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The Walking Dead Review – 2.08 ‘Nebraska’

February 13, 2012 | Posted by Matt Arena

Picking up pretty much exactly where the mid-season finale left off, we find the group mere moments after Sophia’s death. A good portion of the episode was dealing with the fallout and ripple effects of killing a well-known character in the show. Watching Rick shoot one of the children of the group in the face, zombie or not, is going to effect every single person on the show. Oddly enough, Carol has a pretty rational reaction to seeing her daughter die right before her eyes. Acknowledging that her daughter really died a while ago and didn’t suffer like she had worried, it was surprisingly non-emotional. There was that weird bit where she was ripping up flowers in the fields, but her character toughened up in a big way. The bigger effect was on Hershel and the growing friction between him and Rick’s group. He did just watch his wife get shot in the face after all. As a side note, I loved the attention to detail with his wife. She clearly only got shot in the mouth, so having her spring up and grab one of her daughters was a cool tough. Plus watching Andrea hack her in the skull with scythe was rater awesome. It also reinforced the point to Hershel (and everyone) that these things really are a danger, and not just sick people. This was a major point of contention for Hershel and the entire barn fiasco easily had the biggest impact on him. Turning back to drinking after quitting during Maggie’s birth, he takes off to a pub and starting pounding them back. It sets up for some really good character development on him and Rick. Plus it gave us one of the coolest scenes in the show. More on that later.

The first half of the season concentrated on starting and slowly maintaining friction between many of the characters, which all came to a head at the last 5 minutes of the previous episode. After pretty much bucking Rick’s pacifist guidelines, Shane is in direct conflict with Rick. I’ve got a definite feeling that they’re going to play that up in the second half of the season. Rick was too busy wanting to be peaceful and talk things out with Hershel, which in Shane’s eyes put the group directly in danger. While it was a minor clash that ended with Shane just shaking his head and walking away, there’s a definite vibe that the clashes will escalate between those two as the season progresses. As a reader of the comic, I’ve got a bad feeling in my gut as to where this may lead. Shane’s certainly got his detractors, but he is one of the most interesting characters on the show period. I loved what they’ve done with him and it continued this week. He’s been pegged as a heartless killer, which I can argue, but he had a moment with Carol that seemed to speak directly to his haters. Carol stumbles out of the woods after having a breakdown and Shane comforts her. That’s right. Shane comforted someone. “Everyone thinks I’m a…I’m just trying to keep everybody safe,” which is exactly what I’ve been saying the entire time in defense of Shane. He’s not a cold-blooded killer; he’s a survivalist that does what he needs to take care of his own. Oddly enough Shane’s biggest hater, Dale, wasn’t there to see this touching scene and continues to be annoying. At this point Dale exists for no other reason than to have atrocious eyebrows and be anti-Shane. He’s actively turning people against Shane and coming off as a bitter old man that’s jealous because Shane hooked up with Andrea. It does a major disservice to his character; all he does is argue with Shane and get shut down. He gave his trademark-disapproving frown as Shane was walking to the truck and had NOTHING to say as Shane pressed him about what he did for the better of the group. And in one of my favorite lines in the show thus far, totally shut him up with “next time I need a radiator hose, I’ll give you a call, man.” Dale brings pretty much nothing to the table and Shane called him out on it. They really need to add something to his character, because the anti-Shane thing is getting old.

What I really liked about this episode were these little moments that were short, but carried a lot of weight. The scene with Carl, for example. Obviously growing up in a world where dead people are trying to eat you is something that’s gonna mess with a child, but to see him so calm about watching his friend die was unnerving. Even to go as far as agreeing with what his Dad did. It’s not how a child should react. He barely even cried. It’s better for him as a character, but it’s always disturbing to see a child completely at peace with his father putting a bullet in his best friend’s head. Carl’s learning from Rick what and when to do the hard things, which I’m hoping will come into play later on in the season. Again, without spoiling anything, readers of the comic know what I’m implying may (and probably will) happen. The couple quick scenes where the group is going through the hellish task of cleaning up all the zombies really worked for me too. It made the show feel more authentic, it probably really is a pain the ass to clean up all those gross dead bodies. They just don’t disappear. Plus it was morbidly hilarious to watch Andrea chase down the zombie arm that flopped off the truck. One thing that bugged me was Lori chasing off after Rick, Glenn, and Hershel. After reaming out Rick about leaving her and Carl behind, she goes off and does the exact same thing. Only worse because she left Carl with NOBODY. Then she wrecks the car and we don’t even know what happens to her. Was I the only one thrown off my this scene? I did enjoy her getting cussed out by Daryl though. Not only did he call her Olive Oyl (which is SPOT ON and truly hilarious) but also it was a subtle way of showing how Sophia’s death bothered even him.

