Episode Title: "Pretty Much Dead Already"
Writer: Scott M. Gimple
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
As Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors eat their lunch outside of the farm of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), Glenn (Steven Yeun) nervously stands up in front of the group and with Dale's (Jeffrey DeMunn) encouragement, he reveals that Hershel has several zombies locked up in the barn. The survivors quickly check the barn for themselves to confirm it and Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) becomes incensed. Shane demands that the group leave Hershel's farm immediately, but Rick, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) argue that they have to stay until Carol's daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz) is found.
Shane scoffs at the idea that Sophia is still alive and he almost gets into a fight with Dale over it. Rick insists that they leave the barn zombies to Hershel because the land is his and they still want to stay there. Shortly thereafter, Glenn tries to apologize to Hershel's daughter, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) for betraying the secret, but she breaks an egg over his head. In the barn, Daryl prepares to "borrow' another one Hershel's horses despite his own slow recovery from being shot and impaled by an arrow. Carol tries to prevent him from leaving by suggesting that Sophia is gone… but this only angers Daryl into calling her a "stupid bitch" and walking out on her.
In the RV, Dale tries to warn Andrea (Laurie Holden) about figuratively (and literally) getting into bed with Shane, but his warnings fall on deaf ears. Disgusted by Andrea's complete lack of faith in him, Dale cuts off the conversation. He then asks Glenn to fetch him some water before eyeing the bag of guns with intent. Inside Hershel's home, Rick enters and finds Hershel eating his lunch. Rick interrupts him to talk about the barn and once again ask him to reconsider his decision about sending the survivors away. Even the news that Lori is pregnant doesn't move Hershel, but Maggie is disturbed by her father's lack of compassion.
Outside, Shane is still angered over Rick's lack of progress with Hershel and he once again insists that they leave. Rick tells Shane that they have to stay because Lori is pregnant, which stuns Shane… and he is barely able to congratulate Rick. Inside the house, Maggie confronts her father about not being true to himself by sending the survivors away. Jimmy (James Allen McCune) then enters and tells Hershel that "it's happening again." Outside, Shane confronts Lori over the baby that he believes to be his, but she insists that Rick will be the father even if it is Shane's baby. Angered, Shane storms off until he is stopped by Carl (Chandler Riggs), Rick's young son.
Carl insists that they have to stay to find Sophia, and Shane has no retort for his determination. But he does warn Carl not to swear in an angry father kind of way and he ominously hints that they need to do something drastic to stay. Shane enters the RV to get his gun, only to find that Dale has taken the entire bag with him and left Glenn with no idea where he went. Elsewhere, Hershel and Jimmy ask Rick for his help as they lead him into the woods. Hershel explains that Otis used to help him round up the zombies and herd them into the barn. And if Rick and his survivors are going to stay, then they need to help him save any zombies that come near the property.
Rick doesn't like it, but he agrees. Out in another part of the woods, Daryl makes up for his outburst by leading Carol to another Cherokee Rose; which restores her faith that Sophia will be found. Back at the farm, Glenn reconciles with Maggie and he insists that he told his group about the zombies because he never wants Maggie to be in danger again. Elsewhere, Shane catches Dale trying to hide the guns and he demands that he return them. Dale threatens to shoot Shane, but Dale doesn't have it in him to murder him. Shane hints that he might kill Dale, but instead he leaves Dale behind as he storms back to the farm.
When he arrives, Shane begins passing out weapons to his group of survivors and he announces his intent to clean out the barn over the objections of Hershel's family and Lori. When Rick, Hershel and Jimmy arrive with two more captured zombies, Shane goes even further over the edge. He shoots the female zombie multiple times to demonstrate to Hershel that it is dead. Then Shane breaks down the locks on the barn door and the zombies inside stagger out one-by-one only to be executed by almost all of the survivors except Rick and Hershel's family. But just as the last of Hershel's collection of zombies goes down, one more walks out of the barn… Sophia.
The sight of Sophia turned into a zombie gives everyone pause and Daryl has to restrain Carol from going to her dead daughter. In the end, only Rick has it in him to draw his weapon and shoot Sophia in the head, adding her body to the others.
The ending of "Pretty Much Dead Already" was brilliant and it was easily the highlight of the current season of "The Walking Dead." It is also a great spot for the midseason break, but there's still no reason that we couldn't have gotten to this point about three episodes ago.
The time on Hershel's farm has been dragging this series into monotony and it badly needed the shot in the arm it got from the climax. There's a much larger story waiting for the survivors once they leave the farm and this season has really felt like the writers have been spinning their wheels just to keep the characters in one place. If anything, I would suspect that budget considerations were largely responsible for that. But as a viewer, "The Walking Dead" has been infuriatingly slow moving this year.
That said, the search for Sophia ended in the only way that it could: in tragedy. Readers of "The Walking Dead" comic know that this is a major departure from the original story. Sophia was never lost and she certainly never became a zombie (at least not yet). However, there's no point in arguing with a powerfully executed moment like the reveal of Sophia at the barn. Yes, it's a deviation from the books. But it works.
Although, I'm not sure there was enough time for Sophia to be killed, rise again as a zombie and wander near Hershel's farm before Otis put her in the barn… all before Otis shot Carl. That's suspending a lot of disbelief to cram all of that into a tight timeline. I'd also like to see how Sophia died, but not knowing the particulars doesn't undercut the tragedy of her fate.
Sophia's death hasn't been the only departure from the original series and it's like the writers of "The Walking Dead' have been throwing stones into the river of events to see how the story changes in response. So far, I'd say the biggest stone has been Shane, whose presence has led to the premature death of the Otis and may have also led to Sophia's death. Just by his disruptive presence, Shane is making life a lot more difficult for the survivors. And he's become so unhinged that I was surprised that he didn't murder Dale in this episode
The charge of the zombie light brigade was also well done and there seemed to be special significance to Rick being the one to put down Sophia. In addition to being a callback to the first scene of the pilot episode, it was also a way to emphatically show that Rick is siding with his group of survivors over Hershel and his family. Hershel is not a stupid man and it's understandable why he wants to believe that the zombies can be cured. Otherwise his wife and stepson were gone forever. Instead, he just had to watch Rick's group mow down his family and kill his last hope for getting his family back. I also have to point out that it would be complete bulls*** if the survivors are still hanging out at the farm after this.
The tragedy of the situation is that Hershel had come around and he would have let the survivors stay if they had bent to his rules on the zombies. The scene between Hershel and Maggie was an effective way to reestablish that Hershel was more compassionate before the zombie outbreak. That was also the first time that Scott Wilson and Lauren Cohan have had a real chance to show off a father/daughter bond onscreen. Until that point, I didn't really buy that relationship.
As for Daryl — the unsung hero of the show — I suspect that his devotion to finding Sophia was more about redeeming himself in his own eyes than it was about any affection he had for Sophia and Carol. His anger towards Carol near the beginning of the episode was a great moment. But Daryl also took the time to try to make it up to Carol. It's also worth noting that Daryl was the one to hold Carol back from running to her dead daughter. I don't think a romance between these two characters would be a very good idea, but a complicated relationship could be worth exploring.
The biggest thing that "Pretty Much Dead Already" had to accomplish was getting viewers invested in the show again. And it was very successful at that… Now the writers just need to get the survivors off of the damn farm.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.