The Walking Dead is back (again!) with the midseason premiere, "Nebraska." It was to be WD's first Darabontless episode, although by this point, Darabont's been gone for a long time. As slow-moving as ever, the episode eventually pitches the wackiest curveball I've seen in a long time. Great ending, Glen Mazzara. Yowza!
As I mentioned, most of the episode plods along at a snail's pace. First, we remeet everyone as they cry over the dead barn zombies. One of Hershel's daughters tries to hug her mother's corpse, but because it's still undead, it attacks her. What is this, a joke? We just got done waiting for months for the gang to deal with these barn zombies, and now one of them still poses a threat? CAP HER, DUMMIES. I have been waiting for so long, and this is not a rewarding zombie kill. Not to mention the hook Andrea eventually uses is so crazy-sharp, it looks like a blown-up fish hook. What sort of gardening tool is that?
And what do you know, Shane's pissed at Hershel for wasting so much of their time. Well guess what, Shane. I'm pissed at you. You just injected the cold open with so much bitchiness, everyone assumed it was an appropriate time to break the scene. Congrats on achieving PMS for 100% of your life, Shane. This is not good drama -- we already bore the brunt of Shane's angriest moment back before he opened the barn. Now he's like 60% as mad as possible, so I guess...ACT BREAK!
Daryl goes into the trailer where Carol's sitting, and I'm like "No no no please don't have sex please no no no don't don't NOOOOOO." Thankfully, they do not. But they do have a brief conversation that inspires Carol to go out into the wilderness and tear up a rose bush later on. Oh boy.
It's right around here in my notes that I start to question my immediate annoyance with the episode. In this passionate community of fed up fanboys and die-hard comic book readers, my place has solidly been in the "I didn't love that last thing, but let's keep watching because I bet it'll get really good!" camp. I was thrilled for the midseason premiere, although I am well aware of the pacing problems of the show. But I'm also aware that Mazzara could be repacing the entire series right now, as we speak!! And so my simmering anger must be due to not being rewarded for my loyalty soon enough.
But the episode is far from over, and besides, zombies are cool even if they're surrounded by a boring plot.
Cut to Glen and Maggie talking about the future of their relationship in terse half-sentences and reproachful assumptions. AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH. At least let them get busy in the woods and then get attacked by a zombie!!!
Carl and Lori have a heart-to-heart about how he wanted to save Sofia. Although their convo isn't terribly exciting and it doesn't tell us anything about Carl we didn't already know, it's a touching reverie. He wants to have some semblance of power in this terrible, helpless situation, but that's impossible from the start. Not even the adults are in control. Take out the part about the Zombiepocalypse and it's still true.
Lori doles out zombie-disposal responsibilities as Andrea lays down the law: "We bury the ones we love. And we burn the rest."
I'm not sure what to make of this (and frankly, with the way these shows work, it might be a mistake to try to make ANYTHING of anything), but I think it's telling. If all of these corpses were defiled a long time ago, keeping a body burnt or unburnt for the sake of ritual would be immaterial. Maybe burning the corpses is a safety measure, but that means that the survivors are intentionally risking the danger of putting a few corpses in the ground. It would be nice to have a resting place for the loved ones, but everyone's probably going to have to pick up and move on soon anyway. I guess the distinction is just to say, "These zombie corpses were special. Those zombie corpses were disgusting." Which is distinctly different from Rick Grimes's habit of reading every single zombie's old drivers license. What makes Rick hold onto the past humanity of ALL the zombies if Andrea only holds onto some? She must be more pragmatic.
After all of this, Dale gives Shane some hilariously intense side-eye in Hershel's driveway. I guess he put together all this Missing-Otis stuff somehow. What keeps Shane from hauling off and killing Dale every second? It's not like I think it should happen. I'm just surprised it hasn't. Instead, Shane helps Carol clean off her thistle-wounds when she gets back from destroying a single rose bush. It provides a most welcome new dimension to Shane's character.
Rick takes Glen into town to find the now-missing Hershel. I guess they know to go to the bar because Hershel purposefully leaves his antique flask out on his dresser. Which must mean he wants them to follow him to the bar, which must be quite an interesting place if he's leading them away from the farm to go there. Does this mean Hershel knows what's going to happen there?
Lori gets sick of waiting for Rick to get back from the bar, so she hijacks someone's sedan and immediately flips it into a ditch after running over a zombie. Great one, Lori, thank you for that. Hopefully next week she will wake up hanging upside down in the cab (since she had her seat belt on), barely dodging that same zombie's pawing hands. Hopefully he will bite her anyway.
At the bar, everyone's pretty bored and wondering what's going on at home. Hershel's like, "I was wrong. All hope is most definitely dead," so Rick has to gear up for one of his big human-life homilies -- when suddenly Rene from True Blood shows up!!
Rene (here, "Dave") and his massive sidekick stomp their way into the bar, just as fake-friendly as they can be. Michael Raymond-James (Rene) is terrifying, both because of his triple first name and because of his just-below-the-surface villainy. This guy is up to no good, plus, he's got guns. On the other hand, he calls walkers "lamebrains," which is awesome. Rene questions Rick about their camp while Chubbs takes a pee on the phone booth (possibly jukebox). Stupid Hershel accidentally answers too many of Rene's questions. Eventually Rick gets tired of repeating himself ("No more room" and "Sorry, keep on lookin'" only go so far), so he SHOOTS THE GUYS DEAD.
This is Rick's first human murder, as far as we know, and he seems to have zero qualms about it. These two men would no doubt have terrorized their entire camp, inevitably killing survivors in the process. They definitely had to go, and they definitely wouldn't have left of their own free will. With two definites like that, your options become very limited. And Rick chooses the best option for my viewing pleasure!
Back at camp, you know everyone's going to be like "Holy shit. Rick is serious. I better not step out of line because holy shit!!!!"
And that's why, after an entire episode of inconsequential scenes that I didn't care about, I care now.
photos courtesy amctv.com