gangsta on the zombies. Hilarious, indeed.

      • YoungSally

        And they did it after they were told that they had to go for the head, right?  Okay maybe not the brightest bunch.

        I am kinda hoping that the red-headed convict comes back….he could be useful with his “I like my pharmaceuticals” skills.  Can never have enough home brewers in a zombie apocalypse.

        •  The show has departed pretty radically from the novel, both in the character of the surviving prisoners, and the amount.

  • KateWo

    When the one prisoner began challenging Rick I thought: Oh great, here’s the start of some stupid drawn out power struggle when it’s obvious Rick should just kill him now.  SO psyched they didn’t go that route!  Also really happy with what they are doing with Carol’s character.  Hopefully after this scare they have Herschel write down medical and farming knowledge.  And Maggie even acknowledged the stupidity of Herschel going on that mission!  Not too excited about the return of Merle…..

    • tereliz

      Pleasantly surprised that RIck didn’t back down in this situation. Really shows how different he’s become over the winter. And it underscores the new theme of this season: zombies aren’t dangerous, people are. Love it!

  • I’m enjoying this year’s verison of good and evil discussions. Last year, Dale would of spent hours talking about how the prisoners “had done their time” and should be brought into the fold. And Shane would of spent hours saying “lets just kill them now.”

    This year, Rick gives them a fair shot by helping them find a place and spliting food. And they mess up and he kills the ones who are threats within seconds.

    So much better than being hit over the head repeatly. Its like the writers are acknowledging we’re intelligent or something.

  • Karyn Washington

    1.  Jumped out of my chair when Lori was giving Hershel CPR and he came back to life.  I thought for SURE he’d resurrected and was biting her face off (see also: Judy in the Bicycle Girl webisodes).  It takes a lot for a horror/thriller to do that to me.  Well played.

    2.  I love that they’ve taken Carol in a totally different direction than she was in the first season.  Then again, it’s always a nice change to see a formerly abused woman take control of her life again rather than be the pseudo-victim for the entire series as so many other shows are wont to do.

    3.  DEFINITELY think it was Merle spying on Carol.  I don’t think it’d be Michonne and Andrea, because Andrea would have recognized Carol and gone running, not just stayed in the woods and kept quiet.

    4.  Not gonna lie, I teared up at Maggie’s telling her Dad that it was okay to go – I’ve had that talk myself, with my former fiance’s father when he died from cancer.  Funny enough, when my ex-fiance bought me The Walking Dead Compendium 1 for Christmas one year, his father (who was in end-stage colon cancer by that time) looked at me and said, in a total deadpan, “What do you need a zombie comic for?  You’ve got a real life zombie right here!”  

    • KateWo

       It could be Michonne by herself if Andrea is still sick.  But I agree, it’s probably Merle

    • 1. I thought Lori was done for!

    • DinahR

      I love this character arc for Carol.  To me she’s the most intriguing female on this show. (I’ve not read the comics, so Michonne is a big ?? to me still. 🙂 )  She’s probably had the least amount of screen time (aside from poor T-Dog), yet I feel like we know her backstory, personality and motivations as much as, or more than, other characters.  You can really see her confidence coming through in stages during the seasons and I think the actress must be brilliant because, good grief, she’s had some very meager bones to work with sometimes. 

  • dress_up_doll

    Last night was a veritable bloodbath, but with heart. Our boys really took care of business. I only hope the show can keep this momentum for the rest of the season.

  • Question: were the prisoners who were shot in the head zombies before being killed or are they just decayed? I’m confused on whether they were an actual threat or if the guards just started killing everything and everyone when the outbreak started.

    • TropiCarla

      I wondered that myself. I don’t have the time to watch the episode again to be sure, but I’m thinking there was a short time lapse and that was a shot of the aftermath of the group “clearing” that cell block. It makes sense that they would have shot each cell’s occupant in the head and then opened the doors for them to fall out on the floor in a pattern like that.

    • JasmineAM

      I think some guards probably went rogue and shot some of the prisoners like the military did on the series premiere when Rick awakens in the hospital. Just killing everything in sight.

    • Carolyn

      Their hands were tied behind their backs so I’d say they were executed and have decayed.

  • ShivaDiva

    I think they’ve finally hit their stride.  The prison and Woodbury were where the comic really accelerated to a new level, and it’s nice to see that happening for the show as well.  Great episode.  Kind of interesting that it’s become Everyone Hates Lori.  That must have been in response to fan feedback, too!

  • m4zin

    I don’t know if T&L are taking this position — but it seems implied to me in the above post — but I don’t think the debate between Shane and Rick is over with.  Last season, Hershel’s character represented a sort of extreme Rick; a sort of maximum benevolence, idealism, and hope, if that’s how we want to describe it.  But the end of last season marked the death of the old debate framework of the debate (Rick vs. Shane), which was paralleled by Herschel finally starting to accept the sort of world he lived in.

    But I don’t think the question, “How do we keep our humanity alive?” is over with.  There was still a subtle sense that the way the remaining prisoners were treated was unfair, which was lead by Rick.  Daryl expressing his sorrow for the loss of their friend, and T-dog giving them some “advice” (however practical) represented that sort of lowest level of human decency that they’re all still fighting to retain.  The question is, will this be enough to repair the sense of mistrust between the group and the remaining 2 prisoners; or, will their human to live as humans rather than barbaric animals (or “walking dead”) prevail?  I think that’s a staple of the entire zombie genre, and I don’t thin that tension will ever be resolved (otherwise we wouldn’t have a show).

  • ZnSD

    Yes. Exactly. More please! THIS is what I was waiting for the last two seasons: tight writing, progressive action, a plot that builds and teases (who’s watching Carol from the wood? Michonne? Find out next week?) The Walking Dead has come back to life.

  • Vanja

    The second season was boring and I almost scratched it of my to-watch-list. These first two episodes are excellent and I have high hopes for the coming episodes. Keep the blood, gore and zombies coming!

  • Zippypie

    Excellent episode!  Terrific review, guys.  I was so excited, I watched the episode a second time back-to-back and that’s the first time I’ve done that since Season 1.  YES!

    Rick going to the Dark Side is a great ride.

  • Great review, TLo!  This season is amazing so far.  I can’t even express how much I love new and improved ass kicking Carol!  She’s probably my favorite “new” character!

  • Jillian Kroos

    Can I just say how refreshing it is to read your recaps? You guys manage to perfectly balance your inner fanboy with articulate and intelligent criticism. After reading so many comic boys (and girls!) whine and act like unsatisfied toddlers because the show will never be whatever ideal that has never existed except in their own heads, it’s nice to see someone who knows what they’re talking about who can also relax and enjoy what’s in front of them. Bravo!

  • Megan Patterson

    What, Shane was also pretty stupid. I think the more appropriate word to use would have been “realistic.”

  • TieDye64

    So far this season is everything I was hoping this show would be. LOVING IT! And to top it off I get to run over here to read T Lo’s re-caps. You guys make this zombie apocalypse loving chick very happy.