Whenever I hear people complain that jails don’t make adequate punishment because they serve three meals a day and provide colour television (do you know how hard it would be to find black-and-white sets?), I always remind them that inmates still have to reside with other prisoners: thieves, murderers, and rapists who believe in no code of behaviour beside, “Might makes right,” treat the lives of others as inconveniences, or can’t help indulging in their most violent urges. I mean no offense to ex-cons who’ve paid their debt to society, but few people get incarcerated for their extreme altruism and better judgment.
What then should one do when confronted with the prospect of building a home next to convicts like Tomas, Andrew, Oscar, Axel, and Big Tiny? On the one hand, the collapse of human civilisation ought to have wiped everyone’s slate clean, and experienced fighters could come in handy. On the other, The Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse has hardly brought out the best in folk so far, and, in such dire times, one’s only got his or her family to live for. “Do whatever you’ve got to do to keep this group safe, and do it with a clear conscience,” advises Lori. Her counsel proves meaningful for once, but it’s also easier said than done.
Seven months have passed since Deputy Walsh’s demise in “Better Angels”, and I still want to harp on his role in the tribe, that of pragmatic devil to Dale’s idealist angel. Now Rick has to fill both roles, and we can almost see the gears turning in his mind and soul as his new neighbours start pulling that “prison riot crap”, separating from the group, and firing their guns after being specifically told to strike the head, stay in formation, and avoid making loud noises. Jamming a machete into Tomas’ skull strikes me as a no-brainer decision, but I feel the Shane-shaped demon on Deputy Grimes’ right shoulder might have won out when our hero left poor, panicked Andrew as helpless yum-yum for the yard walkers.
Intriguingly, I imagine the angel on his right side as Lori of all people. My prior hatred for the woman is well documented, but “Sick” has me coming around, which comes as somewhat of a surprise. Free of her affair with Shane and its guilt-ridden consequences, Mrs Grimes seems to be taking stock at last, as evidenced by her aforementioned advice and admission of guilt to her husband. I love their awkward conversation on the caged bridge, the way Rick conveys both his desire to mend their relationship and how far it’s deteriorated with just a pat on the back and the use of the pronoun “we”.
Oh, and Lori’s right to scold Carl for wandering off to the infirmary on his own. For heaven’s sake, how hard would it have been for the boy to call Maggie for backup? He could even have used the opportunity to schmooze and ask her to put in a good word with Beth. Amateur! Mind you, suicidal heroism seems to run in the family, what with his father running after Andrew alone in an uncharted cell block and his mother performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Hershel, by far the tensest scene in another action-packed episode of The Walking Dead… There’s a phrase I didn’t expect to write last year!
Our heroes have grown mighty gung-ho this season, haven’t they? Even Carol seems to have adapted to her harsh new reality, asking Glenn for an undead human guinea pig to hone her C-section skills. I hope she doesn’t plan on using the same knife to deliver Lori’s baby! On the subject of gruesome infection, I’m a bit unclear as to why Big Tiny needed to be put down after getting bit by a ghoul, seeing as every living person is already carrying the virus. The scene makes perfect sense if we go by Romero lore: the living dead aren’t contagious so much as filled with the usual health risks associated with manipulating rotting flesh. However, that’s not what the show runners have been advertising, and the whole thing seems to clash with Hershel’s unexpected survival.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m relieved the old man gets to grumble another day, if only because Scott Wilson is proving such a charismatic presence, but the new writers of The Walking Dead have really milked his near passing for all its glorious worth. I expressed in last week’s review some apprehension regarding the balance between action and character development. “Sick” puts all my fears to rest with Maggie’s fantastic soliloquy by her father’s side. Fatalism has never sounded so loving, and, if that’s the sort of twisted emotions and ethical quandaries we can expect from season three, then all I’ve got to say is, “Frank Dara-who?”