After months of waiting, The Walking Dead is finally back, bringing us to the eighth episode in Season 2. While time has passed for us, our story picks up right where it left off in episode seven, Pretty Much Dead Already. Tonight’s episode, Nebraska, stays true to the show’s patterns, but leaves us with a little more hope for the overall direction of the series.
For those who haven’t read The Walking Dead (TWD) comics, one of the key elements that makes the series so great is the fear factor. No, I don’t mean the fear of zombies (though those elements add to the comic greatly). I mean the fear of people in a post-apocalyptic world. We got a hint of that fear a few episodes ago when Shane began to show his true colors, but Nebraska finally drove that wonderfully terrifying aspect — that the show has been missing — home for the first time.
The first 20 minutes or so of the episode set the mood and got us settled back in, but it was on the verge of falling back into the slow pace that we have endured so often this season so far. The group buries Hershel’s finally-dead family members as well as little Sophia, and burns the rest of the corpses they didn’t know. Shane is still flipping out and being especially aggressive with Dale. It’s obvious the old fella has Shane’s number, and that makes Shane M-A-D. Dale even mentions to Lori that he thinks Shane killed Otis, though his only evidence is his gut instincts and knowledge of people like Shane. Apparently, that’s a hard pill to swallow, so we may have to wait for Shane to do something pretty obvious before the group realizes that he’s not quite right anymore.
It’s hard to take a side on the issue of whether killing all the walkers in the barn was the right thing to do, especially now that Hershel himself thinks he was wrong in hoping for a cure. We see that not all the other survivors think it was right, though most of them are glad to have the threat eliminated. While Shane has a point, he sure has a terrible way of making it.
After a few chatty scenes and mundane ones, Nebraska starts to pick up, giving us new issues and problems to focus on. Hershel’s daughter, Beth, goes into the strangest form of shock I have ever seen; she’s practically comatose. Hershel heads to an abandoned bar to get drunk, so he’s not around to help her. We also see that Carol is a little worse for wear, which is understandable considering everything she has gone through. What’s concerning though, is Daryl’s slow but steady attitude change. He’s much less willing to help his fellow survivors, considering all he went through to try to find Sophia unsuccessfully.
Naturally, Rick wants to go find Hershel and bring him back to his family. This is far from what Lori wants, but being Rick, he goes anyway. What kills me is that after Daryl refuses to help her, Lori takes off on her own armed with a sedan, Carhartt jacket, and a six-shooter in an attempt to bring the boys back. TWD TV series has had a problem with creating strong female characters. In the comic, Andrea is a wonderful example of a strong, independent, and level-headed female. That’s not what I would call her TV counterpart. It was so frustrating watching Lori hop in a car without telling anyone where she was going, because I knew that nothing good would come of it. Hasn’t she figured out by now that SAFETY and GOOD DECISIONS are what keep people alive now? Lo and behold — the pregnant, mouth-y, and practically useless female character gets herself into more trouble than she bargained for.
After all this, Rick, Hershel, and Glenn run into two wanderers, Dave and Tony. Dave (Drew Marshall from True Blood) is smooth talker and seemingly pleasant, while his buddy is less than charming. They spell trouble from the start, but don’t show their intentions for a while. Nebraska‘s director, Clark Johnson, did a great job making you wonder if you were the only one feeling paranoid about those guys. The scene is a turning point in the series for a couple of reasons. One, this is the first time we’ve seen any living people posing a real threat to our little group of survivors. Two, this is the first time Rick has shot anything but zombies since he woke up in the hospital.
The acting throughout Nebraska was great as usual, with some highlights including the Shane-Dale confrontation, the Shane-Carol scene, and the scene with the wanderers. CGI was kept to a minimum this episode, but creative shots and thoughtful editing kept you from really missing it.
A few little things to consider as we finish up the last episodes of TWD Season 2: How long until Daryl’s new attitude drives him off the edge? When will Shane finally blow up? Will Lori’s disappearance turn into another ‘Sophia hunt’? Will Hershel give up entirely on hope, and change as a character? Where will the survivors go if Fort Benning is truly overrun? Hopefully, most of these questions will be answered before we have to wait for the première of Season 3. If episode 208 is an indicator of the new pace of the show, we should have our answers and more. Scroll past the rating for a sneak peek at next week’s episode, Triggerfinger.
I give Nebraska 4 “scythes to the head” out of 5.