With a much stronger focus on the tension and horror of the situation our survivors find themselves in, this week’s episode is the polar opposite of last week’s in everything but quality. In that category, this episode might just surpass it.
You know, this episode starts out slow. Just sisters Amy and Andrea fishing and talking about their dad and trying not to cry at the thought of him being zombie chow. But then things just start ratcheting up, ever so slowly. One of the survivors, Jim, is digging holes on a hill near the survivor’s camp. Why is he digging holes? Why is he not stopping no matter what anyone else might say to him? Nobody knows, and Shane tries to stop him from freaking everyone out. But this just brings back to light the reason people are treading lightly around Shane: the brutal response to Ed’s wife beating ways last episode. It also serves to give some backstory to Jim as he rants about how his wife and kids were ripped from his arms by the walking dead. In his own words, the only reason he is alive is because the zombies were too busy eating his family.
Then things really kick into high gear as Rick and the others in Atlanta try to find out what happened to their less than handy racist buddy Merle. Upon seeing just how bad ass Merle is in getting his way off that rooftop (seriously, the amount of carnage this guy can create with one hand tied behind his back…), the group decide to get to the business of getting the guns. It seems like a relatively simple maneuver, run out, grab the guns, hope you don’t get bitten. And it would be, if this weren’t TV. Of course things get complicated. In this instance it is a complication in the form of another group of survivors who also have their eyes on the big bag of guns. They also have their eyes on Glenn, as he becomes their captive after they attack the group. However, Rick’s group get the bag of guns as well as a hostage of their own, leading to a tense standoff between the two groups for most of the episode.
Now going into this situation, it might be easy to assume that this is the standard good group of survivors who want to work together vs. the evil group of survivors who want to take what they can and screw all the rest. However, as the standoff reaches its climax you find out that the people behind the supposed evil group of survivors aren’t really who we would expect them to be. The show has, once again, throw us a fantastic twist on the standard zombie fare.
Speaking of twists, the ending of this episode sends out horrible surprise after horrible surprise. So, spoiler alert, heavy spoilers from here on out. When Rick’s group gets back to their van they find out that said van is nowhere to be found. Who could have taken it? Why Merle of course! Yes, they reckon that their handicapped ex-buddy has taken the van and is headed back to camp with a little spot of revenge on his mind. Thus we cut to camp where a birthday party is being held and everyone is laughing and having a good time and oh my goodness wouldn’t it be just horrible if something happened right now? Well yes, yes it would. And something horrible does indeed happen. In the form of zombies. Not Merle. The zombies have finally made it all the way up through the forest into camp and all hell is about to break loose. Nice bait and switch there show!
What follows is one of the main reasons why I love this show so much. It makes zombies scary again. This zombie attack is brutal and horrible. Its night in the woods. These people don’t have many weapons. The zombies are just coming from everywhere. And people die. Important people. This ending puts a gigantic bloody exclamation point on the entire episode. People of the show, take note: you are not safe anywhere. And we still have the Merle situation lurking off in the shadows of the last two episodes of this season.
Its really amazing how this show keeps getting better and better. While some episodes play off the strengths of throwing a bunch of diverse people into a “Work together or die!” type of situation, others just go with the straight up horror of living in a world overrun with the living dead. This episode has bits of both, though it leans heavily on the horror end of the spectrum. It also teases one hell of a bombshell. What is going to happen with Merle? With only two episodes left, I feel the answer will be nothing short of explosive. But that is the future. As for this episode, it clearly helps cement the greatness already established by this show.