The Walking Dead Recap 2.2: Bloodletting
Recap by Britt Hayes
Editor’s Note: This recap and all future recaps contain extensive spoilers for The Walking Dead television series on AMC, as well as the comic books.
This week’s Walking Dead was a marked upgrade from last week’s, in my opinion anyway, as we moved away from tying loose-ends up from last season and setting up this season, to good old-fashioned narrative. Was it perfect? No. We’ve still got a long way to go, I think, in getting the show where it needs to be, and this week had me thinking a lot about comic vs. television, but we’ll get to that later.
We get a flashback this week to provide a little more illumination on Lori’s character. Unfortunately it doesn’t go very far in helping Lori seem more empathetic – Lori has never been the most warm character, but I’ll say she’s definitely more complex here than in the book. The biggest improvement made has been with Shane, who somehow manages to milk audience empathy even though he tried to rape Lori last season. In our flashback we see Lori talking with a fellow teacher (and in this scene I for once agree with many of you – can we get Lori a sandwich?) about an argument she had with Rick. This is the second time this argument has been brought up, as it was the last time Lori and Rick spoke before he was shot. Lori complains that Rick is too nice, too “decent,” and she finds it infuriating. Again, this doesn’t make Lori seem more likable – who complains about their husband’s inability to be an asshole in a fight? If anything, this scene highlights Lori’s melodramatic streak even further – a streak we got yet another taste of last week when the survivors set out to scavenge for supplies and her only contribution to the discussion was that the abandoned cars were like “a graveyard,” and she didn’t feel right looting from the dead. Oh, just can it already, Lori.
Lori’s character becomes a major focal point for me this episode, and even though she’s absent for most of the conflict, her presence is still felt. From Rick’s incessant, “My wife doesn’t know Carl’s been shot! She needs to be here,” to the anticipation of – although it largely went unsaid – who might go retrieve Lori from the woods, to her eventual arrival on the farm and subsequent maudlin embrace of her son, and eventually her conflict with Rick over his desire to play hero and leave his family yet again – Lori is all over this episode. Where other characters feel more fleshed-out (literally) in the television series, Lori is perhaps the most straight translation of her two-dimensional counterpart. Her character is drama-hungry and seemingly exists only to stand in the way of everyone else. Lori is, essentially, Debbie Downer. Want to scavenge for supplies? Lori has to voice her morally upright opposition. Want to go save your friends? Aww hell no because you can’t abandon Lori in her hour of need. As if no one else could possibly have needs or wants in this wasteland.
But enough about Lori for now. The major plot this episode is that Carl has been accidentally shot by Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince!), who runs Rick and Shane to a nearby farm where he’s been holed up with a small group of survivors, including veterinarian Hershel, and his two daughters (including comic book favorite Maggie). Meanwhile, Lori and Daryl and co. continue wandering the woods after hearing the gunshot, looking for Rick, Shane, and Carl, and Dale and T-Dog stay at the RV while T-Dog nurses the cut on his arm. Does T-Dog have a legit name, or have I forgotten already? All I know is that it’s hilarious to hear Jeffrey DeMunn say “T-Dog” as he delivers his lines. DeMunn is easily the most talented actor on cast, but it still reduces me to a giggling idiot to hear him say “T-Dog” with any level of seriousness. The outtakes on this show must be madness.
At the farm, Rick gives Carl two blood transfusions that have made our hero very weak, and it’s the stuff between Rick and the laid-out Carl that’s the most poignant in this episode. In fact, if Lori had remained absent all episode, this stuff would have been perfect. I also love that, although Otis is responsible for shooting Carl, they play his remorse and his offer to take Shane down to the nearby high school (where a medical outpost was set up) in an act of contrition with just the right tone. There’s nothing over the top or sappy about these scenes. And while the parallel between Rick being shot and Carl being helpless and vice versa is so incredibly obvious, it still feels legitimately moving.
Maggie rides off on her horse and saves Andrea’s ass from a walker with a baseball bat in probably the most bad-ass moment we’ve had so far, and retrieves Lori to bring her back to the farm. The worst moment in this episode had Lori questioning the experience of Hershel, with something to the effect of, “Oh, a vet? You’ve aided our armed forces in combat,” with Hershel correcting, “No, a veterinarian.” I couldn’t tell if this was written to paint Lori as even more head-achingly ridiculous or if it was just poorly written dialogue in general, which is, I think, the most reductive assessment I can make regarding The Lori Problem.
Maggie sends Glenn, Andrea, et al., back to the RV to backtrack and rendezvous at the farm. They decide to stay one more night in hopes that Sophia might return (oh, right, Sophia is still gone), and in the morning they’ll leave a sign and some supplies for her to find them. T-Dog isn’t doing so well – he’s got blood poisoning, he saw a blood-splattered baby car seat, and the cigarette he’s smoking isn’t helping matters (hey kids, don’t smoke). But never fear because Daryl has a supply of prescription drugs (Merle often came down with the Clap, you see), including a bag of BLUE METH — what up, Breaking Bad fans?! – and some antibiotics. Hooray, T-Dog gets to live another day.
The episode also succeeded in creating some genuine suspense with Shane and Otis at the local high school. They create a diversion with some flares found in the trunk of a police car and sneak into the medical shed for the supplies needed for Hershel to perform surgery on Carl. They make it in okay, but it’s the escape that alludes them. Once they exit the shed, they catch the attention of the hoard, forcing them into a school foyer, where the only thing separating them from the zombies is a metal gate. Rick knows something must be up because Shane and Otis would be back by now, but Lori refuses to let him run off to find them, not so much because he’s weak from multiple blood transfusions, but because she’s selfish and can’t handle the stress of her ailing son alone. Way to be reasonable, Lori.
How does it compare to the comics this week?
Maggie! You guys, it’s Maggie! If you’re as in love with Maggie as I am – she has all the nuance and complexity Lori is lacking and provides the perfect relationship elements with Glenn that Lori is missing – then you flipped out when she appeared on screen this week. Maggie might be a more minor character, but she’s strong and brave, and in her weaker moments she offers subtle emotionality, making her a character that has been a major reason for my ongoing interest in the series. Sometimes Kirkman’s dialogue can be flat and expository, but Maggie is one of the better-written characters in the series.
It was nice to see the farm, and I was pleased with the lack of exposition in Otis’ introduction. It was just understood that he shot Carl, no need to lay it all out for us. I’m still wondering when/if Tyreese will show up.
Again, back to Lori – in the series she was always a pain in the ass. Anytime Rick wanted to be a hero, she staunchly defied him because he had “abandoned” her and Carl before. You know, when he was SHOT and in a COMA. Lori would whine and whine about how she couldn’t bear for him to leave her and Carl again, but it always came off as emasculating, melodramatic, and outright ridiculous. Lori was never written very well, and it wasn’t until the prison storyline that I really began to come around to her character. It seemed that feeling safe and grounded at the prison freed up her character to chill out a little, making her elimination that much more upsetting. This whole plot reminds me of Dexter, in that I couldn’t stand Rita (Julie Benz), Dexter’s wife, and it wasn’t until her final season that I warmed up to her. Writers are always so good at making the most unsympathetic characters loved right before they kill them off.
Many of you will recognize the opening flashback as a part of the books, too, and I’m not sure I’m glad they included it. It felt largely pointless and only served to make Lori seem more cold. If they can make Shane into the complex and fantastically empathetic character he is in the TV series, surely they can do the same for Lori?