Okay, lots to discuss with this one, obviously, and I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should talk about the ending first … which I loved … or the 40 minutes that came before that ending which was, you know, this show, but I guess it makes the most sense to start from the top.
We begin with the gang eating breakfast in their camp. Carol is there, and Daryl and Carl and also this other guy, whose name is just a letter, T-something, he’s there, too, although I guess he’s really shy because he hardly says a word the whole episode. Lori is playing with Grimes’s hair and staring at him like she can see inside his tortured soul, and I think we’re supposed to find them cute but, in the same way that there was no turning back for Shane once he shot Otis, I’ve passed a real point of no return with these two as a couple. Then Dale nods at Glenn and Glenn nods at Dale before telling everyone about the zombies in the barn. Which, naturally, leads to the first bit of stompy drama of the day.
Everyone gathers around the barn, presumably to assess the situation, but really it’s just an excuse for all of them to fight with each other in a different location. Because it’s not like they do anything rational or mature or leaderlike, such as check how secure the locks are or try to count how many walkers are in there. Instead, Shane starts yelling about how they have to either “go in there and make things right” or pack up and move on to Fort Benning, which makes Grimes very upset, since Sophia is missing! And there are all these places on the map on the hood of his car that they haven’t gone to yet. What’s interesting to me about this fight, in light of what a maniac he is in the rest of the episode, is that it’s Shane at first who makes the clearest argument, pointing out that if they didn’t find Sophia in the first 48 that means she’s probably dead. He once again articulates what we have all been feeling, watching from our couches, gnawing the edges of our throw pillows, desperate for them to give up on this search.
Then Rick points out that it’s Hershel’s land and home and that it might be kind of disrespectful for them to just go in and SHOOT HIS FAMILY, especially in light of how they have been already been living on his property and throwing dinner parties using his food and smearing soggy zombie parts all over his land and demanding to be allowed to stay for the rest of their lives and in general putting his people in the sort of danger that they didn’t seem to be in at all before this crew arrived. And it is here that we really get to the heart of the problem with this show which is this: These people are awful.
I once saw a Saturday Night Live skit with Jon Lovitz and Geena Davis. The joke was that the world has ended and even though Jon Lovitz was the last man on Earth, Geena Davis still didn’t want to sleep with him or even hang out with him. He keeps asking her to do stuff with him and she’s like, “Um, I’m sort of busy, sorry.” That is what I feel like I would do if I had managed to survive a zombie apocalypse and then stumbled upon these people. The self-absorption! The entitlement! The last time I heard them thinking of anyone besides themselves is when Lori was getting all judgey over pilfering from the cars on the highway, but even that was clearly about her too. I am beginning to understand more and more why that family just walked off into certain death last season (I giggled, by the way, at the part on this episode when Rick tries to recount who died in that late night zombie attack, and can only come up with Amy and Jim. Couldn’t they have at least made up names for the others? Does that take money out of Matthew Weiner’s pocket or something?)
The trouble with watching everyone endlessly argue about whether they should leave the farm or stay, besides the obvious annoyance factor, is if this show were real of course they would stay. There is no chance you’d come across that place and ever want to leave. But a static location makes for dull viewing and so the show had to manufacture reasons for why their staying would be impossible. Up until this episode, I have never bought why Hershel has been so adamant about kicking these people off his property. As a man of God alone, you would think he’d be all about loving thy neighbor, but also just as a cliché wizened old person, wouldn’t he at least want to protect Carl, considering children are the only hope for the future?
