Episode Title: "Sick"
Writer: Nichole Beattie
Director: Billy Gierhart
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
To illustrate how “The Walking Dead” TV series differs from the comic book, the introduction of the prison survivors is a good example.
In the comic, the prisoners immediately offered the core group some food and they had a relatively peaceful first meeting. In the TV series, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company were too busy for pleasantries as they tried to keep Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) alive after Rick amputated Hershel’s leg to save his life from the zombie bite he received in the previous episode.
For television, upping the stakes of that initial meeting between Rick and the prisoners made it much more intense and dramatic. Given the numerous other changes that Kirkman, Glen Mazzara and the other writers have already made to the narrative, it’s been fascinating to see the TV series play out as an alternate timeline where things can unfold differently. And Rick may have cut off a number of problems in this episode before they even got started.
Once again, full spoilers are in effect for this review. Don’t read any further until you catch up to this week’s episode.
It very quickly becomes clear that Tomas (Nick Gomez) — the leader of the prisoners — is very dangerous. Rick doesn’t even entertain the thought letting the prisoners join his group. And after everything that Rick has gone through, can you blame him? The last time that Rick and his group met another band of survivors, a shoot out ensued.
Even Rick’s wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) said that she was okay with letting Rick murder the prisoners if it meant protecting their group. Hilariously, Rick added “you say that now…” as a reminder of when she basically told him to kill Shane and then showed anger towards him after he eventually took her advice. The screenwriter of this episode, Nichole Beattie, does try to portray Lori in a more sympathetic light as she tries to reconcile with Rick. But there’s a long way to go before Rick will forgive her. And even the audience hasn’t quite let Lori off the hook for her Lady MacBeth moments last year.
Rick strikes a deal with Tomas to get half of the inmates’ food supply in exchange for helping them clear out a prison block for themselves. The freezer gag from the comic was also told to better effect here as Rick actually opened the door this time. The other great joke in the episode was when Tomas, Andrew (Markice Moore), Big Tiny (Theodus Crane), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Axel (Lew Temple) broke their formation and used prison fighting techniques against the walkers. The expressions of disbelief from Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) were priceless.
Soon enough, Tomas demonstrated an almost frightening bloodlust when he slaughtered Big Tiny after he was scratched or bitten by a zombie. So when Tomas made a few not so subtle attempts on Rick’s life, Rick simply killed him on the spot.
For Rick’s next trick, he chased Tomas’ closest ally, Andrew out into the prison courtyard and locked him out as the walkers surrounded him. There’s just not a lot of mercy left in Rick’s heart and he’s no longer that different from Shane. Rick’s advantage over Shane is that he’s not crazy, but how long will that last?
Axel and Oscar get a reprieve from summary execution and Rick honors his original deal with them. It’s not clear if we’ll be seeing either Axel or Oscar again after Rick warns them to stay away from his group, but leaving them in their own prison block may have actually put them in a worse position than they were in before.
Meanwhile, Lori and Carol (Melissa McBride) tried to save Hershel’s life and keep him from bleeding out. It felt like a bit of a cheat for Hershel to have given Carol some medical lessons offscreen, but we kind of had to go with it here. Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) got a chance to prove his worth by retrieving the badly needed medical supplies for Hershel while unsupervised. But instead of praising his efforts, Lori lectured Carl about going off on his own.
And while Carl had a few harsh words in reply for his mom, he demonstrated that he is still very much a child after his current crush, Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) chided him for disrespecting Lori. Carl couldn’t deal with the humiliation and he ran off. That was a slightly funny moment, but it seemed to be more manufactured than genuine turn.
On the other hand, Lauren Cohan’s Maggie had a great scene with Hershel on his death bed as she gave him permission to die after thanking him for raising her and her sister. “The Walking Dead” doesn’t always connect with its emotional moments, but that was very moving. There was also some good contrast between the two sisters as Beth optimistically prepared for Hershel’s recovery while Maggie was trying to say goodbye.
I have to say that Hershel was way too calm when he woke up, considering the pain he had to be in after losing a leg. But it was telling that Hershel reached for Rick’s hand first as a measure of thanks for saving his life. There is an actual bond between Hershel and Rick now, with the entire group acting as an extended family. And these are the good times for them… which never last on this show.
I would say that this was one of Rick’s finest hours, but he’s really a dick to Lori in their final scene together. Lori is so desperate for any kind of forgiveness or approval from Rick, but all he can give her is a generic thank you for saving Hershel’s life with CPR. To be sure, Lori brought a lot of her misery on herself. However, Rick’s unwillingness to even engage with Lori is starting to come off poorly.
Still, the first two episodes of season 3 have been very strong. And “The Walking Dead” appears to be on course for some amazing stories ahead.