by Willie Clark
Well oh golly gee, when did Rick (Andrew Lincoln)'s balls drop?
My main complaint this season is probably going to be that we don't know exactly when they did (given the show skipped over a few months and even more character development), but in an episode much stronger than the premiere, we really came face-to-face with Rick's new style of hands-on -- and axe-on -- leadership.
Picking up right where last week left off, we find Rick and crew trying to move now-one-legged Hershel (Scott Wilson) to safety, while also deciding what to do with the group of inmates they ran into in the prison. It was an interesting confrontation -- the inmates had been locked in the cafeteria for 10 months (which I don't think lines up timelines wise, but oh well) and weren't aware with just how ugly things had gotten on the outside.
The real ugliness, though, was on the inside. It felt like almost every character had a moment that would have been startlingly out of character for them last season, yet we are just supposed to accept it was, "Well, they changed over the winter!" syndrome. Little Carl (Chandler Riggs) gave Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) quite the talking to, Carol (Melissa McBride) is stepping up and killing walkers and trying to learn how to give C-sections now that Hershel might not be able to deliver the baby, and even Beth (Emily Kinney) is actually getting some lines, even if they were just her yelling at Carl for back talking to his mother.
While Glen (Steven Yeun), Carl, and the ladies were back in the cell block keeping an eye on Hershel (and it was touching to see Maggie (Lauren Cohan) say goodbye and let go of her father, although a little too soon), Rick, T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) agreed to help the prisoners clear another cell block in exchange for half the food in the cafeteria.
It was such a drastic shift for Rick: when facing down the other group's leader he didn't buckle or offer to give them a lot of weapons and hold their hand and give them back rubs. No, that was season 1-2 Rick. New Rick and his, wait for it, Rick-tatorship, wasn't going to give an inch, and when he laid that blow on that prisoner's head, SPLAM! It was like you could hear his balls hitting the floor. Rick isn't screwing around anymore, that's for sure.
Even if it was a little on the slow side, the back half of the episode following Rick's dramatic kill was quite good, mostly due to some good pacing and a constant string of tense moments: Big Tiny (Theodus Crane) getting attacked by a pick-axe/bony walker who learned to dislocate his hand and then getting brutally, brutally killed; the aforementioned Rick throw down; Hershel coming to life and almost attacking Lori in a zombie-attack fake out; and Carol trying to cut open a walker (note: apparently yes, walkers still wear underwear) while being watched by somebody (Merle? Michonne? Not sure on this one). Individually they might not have stood out, but stacked up one after another made for a tense hour of television.
The ending was a little odd. Given the show had several good strong moments it could have ended up, instead it chose to close after Rick gave Lori the coldest shoulder possible when she tried, again with these silly women, to talk about their feelings and their failing marriage. She joked that it wasn't like they could hire lawyers and get a divorce -- and sure, Rick laughed at that, but maybe deep down he wished that he could. Lori put it best by saying that despite what could have happened, "Today was a good day." And also a little slower, but very tense and solid week for the show.
Oddly enough we saw no mentioned of either Michonne (Danai Gurira) or Andrea (Laurie Holden), but next week's preview showed the return of that famous chopper (it lives! it lives!) and Andrea and Michonne meeting up with the Governor (David Morrissey) as well as a flash of Merle (Michael Rooker), so I'm not sure if we'll see any of Rick and crew or not or the show is going to alternate weeks for a bit.
What did you this of this week's episode? And who do you think was creeping up on poor Carol? Banter away in the comments below, and I'll pick some of the best ones to feature in next week's review.
Willie isn't always a stickler for details, but when he is, it bothers him. For example, he isn't sure how come Hershel grew a giant beard but Rick seems to keep his stunning 5 o'clock shadow, which at least showed a little growth this week. But has he been hiding a grooming kit this whole time? If these kind of things keep you up at night too, you can use that time to follow him on Twitter or Facebook.