Now back to the scene in the bar, easily the coolest scene in the entire episode and arguably in the season thus far. Hershel had fled the farm to drown his sorrows in a bottle of whiskey, as Rick and Glenn follow to bring him back to care for his daughter. Surprisingly, he took a lot of the blame for what happened at the barn. My expectation was for Hershel to fly off the handle completely, especially when they showed what a drinker he was. But it was pretty unexpected to see him admit how wrong he was and become complete opposite to what he was before. The god-fearing optimist became the drunken pessimist with no hope. Hershel brought up some good points, why even bother trying when the end product is the same? What’s the point in trying to live in a world where everyone dies? While it’s not an entirely new thought in the zombie world, it was disturbing to see such a change in a man like Hershel who was so unflinchingly positive. It also gave us another revealing moment for Rick, where we get to see behind his stoic mask to the hopeless man underneath. He tries to shape Hershel into the same type of leader he is, but it’s obvious that not everyone can wear the crown. Then there was the introduction of the two wandering travelers. From the second they walked in it was incredibly tense and it only became even more so as the scene progressed. It was almost impossible to tell if the warning signs were genuine danger or just Rick trying to be safe. Of course there’s the moral dilemma of letting potentially dangerous people into your group, which was played out wordlessly amongst Rick, Hershel, and Glenn. It was probably the most well-acted scene in the entire series, with all of the emotion and intensity being played out in their faces. When Dave kept pressing as to where they were staying, you could feel the tension rise in the room. As the audience it was damn near impossible to get a read on these newcomers, so we know exactly where Rick is coming from. Of course it took a turn for the dangerous rather quickly and played out classic “Rick Grimes, Badass” fashion. That shot where Rick puts himself between the two men, loosely dangling his hand by his six shooter, felt like something out of a Sergio Leone film. The saloon setting and amazing old west theme playing certainly reinforced this tone. I’m re-watching said scene as I type this and it’s quickly becoming my favorite scene in the entire series. Rick’s Grimes’ badass side has been dormant since season 1 and it nearly made me squeal with glee to see him handle business like that.

Zombie Kill of the Week:
There weren’t a whole lot to choose from this week, and though I’m extremely tempted to give it to Rick for his dispatching of Dave and Scrawny Tony, they weren’t actually zombies so that wouldn’t be right. Even if that was a badass set of kills. So I’ll hand it to Andrea, for his double-tap scythe swing to Hershel’s wife to finish the job Daryl started last week. There haven’t been much zombies so far, but the writers have promised to increase that as the season progresses. Plus if you look at it from the character’s viewpoint, they probably don’t see hordes of zombies day-to-day. Since we’re following them pretty much in real-time, it makes sense that zombies are a bit scarce. They are trying to avoid them and all. But still, expect more zombie kills in the upcoming weeks.

The 411: With a hard act to follow after the mid-season finale, 'Nebraska' did a great job of dealing with the major fallout from the "barnpocalypse" and ramping up the action for the rest of the season. Pretty much every character was given a chance to grow exponentially this episode, all while leaving time for one of the best action sequences in the entire series. Everyone involved with the show has promised a much more intense and action packed second half, this certainly was evident in this week’s episode. The perfect way to usher in the second part of the season, 'Nebraska' did a perfect job of balancing drama and action to show exactly why The Walking Dead is such a fantastic show.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Matt Arena

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