by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The Walking Dead is entering into new territory (literally and figuratively) this season. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is convinced the prison is their new salvation, but is that really true? They have already encountered surviving prisoners and cell blocks still filled with walkers. Last season Hershel’s farmhouse seemed confining. While there were certainly some surprises to come, the farm seemed a little too safe. Maybe it was a false sense of security, but for a while things were calm (a little too calm). The prison does not offer that same sense of security. Yes, they are shielded from the walkers, but danger lurks around every corner. Everything about the prison is unsettling.
In the second episode of the season, “Sick,” Rick is confronted with decisions he doesn’t want to make. Decisions he left to Shane in the past. With Shane gone, Rick is forced to do the dirty work. In this episode, that comes in the form of what to do with the five surviving prisoners they encounter. The prisoners have been locked up in the cafeteria for the past year, with no idea what the outside world has become. The Walking Dead is offering up a lot of moral quandaries. Rick and the rest of the group are trying to preserve humanity, but at what cost? How do they know what outsiders can be trusted, and what do they do with them? Is it okay to kill a survivor who may pose a threat to their own survival? Who has the right to live and who doesn’t?
That is one of the truly great things about this show. It doesn’t really present a clear answer to these questions. Most of the characters don’t always make the right decisions. Even Rick, who represents honor and goodness, falters from time to time. This episode offered up a high dose of tension. The diplomatic Rick tries striking a bargain with surviving prisoners. It’s clearly a mistake. We know as viewers it’s not going to work out. And seriously, does Rick really want these guys around his wife and child?
This episode brilliantly brought all that tension to a head, and even when I thought I knew what was coming, I was still surprised. At the same time it offered some real emotional moments as Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney) deal with the possible death of their father. It’s kind of an emotional roller coaster as we go back and forth between the near-death Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) dealing with a new cell block of walkers and the unpredictable prisoners. Personally I loved seeing Rick’s decisive action when one the prisoners threatened his life. I certainly wasn’t expecting a machete through the skull.
I also want to note that I like the direction they are going with Carl (Chandler Riggs). As I mentioned in my previous review he is not behaving like a kid anymore, but of course he still is a kid in age. What kind of person will he become growing up in an environment like this? Has he lost some of his humanity? I like that they are not making him cute, or too clever – though he is pretty clever, just not in an annoying, know-it-all kind of way. He’s learning how to get the job done and make the tough decisions (I mean, he had his gun drawn when he thought Hershel was taking his last breaths).
We didn’t see any of Andrea (Laurie Holden) or Michonne (Danai Gurira) his week. “Sick” was centered squarely on the prison. While I’m anxious to see what else is going on, I like that we are getting a solid setup for what is happening at the prison and how the group is relating to each other. There were a lot of nice moments in this episode. I liked how Rick putting his hand on Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) shoulder meant everything. It was also nice to see Rick soften a little in that moment, also when he was holding Hershel’s hand.
Judging by the preview for next week there are a lot of surprises very soon. As tense as this episode was, it might just be the calm before the storm.
Photos: Gene Page/AMC