Episode Title: "What Lies Ahead"
Writers: Ardeth Bey & Robert Kirkman
Directors: Ernest Dickerson & Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
Former Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) led his band of survivors to the CDC headquarters on the outskirts of Atlanta in the hopes of finding shelter from the zombie apocalypse. At first their prayers seemed to be answered by a man named Jenner (Noah Emmerich), who allowed them inside to share his food and supplies. During a night of drunken celebration, Rick's best friend, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) came on to Rick's wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) to resume their affair. However, Shane became violent and belligerent when Lori refused him again, leaving deep gash marks on his neck.
Later, Jenner revealed that the CDC was on the verge of self-destructing and he nearly kept everyone locked inside with him rather than allow them back out into a living hell. When the survivors finally got through to him, he whispered something into Rick's ear and allowed them to leave. However, Andrea (Laurie Holden) decided to stay and die on her own terms until Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) threatened to stay behind with her. In the end, only Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott) stayed with Jenner as the CDC exploded, leaving the survivors to face an uncertain future once again.
In the early morning hours, Rick sends out a message to Morgan that the group has abandoned Atlanta in hopes of finding other survivors at Fort Benning. But soon enough, the makeshift caravan is halted when Dale's RV breaks down on a freeway crowded with deserted cars. While Dale and Glenn (Steven Yeun) try to repair the RV, the rest of the survivors begin scavenging the other cars. For a while, their spirits are lifted from finding water and weapons until Rick and Dale notice a horde of zombies heading their way. The survivors hide under the cars to avoid being detected, but T-Dog (IronE Singleton) badly injures himself and nearly falls prey to a zombie until Daryl (Norman Reedus) intervenes.
Inside the RV, Andrea is trapped by another zombie until she repeatedly stabs it in the eye. Outside, Sophia (Madison Lintz) is less lucky as a zombie spots her and tries to drag her out from under a car. Sophia flees the highway with two zombies in hot pursuit. Rick gives chase and he catches up to Sophia first before urging her to hide as he dispatches the zombies without his gun. When Rick returns, Sophia is gone and he has no way to find her. Later, Daryl helps Rick follow Sophia's trail and they even cut open a zombie to make sure that he hasn't fed on her, but their search comes up empty.
Back at the makeshift freeway camp, Carol (Melissa McBride) freaks out over her missing daughter as Rick assures her that they will try to find her again in the morning. As the group prepares to find Sophia, Andrea tries to get her gun back from Dale and she angrily berates him for not allowing her to end her life on her own terms back at the CDC. Meanwhile, Shane begins pushing Rick's son, Carl (Chandler Riggs) and he privately tells Lori that he intends to leave the group at his first chance. Before the majority of the group leaves, Carl manages to convince his parents to allow him accompany them on the search for Sophia.
Away from the group, Dale admits to T-Dog that he fixed the RV days ago but he allowed the survivors to think it was still broken to prevent the group from fracturing. Out in the woods, the survivors hear church bells and follow them to a church in the hopes of finding Sophia there. Instead they find three zombie parishioners whom they quickly dispatch. Outside the church, Andrea overhears Shane talking about his plans to leave and she begs him to take her with him. Soon after, Daryl leads the majority of the group back to the highway while Shane, Rick and Carl continue the search. They soon happen upon a grazing buck; which doesn't seem scared by their presence. Shane tries to aim at it, but Rick refuses to let him shoot while Carl slowly approaches it.
Carl manages to get within a few feet of the deer before a shot rings out and passes through both the deer and Carl, leaving Rick distraught over his son's prone body.
It's hard to argue with Carl's fate at the end of this episode. It's a great hook for the next episode, but as a fan of the original "Walking Dead" comics I'm not as engaged with it because I already know what it leads to. I imagine this is what George R. R. Martin's fans felt during the first season of "Game of Thrones." The show is still very solid and well made, but I find myself wanting to be surprised.
One of the more dramatic departures from the comic is that a certain character is still around after their quick death in the original story. And I'm in favor of this change because the outcome no longer seems to be so predetermined. The performer is also one of the strongest cast members, and it's hard to picture the show without that character.
On another front, Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon stole the show with his hilarious save of T-Dog and an especially gruesome zombie autopsy scene with Rick. There's still a cartoonish aspect to Daryl's persona, but it was interesting to see him go so far out of his way to get T-Dog out of danger because we know that he held a grudge against T-Dog over what happened to his brother, Merle. Plus, Daryl also seems to be moving past his overt racism and further ingratiating himself within the group. However, Daryl does maintain some of his antihero edge when he steals a gun off a dead body and doesn't bother to tell anyone about it.
Jeffrey DeMunn is finally starting to get more dramatic material to play with and I loved the revelation that he's essentially been "Scotty-ing" his repairs on the RV just to avoid more conflict in the group. His scene with Andrea was also tense, although Andrea is losing a lot of sympathy because of her "I wanted to die on my own terms" speech. Yes, we get it. She's still distraught over what happened to Amy. But even on a show with zombies, there's something to be said for subtlety.
That said, the initial zombie horde scene on the freeway was one of the most impressive sequences in the show's short history. At its best, "The Walking Dead" can invoke some great moments of horror. Rick's solo zombie kills were also immensely satisfying to watch. Rick is still trying to be the hero and the best family man he can be; which should make his response to Carl's fate entertaining in the coming weeks.
There were some minor pacing issues and it still isn't clear what the series will be like once it gets past the episodes that Frank Darabont already worked on before his unceremonious dismissal last summer. But for now, all is relatively good with "The Walking Dead."
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.