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Talking the Walk: Episode 208 “Nebraska”

People, people, people. The Walking fucking Dead.

This should go without saying, but here there be spoilers:

Season 2, part 2 is finally here and debuted last night to what I will assume are pretty impressive numbers. It seems like only yesterday that Rick and crew had been taken in by farmer Hershel Greene during their search for little Sophia, only to find out ol’ Hershel had a soft spot for walkers, keeping a barn full of them right on his property. Both Carl and Daryl got clipped by friendly fire, Andrea got busy with Shane, Glen got busy with the farmer’s daughter, a preggers Lori finally told Rick about her and Shane, Shane lost his ever-loving shit, and the crew finally found Sophia a member of Hershel’s quarantine, leaving Rick to gun her down. -phew- Lordy! Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, Dale kept his nose firmly planted in everyone else’s business and T-Dog definitely said some black guy stuff.

There. All caught up. 

The group’s time on the farm was a largely a zero sum game and while one can appreciate the emotional gravity of Sophie’s appearance in episode 7, a lot of fans felt the reveal was more shell game than plot twist. This is the weird line that Walking Dead, um… walks. Is it zombie pulp masquerading as nuanced cable series, or a nuanced cable series garnished with animated corpses? In the case of the latter, zombie fans, always willing to watch bit-player survivors dodge zombies for tangible goals (guns, food, the high ground, etc.), are more than willing to turn up their noses at Walking Dead‘s lofty, and often flawed, narrative execution. Would S2P2 speak to these frustrations, re-rack the chambers and get guns blazin’ and brains splatterin’?

Last night’s “Nebraska” answered with a rousing “MAYBE!” For forty minutes, the group dealt with the aftermath of the barn incident, which is appropriate – it was a big deal. The issue is that everything about this aftermath served as an introduction rather than any forward movement for the characters. Rick is guilty, Shane is angry, Dale is wary, Carol (Sophie’s mom) is sad, the rounds are made. Example: when Shane fetches the truck and sees Dale watching him, I rooted for a handshake, hoping the two guys can put their tense forest moment from episode 7 behind them. Instead, the dialogue recaps that moment, reminding us (and informing new viewers?) of their stand-off. Same with Glen and Hershel’s daughter, Maggie (is Glen staying or going?). AND Lori and Rick’s discussion on child rearing during a zombie fallout (what kind of world are we bringing life into?).

Being right all the time: hard work.

It’s all good… but familiar. It’s a mistake the show often makes: getting larger ideas right and details wrong. Remember how the CDC lab didn’t work out in Season 1? Of course it wasn’t going to work out, but it shouldn’t have not worked out in such a goofy way. In the case of “Nebraska,” yes, there should be a character-focused regrouping after the barn incident, but not to welcome new viewers to the fold. Jesus, AMC, you aired episodes all day to do that.

But then there was the last 15 min or so. “Nebraska” finally drove into new territory, and in the case of Lori, flipped the car over on the interstate. But that’s a plot line the show is comfortable leaving for later, the real centerpiece is Rick’s confrontation of Hershel at the bar. Out to drown his sorrows and admit his hopelessness, Hershel drinks for free in an abandoned watering hole (which, you gotta admit, is a pretty sweet perk of a zombie apocalypse).

Anyway, Rick reasserts his leadership and convinces Hershel to return to the farm… just as two new survivors arrive. From Philadelphia, the two guys open with some pretty friendly “howyoudoin’”s and “irregardless”s, but quickly voice interests in visiting the farm. Rick doesn’t like these guys. Hershel doesn’t. Even Glen is tense. And when push comes to shove, Rick puts his fast draw to work and kills them both. It was, undoubtedly, the “OH SHIT!” TV moment of the week (Although, I heard Skrillex and Chris Brown won Grammys last night. That seems to call for some cursing, too).

Less vacant staring, more Johnny Walker.

It’s sudden, harsh, shocking violence, something The Walking Dead hasn’t depicted in a while, if at all. Zombie-killing is fun and visceral, but it’s hard to ignore how much obligatory its become, exhibit A being Andrea’s scythe moment at the top of the episode. Zombie kills have become humdrum, but when a human bites it, that’s still powerful.

Previews showed that the Philly guys will have lasting consequences, but I was more curious about the line “Nebraska” drew between Rick and Shane. We’re all expecting a rivalry between Rick and Shane for leadership of the group, but “Nebraska” flips the script: It’s Shane who has a tender, understanding moment with Carol and Rick who resorts to being cold-blooded. For two guys who have been steady, polar-opposite courses, “Nebraska” hints that both men are capable of middle ground. Shane’s loosening hinges almost single-handedly fueled season 2 and it’d be a colossal misstep for the series to balk on Rick vs Shane, but if last night’s reversal only further complicates the issue, I think we’re in for some gnarly showdowns.

Next week: Will Lori’s pregnancy be affected by her car crash? Will Rick get pinned down by gunfire at the bar? Will Daryl deal out some more sweet crossbow kills? Good to you have you back, Walking Dead, warts, lesions, rigor mortis, and all. See you in seven.

Rob is an accomplished screenwriter and has worked in the industry for several years. He blogs about film at his website, “Heroes are Boring”.

  • http://www.kevinohashi.com Kevin Ohashi

    “Although, I heard Skrillex and Chris Brown won Grammys last night. That seems to call for some cursing, too” That made me laugh pretty hard. Great recap. I like this episode more than pretty much all of season 2.

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