It bugged me how they tried to make him seem so off his rocker this episode, as though he was completely out of touch with the horrors of the new world. What part of seeing your wife and son turned into zombies before your eyes and then keeping the rest of your family alive and safe by personally plowing your own land every day even though you are 100 years old and also a vet-erinarian makes you a babe in the woods when it comes to postapocalyptic ordeals? Being as I just listened to about 50 hours of radio interviews about what we did to the Native Americans this past week, that comparison is looming dangerously close to the front of my brain right now, but I’m going to resist mainly because that’s exactly the sort of line Lori would trot out, except she would somehow think that she was like the Native Americans instead of the other way around. My point is, this week it finally dawned on me that probably the reason Hershel keeps trying to send them away is because he can’t stand them. He would rather sacrifice the last known living child on Earth than watch them storm angrily for a minute longer. Oh, and he also wanted them out because of what happened at the end, which he was totally right about, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
This episode had all sorts of hat passing going on, which had to be intentional (hats are expensive!). Maggie cracked an egg in Glenn’s hat, which meant he then had to wear Dale’s hat, thus briefly becoming Dale? Except Glenn didn’t really become Dale, because he was using a gun while on lookout and boy, do we know how Dale feels about guns. It’s like that part in the Jerk when Steve Martin thinks the sniper is just trying to shoot the oil cans. “He hates these cans! More cans!” That’s how Dale feels about guns. He hates them! (as opposed to Andrea, who loves them. So, so much). I wonder if while Dale was walking through those woods, trying to find the perfect bit of swamp to, like, throw those guns into (was it just me or was he holding a hammer and chisel when Shane caught him?) he kept thinking about the time Rick and Glenn went into Atlanta pretty much just to retrieve those very same guns. Also, I wonder if he thought about how it was him who made Glenn tell the group about the zombies in the barn that Shane now wanted to kill using those guns that Dale now wants to get rid of. It’s like a modern-day monkey’s paw! Seriously, though, what the hell is Dale is talking about when he asks Shane, “Do you think these are going to keep us safe?” It’s not like he caught his mom smoking and is hiding her cigarette stash for her own good. That would be an example of when saying that sentence would maybe not exactly make sense but would still apply more than it does in this situation, when guns really are just about the only thing that can keep them safe. EVEN in light of what happens at the end of the episode, and even though I cringed when Shane handed the kid-size gun to Carl, I still think Dale’s plan was ridiculous. On an unrelated note, hatless Dale struck me as a poor man’s Paul Giamatti, which was a vibe I never picked up from him before.
Carl, meanwhile, is walking around with Grimes’s sheriff hat on, which makes him act just so weird. I’m not even sure how to process Carl anymore. At first I just assumed that he was going to be treated like most kids on TV, which is mainly as excuses for why adult characters have to leave rooms so as to check on them, but it looks like the writers have decided to make him an actual character and the going has been rocky. There’s something called “the uncanny valley,” which is when a human replica acts almost exactly but not quite an actual human, and I get a little of that queasy feeling when I watch Carl. No offense to the actor himself, who's just a little kid and I’m not a monster, but there are some strange choices being made as the writers tug and stretch his character to try to make him work.
This episode was all about what kind of person are you going to choose to be, so I guess they are trying to show that Carl is choosing to be more like his dad than Shane. Or maybe it’s like the movie the Tenant with and by Roman Polanski, where he moves into a dead girl’s apartment and starts buying her brand of cigarettes and ordering her same kind of breakfast and slowly becomes her. Maybe Grimes's hat is like that apartment and anyone who wears it just becomes like him, which means Carl must have a little car-hood map of his own in his back pocket.
That Hershel boy (Scotty? Billy? Skippy? Skippy sounds right.) is wearing a hat, too, a straw version of the sheriff hat that Grimes was probably totally pissed about. He wore it when he and Grimes and Hershel all go out to the woods to catch themselves some zombies. I liked this scene, even if the tools they used stressed me out. I wish they had at least brought a couple of potato sacks to throw over their heads. It was nice to be able to look at the zombies for a while, and for the first time in forever, Grimes was acting like a real leader. He was doing something proactive and difficult and conscience-testing instead of just making that lower part of his jaw twitch.
Shane doesn’t wear any new hat, but that’s because we need to always see his shaved head so as to remember that he did what he had to do to save Lori and Carl. It sort of killed me when he and Grimes are fighting and Shane is insisting they have to leave the farm until Grimes says that Lori is pregnant. Shane’s face goes totally blank for a second, and, really, they might as well have just done the whole Terminator thing right there where you suddenly see the world through Shane’s eyes and realize that he is an advanced killing machine who's been programmed to protect the pregnant leader of the future resistance. Oh God, Lori would just love it if she knew I compared her to Linda Hamilton just now.
