For a few episodes now, we’ve been patiently waiting alongside our beloved group of survivors. Waiting for their next move, waiting for some kind of resolution, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. We’ve suffered through some rather cliched moments, yet we’ve also been introduced to some worthwhile introspection. The characters are being fleshed out, bit by bit, in what is starting to seem like excruciating detail. We’ve gotten a glimpse at the hope of human existence and the frailty that comes with it. This week we were thrown a few curveballs, some things that may get us back on track. Still, I can’t help but think that this week served a sole purpose of being a 45 minute long set-up for next week.
The search for Sophia continues. I really can’t blame the group for pressing on with this, and I can’t say that I’ve totally come around to Shane’s way of thinking. Hershel’s words were pretty spot on though. It is a surprise to see the group making it this long. If they weren’t constantly put in front of tropic obstacles every week, they might have a better shot, but alas. If there’s one thing that the stagnation Sophia has forced the group into has shown us, it is where everyone will end up if a line is drawn in the sand. The show seems to make it all too clear which side is right (Rick and the gang) and which is wrong (Shane, Andrea, etc.) but I’m not so sure it’s that simple. Survival, after all, is the name of the game and I think we can all agree who we’d hedge our bets on in that capacity. I personally like to think that I would do the right thing no matter what the scenario, but what happens when the differences between right and wrong begin to break down? The only one who doesn’t seem all that concerned is Daryl.
Which brings me to my favorite two moments of this episode. The first was the startling reappearance of Merle. I have to say, I was expecting him to show up this week. Daryl mentioned him in his conversation with Carol so it’s really no surprise that Voila! Here he is. However, I did enjoy how he came back. It’s hard to break into Daryl’s mind. He’s a pretty closed off individual, and not one for long sentimental talks (unless it’s about roses), so we can’t expect much. Merle, as a manifestation of Daryl’s survival instinct, gives us at least some access. It turns out that Daryl may just be more of a tortured soul then he lets on, seeking the love of strangers. There’s some depth to him yet, and he remains my favorite part of this season as a whole. I’m not quite ready to speak to it entirely yet, but you can be sure that this won’t be the last of Merle, and it will be interesting to see this internal relationship develop.
I also quite enjoyed the dinner scene. The silent scratching of knives and forks, the childish passing of notes between Glenn and Maggie and the awkward silence that follows an offhand mention of Otis develop tension in the group more then any grandiose gestures ever could. The long, near existential talks between Rick and Hershel has given us a few clues about their minds inner workings, but the two groups haven’t been properly paired together yet. The potential conflict that hangs over the table as they all eat is more then enough for me. Everything is very much not copacetic. It became all at once clear that these two parties cannot mix. Hershel and his family are too set on tradition, keeping everything the way it always was in spite of their apocalyptic condition. Rick and his group are bringing too much exterior reality into Herhsel’s home, and we can see his frustration at loosing control. Of course in the end, there was never any control to begin with, but c’mon. He doesn’t know that.
So I’m sitting here, at the end of the episode, and the end of this review, wondering how much would really have been lost without the “Chupacabra.” What the show needs now is a bit of propulsion, a catalyst to set off some forward acceleration. We gained a little insight, and certainly the seeds of change, but most of this came in the episode’s final moments. For now, I’m sticking it out, hoping that this week’s set-up will result in some sort of awesome payoff next week. I remain a bit dubious in this claim, however, because I’ve said it before only to be hit with some disappointment. All I can say is, please, give us something new. Trust me, we’re ready for it.
This article was first posted on November 14, 2011