‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Cherokee Rose’: Throw the zombie down the well

A review of tonight’s “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I bet on the snowball…

“If somebody’s gonna die, better hope that you’re the one who’s making that decision.” -Shane

With Carl’s condition improving after the surgery, with the group slowly accepting that they’re not going to find Sophia, even as they insist on looking, and with Hershel’s farm a seeming haven from the zombies (save for the occasional stray who gets into the well water), “Cherokee Rose” was the most leisurely hour of season 2 so far. There was no big overarching story this week, but rather a series of vignettes about different characters and how they’re adjusting to their current circumstances.

So this was not an hour likely to appease those of you who feel season 2 is lacking any sense of urgency or larger story arc. But it at least offered some baby steps in terms of the character development I was asking the supporting players to get last week.

There was still a Rick story this week, though it didn’t quite work, perhaps because the episode was spread around so many different characters. Rick’s plea for Hershel to let them stay fits his role as both the group’s leader and Carl’s father, sure, but Rick deciding to give up his deputy hat and put away his badge and other tokens of office seemed to come out of nowhere. We’ve discussed why he’s still wearing the uniform a lot more than anyone on the show has, and it didn’t even work as a symbolic gesture, because his story this week wasn’t about Rick having to let go of the way civilization used to work; if anything, Hershel has been repeatedly presented to us as a man who wants to keep things as unchanged as possible.

Fortunately, some of the other vignettes and character pieces made up for that. After being largely irrelevant to the season’s first three episodes, Glen finally got a showcase, first as the reluctant bait in the plan to lasso the waterlogged zombie(*), then having a fun, sexy time on his trip into town with Hershel’s daughter Maggie. I like the balance that the writers and Steven Yeun have created with Glen, who does crazy things well, but always comes across as a regular guy who isn’t without fear but is able to operate in spite of it. Even amidst his panic, he’s able to rope the zombie, for instance, and you can see why Maggie might be drawn to him – besides, as she points out, the lack of available suitors in a zombie apocalypse.

(*) Fantastic make-up work on that guy, especially once he split in two. So, so, so gross.

Daryl, meanwhile, continues his transformation from the character he was last year into a more useful, if familiar, Han Solo/Sawyer/Wolverine secretly heroic bastard type, here going out on his own to search for Sophia, then being the only person able to provide comforting words to Carol. Again, this isn’t so much a character evolution as a major overhaul, but I prefer this Daryl to the other one, and Norman Reedus plays him very well.

Shane and Andrea haven’t really interacted since she pressed him on running away from the group together in the premiere, but they were a good combo here as Shane taught her how to shoot and also how to prepare yourself for killing – a state of mind he’s been dealing with a lot lately in light of his decision to sacrifice Otis for the sake of himself and Carl. (The moral of the story he tells at the memorial service isn’t a lie; it’s just the details that aren’t true.) If Shane weren’t still hanging so strongly on Lori’s every word about staying or going, I might even wonder if he was able to jump from one love triangle to another and come between whatever it is Dale thinks he could have with Andrea if she ever forgives him for preventing her suicide. (Because of the available partner shortage Maggie talks about with Glen, this is a show where characters leaping into bed with each other in different combinations feels less forced than on most.) But he’s still hung up on Lori, and Lori now has a complication of her own – even if it wasn’t the surprise I think the episode wanted it to be when she wouldn’t tell Glen the kind of feminine product she needed – in a pregnancy that’s just as likely to be Shane’s baby as Rick’s, if not more, not to mention her still-ambivalent feelings about what kind of life children can have in this terrible, terrible new world.

The characters still need more depth, but this was a definite step in the right direction on that front. Should we be banking on an all-T-Dog episode soon?

Before we go to the comments, let me remind you once again about the no spoilers rules for this blog, and specifically how it relates to a show like this adapted from a popular source material:

1)No Spoilers.

2)This includes any discussion of the previews for the next episode.

3)This includes any discussion of storylines from the comic that haven’t happened yet in the timeline of the TV show. (And, yes, the show has and will continue to deviate from the comic in some ways, but for the sake of those instances where they’re going to be the same, I don’t want people talking about something from issue 50 when we’re watching episode 11.) 

4)This includes anything you’ve seen or read elsewhere about anything that has not happened within the context of the episodes that have already aired.

Got that? Good. So what did everybody else think?