Daryl also doesn’t wear a hat, but he briefly tries on a line from his character last season when he calls Carol a bitch for absolutely no reason. That was the scariest moment of the whole episode for me, since I really don’t want him going back to being that guy, but luckily, it was just like the time Andrea shot him. The bitch line grazed his being but didn’t do any real damage and was soon forgotten. And the part where he says, “The truth is, what else I got to do?” was the best, because it’s the only plausible reason that anyone would spend as much time as these people have looking for Sophia. Because stopping means having to figure out another way to occupy yourself and that requires taking a long look at the very thing you are trying to forget, which is that the world doesn’t exist anymore and it’s all probably pointless anyway.
Glenn’s hat has egg in it for most of the episode until he and Maggie make up and she offers to wash it for him, bringing the whole hat subplot full circle. Glenn was his usual likable self this episode, but I’m not sure if he has what it takes to be an true leader, considering how he didn’t do anything to stop Shane at the end. Maggie’s scenes with Hershel were some of the better ones in this episode. What I really want to ask you, though, is have you played the “I know it’s a video game” Portal yet? What are you waiting for? It’s awesome!!!!!!!!!!!
The three of them lead their zombies back to the barn. I was wondering how they were going to get them in there, but it turns out that things were never going to get that far, because that’s when Shane decides to turn into a crazy person. He shoots the girl swamp zombie in the head and then runs at the bar and starts banging away at the door … which truth be told, Hershel, really isn’t that securely fastened but then again, zombies' bones are filled with lint and so I’m going to let it slide … and then finally, at the eleventh hour, just as I was at my most eye rollingest yet, the show granted itself a stay by delivering one truly terrific ending.
I saw it coming a moment before and was seriously whispering out loud, "Please have Sophia walk out now, please don’t mess this up, just please do this one part right, it will be so good, everyone will talk about it on Twitter" then she did come out, all scrawny and zombied up but not in too fake of a way, and it was all so satisfying and sad and fun. It was everything you’ve ever wanted this show to be. Zombies plus no dialogue, such a winning combination! And how great was it that Sophia was dead instead of impossibly alive somewhere, holed up with Meryl or Morgan or those warmhearted gang members in Atlanta. And because she was granted more screen time than she ever was when she was alive, we were finally able to care about the loss of her short, young life.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t think this ending had problems. Because I am still me and this show is still this show. Here’s the big one: This ending would’ve been the perfect if this were a movie. Or a Twilight Zone episode. You know, one where a group of people think the other group are savages but it turns out that they are in fact the savages. And then the credits roll and you think about the ending as you fall asleep that night and then again in the morning and decide that yes, it definitely made an impact, like all good endings do. The thing is, though, the Sophia plot wasn’t a one episode story line but an entire season’s worth. We had to sit through a whole lot of filler to get to those final moments, and I’m not sure I can forgive the show for that. Plus, we still have to live with these people and nothing they did in the run-up to that ending leads me to believe that they are capable of learning from their mistakes. Or that they’re even aware that they make mistakes. There is no reason Shane had to get so spazzy at the end there, since no one was in any immediate danger, but I’m sure they’ll tell themselves they had no choice (Lori’s pregnancy plot makes that word feel more suspect when I type it now then it did before.)
For now, though, I’m feeling grateful for that ending. Not quite enough to wish it had happened four days ago so I could’ve given thanks to it at the dinner table, but enough that I’m finally curious to see where the gang will end up next. Because I think it’s safe to say they’ll be moving on from that Farm. Good-bye, Hershel and the widow Otis and Skippy and your two blonde, neglected-daughter types! Good-bye, bloated well zombie! Good-bye, blazing electricity and strong water pressure! Good-bye, other house in the woods that we will never know anything more about! Good-bye, Glenn’s best prospect at a girlfriend! Good-bye, those ten condoms he still hasn’t used … PSYCH! He’s totally taking those with him! Hello, hopefully new writing staff free at last of the ghost of a one-handed Frank Darabont! Hello, maybe Morgan and Morgan’s son and perhaps even a sentence or two for T-Dogg! Hello, new and more subtle ways of integrating product placement leading to a bigger budget so that when they make it to Fort Benning it won’t look like a loft in Bushwick! Hello, more hints about the whispered CDC secret! Hello, Carl inconveniently hitting puberty during the hiatus! Hello, Dale’s RV breaking down at least once more, but also a fingers crossed hello to an older lady friend for him so he can stop being so creepy about everyone else! Hello, never searching for Sophia ever, ever again, and then good-bye for now because I really have to go play some Portal.