Before I jump into my actual review (though this will be incredibly relevant to the points I’m going to make), I want to philosophize on something I like to call the “Jack Shepherd Effect.” For those who don’t know (and you need to amend this immediately), Jack Shepherd was arguably the main character of the ensemble TV program Lost. He was also the most boring series regular (Kate is easily the worst main character but she at least had the power to shock us on occasion). With the exception of the series’ final season, Jack was the most constant and morally sound of our characters. This made him an admirable and suitable leader for our weary and terrorized group of survivors, but it didn’t exactly make for compelling television. Where Locke or Sawyer or Sayid played leap-frog with conventional notions of right and wrong or good and evil (Sayid was arguably one of the most reliable of the good guys until he shot a child in the past to prevent him from becoming evil mastermind Ben Linus in the future), you could almost always count on Jack to make the “right” decision for the group and to easily overcome his personal demons. He was static and therefore uninteresting as he held little potential to subvert or completely avert your expectations. I bring this up because whereas in the comic books, Rick Grimes has turned moral ambiguity and slowly losing his mind into an art form, TV Rick Grimes is in danger of becoming the Jack Shepherd of this television season.

Last week ended with the “surprise” revelation that Shane had murdered Otis in order to escape from the zombie horde and procure the medicine for Carl, which did in the end save Carl’s life. This week begins with Otis’s funeral where Hershel wishes Shane to say some last words on Otis’s behalf. Putting on his best actor’s face, Shane creates an elaborate tale that paints Otis as a hero rather than sacrificed under Shane’s own survivalist instincts. It’s sad to say that this scene may have been the high-point of the entire episode as it nailed the moral ambiguity and soul-crushing decision-making that makes this franchise so special. Afterwards, we continued the search for Sophia that I’m now going to refer to as The Neverending Story: Boring Edition. With Rick having just given three units of blood (also known as enough so that he should nearly be in a coma not philosphizing endlessly) and Shane having a sprained ankle, it’s up to Daryl Dixon to continue the search for Sophia. Despite finding a house that was recently lived in, his search is fruitless (yet again) though he does get to share a sweet moment with Carol, simply adding to my suspicions that Daryl is the best character behind Shane (but more on that later).

Since the farm is running low on supplies, Glenn and Hershel’s daughter, Maggie, go to the local pharmacy to get some supplies (including a special and “discreet” item for Lori). Once there, a misunderstanding concerning condoms leads Glenn and Maggie to have sex in the pharmacy. Before they left for the pharmacy though, the group was trying to clear out a well for water and discovered a bloated zombie inside who looked like a combination of Sloth from The Goonies and the blobby white monster from Blade. After dangling Glenn in the well as live bait to extract him, it was all for naught when the zombie gets disemboweled on the way out and gushes a fountain of blood all over the pool. Also, this was as darkly comic as you can get and another high point of the episode. Unfortunately, the main thrust of the episode was Hershel and Rick discussing God (again. Jesus Christ! pun completely intended) as well as what it means to be a good father. At the episode’s end, Glenn returns the item from the pharmacy he procured for Lori which turns out to be a pregnancy test and lo and behold, she has an eggo in her preggo (to quote Juno). I knew this was coming, so it wasn’t the big shocking end it was meant to be.

Allow me to return to my opening paragraph as I hope it is obvious what I’m saying for those who are regular viewers of the show. At this point in the series, Rick has basically the exact same set of character faults as Jack Shepherd which is that he is too much of a good guy and a wannabe hero for his own good. He’s an unwilling leader thrust into the position of top dog and his own insecurities, doubts, and issues with God occasionally keep him from enjoying some of the simple beauty found even in the most terrible of situations. I don’t dislike Rick (and I didn’t dislike Jack either), but in a cast where a character has murdered one man to save a child, a wife slept with her husband’s best friend, a cop beat a man within an inch of his life (though admittedly for semi-good cause though the stated cause wasn’t the reason he snapped so still the moral ambiguity), a guy is carrying around blue (Breaking Bad reference ftw!) meth in the zombie apocalypse. So, obviously, a character whose problem is being too good just doesn’t work as well as the others. He isn’t as patently useless as Carol or T-Dogg, but I want to see more of the comics Rick who is a man on the slow path to complete and utter madness as pieces of his soul are slowly ripped from him one tragedy at a time.

I used to enjoy the rampant existentialism on this show because I thought it was a refreshing attempt at philosophical and intellectual conversations in a genre that is mostly defined by gore and an endless rain of bullets. However, week in and week out, I’m starting to notice how shallow these philosophical conversations really are. I honestly felt like Hershel and Rick’s conversation about God could be heard between two college dorm mates passing around a joint, except the series doesn’t have the excuse of drugs being the excuse for faux-intellectualism. While I’ve noted in the past that the major theme of the series is an existentialist need to deliberately choose to live in a world as shitty as theirs, at this point the series needs to let actions speak louder than words, as there is much more drama to be gained from Shane’s guilt, Andrea’s suicidal tendencies, and the small beauty of blossoming romance between Maggie and Glenn than can be gained between Rick and Hershel’s undergraduate philosophy class conversations.

The make-up work tonight was just exceptional. We only saw one walker but it takes the award for the most grotesque creation possibly in the history of non-premium cable television. I legitimately got a little nauseous when I got my first look at what I’ve decided to affectionately term “The Creature from the Greene Farm Lagoon”. While I’m sure being completely surrounded by water for that long would have some rather grotesque affects on a person, I was bowled over by how non-humanoid they made that creature look by the time they pulled him out of the well. Of course, if I was close to vomiting just from his original appearance, when the survivors basically cause his waterlogged body to be literally ripped in half, I was teetering on the edge of the canyon of projectile vomit (though I fortunately held it together). It wasn’t the Tarantin0-esque geyser of blood that nearly knocked me out there, but instead the graphic and nauseatingly detailed view of his intestines which looked like an army of miniaturized versions of the worms from Tremors. Just thinking about it right now is enough to make me queasy all over again.

I’ve rambled on long enough (and then some) at this point, so I’ll close with some last points. It was quite refreshing to see Glenn finally have something to do for the first time since Atlanta, and his relationship with Maggie should lead to some interesting stories down the road. While Shane still has my award for most complex and interesting character on the show, Daryl Dixon (with Norman Reedu’s never disappointing performance) has become this series’ resident Sawyer as the loveable rogue and complete bad-ass. He is the only character on the TV show that wasn’t in the comics that I like (sorry T-Dogg/most of the people who died before we left Atlanta). I almost feel as if he is being positioned to become this series version of the Michonne character from the comics, though I hope that isn’t true because she makes Daryl look as bad-ass as Kurt from Glee. All in all, this may have been one of the weakest episodes of the series although there is a potentiality that I’m only just now noticing certain quirks of the series that have always existed but have never been so apparent in one episode. I’m not saying the episode was bad; I’m just saying that the show is really failing to live up to its potential based on both its source material as well as the sort of high caliber storytelling it has been capable of in the past.

Final Score: B

 

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