THE WALKING DEAD Post-Mortem: “Nebraska”
Greetings fellow zombie lovers and T-Dogs fanatics! (T-Dog is the greatest character on the show. End of story) Chris Baldwin here, I’m new to Screen Invasion and will be doing weekly recaps of The Walking Dead. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead creator/fellow Kentuckian, Robert Kirkman. If there’s times where it seems like I’m being a total apologist for the show, well…I probably am. That being said, I’ll admit The Walking Dead hasn’t been nearly as consistent or as great as I’ve wanted it to be. It’s still a very entertaining show, but it’s yet to reach the level of excellence that other AMC programs like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have. Maybe this stretch of episodes will change all that. All right, enough jibber-jabber, let’s begin exhuming this week’s episode: Nebraska
**That sounds like the title of Bruce Springsteen song, doesn’t it? Oh wait, that is the title of the Bruce Springsteen song! -10 points already for Nebraska not having a slow motion and utterly pointless montage set to… Nebraska.
***I should note that this episode is supposedly the beginning of the Glen Mazzara era as The Walking Dead show runner. From a creative standpoint that is. He’s been the acting show runner for months now, and oversaw the post-production process of the first chunk of episodes. Frank Darabont was still heavily involved with the writing process for those episodes though. There remains much contention about what went on behind the scenes the lead to Darabont’s departure. I look forward to watching a documentary on Netflix about this in a few years…
“Nebraska” picks up mere seconds after “Dead Already” left off. Poor Sophia, we barely knew thee. Yet, we spent A LOT of time looking for thee in the first half of the season. Or, to be more specific, we spent A LOT of time with assorted characters talking about looking for Sophia and like, God, and stuff, on a farm. With a nice veterinarian named Herschel and his family. Also…Glen got laid. And there you have it: the first half of the season 2.
So the little brat is gone for good now, and oddly enough, I was very sad about it. The episode does a good job of making us feel Sophia’s loss, even though we never really knew her in the first place. The various forms of palpable grief and righteous anger on display in those opening scenes, building off the intense zombie execution drama from the mid-season finale’s closing moments, are very effective. It all comes to a head when Shane is dogging an utterly destroyed Herschel about whether or not he knew that Sophia was in the barn the whole time. Shane pushes things too far and receives a fierce slap across the face from a protective Maggie. Shane surveys Maggie disdainfully and then does one of his patented: “I’m pissed, so I’m going to storm off now!” storm offs. Lori attempts to comfort a distraught Rick, but he also storms off. There is a lot of storming off going on. Carl tells his mother that he applauds his father’s decision to shoot Sophia in the head, and that he would have shot her as well. Given everything that has happened to Carl over the course of the series, I think his reaction about Sophia’s death is entirely believable. The middle chunk of the episode deals with the fallout from Shane’s actions in the finale. Some of it works. Some of it doesn’t. But it doesn’t matter. The ending makes up for everything. More on that later…
I wasn’t very impressed by Daryl in this episode; which is funny, because Norman Reedus has easily become the most reliable part of the show. He’s taken Daryl Dixon from the annoying red neck caricature he was in the first season and transformed him into the show’s official “bad ass with a heart of gold” character. His whole survival adventure/vision quest/squirrel munching/in the woods story line was one of the high lights of the first half of season 2. Unfortunately, this was easily the worst acting I’ve seen from him on the show. His accent during his little “I’m going back to my old ways” rant, went from Boondock Saints back to affected country drawl more times than I could count. Also, he gives someone a nickname. He calls Lori Olive Oyl. Mr. Dixon, there is only one bad ass TV character who is allowed to assign people demeaning/enduring nick names. And it’s not you.
Carol’s grief over the loss of her child was very convincing, and it served the story well. Melissa Suzanne McBride has done a fine job portraying a Carol as a damaged and haunted woman. However, the writers have failed to make her an interesting character. Carol needs to go. She needs to become zombie food in the worst way. I honestly don’t see them doing anything terribly interesting with her going forward, and I sincerely hope they don’t pursue the romantic route with her and Daryl. I don’t see any good coming from that potential story line. Speaking of romance, I hope this whole thing about Glenn not being able to tell Maggie he loves her doesn’t last too long. We all know he’s going to tell Maggie that he loves her right before he does something heroic and self-sacrificing. Let’s have that happen in the next episode and be done with it, shall we? Finally, did anyone else think the scene where the zombie’s arm falls off the truck bed was a little odd? I think they were going for comedy, but I’m not really sure to tell you the truth. The way the sequence was shot and staged was very misleading. That tracking shot that followed Andrea off the truck as she retrieved the arm, coupled with the slow pan- in as she got back on the truck, made me think something was going to happen, a cheap jump scare perhaps, but then nothing happens. Andrea throws the arm back in the pile of dead walkers, and T-Dog drives off…a very bizarre scene.
**Let’s talk about Andrea and Dale for a moment. We all know what happens in the comics. (If you don’t…**SPOILERS AHEAD**) But the show has cast the Dale/Andrea relationship in a very different light. At this point, I wouldn’t buy an on-screen romance between these two characters; down the road maybe, but not this season. The writers need time to change Dale into the type of person Andrea might be more attracted to romantically, and they need time to change Andrea into the type of person who could love Dale for who is. And really, who doesn’t love Dale? He is the Samwise Gamgee of this zombie-filled world.
Now onto that amazing ending I spoke of earlier. One of Herschel’s daughters (I think it was his daughter. Please correct me if I’m wrong) falls into some sort of grief coma and Herschel is nowhere to be found. Shane finds a flask and quickly deduces that Herschel used to be alcoholic. They all assume he must be back at the old watering hole drowning his sorrows. Sure enough, Rick and Glenn find him at the old watering hole drowning his sorrows. Rick attempts to convince Herschel to come back to the farm and help the girl. Herschel doesn’t see the point. What follows is a fairly standard Walking Dead type of conversation. Herschel: Where is God, blah, blah, there is no hope, blah, blah, blah. Rick: There’s still hope, blah, blah, blah, dammit! Me: Snooze. Then, all of the sudden, the door to the bar swings opens and two mysterious gentlemen appear. One of them exclaims: “Shit, their still alive.” Cut to commercial. When the episode resumes we find Rick, Glen, Herschel, and the two newcomers all sitting around, having drinks, and sharing some laughs. Everything appears benign for minute or two, and then the conversation between Rick and the chattier of the two newcomers takes a sinister turn. The subtle, almost playful menace Michael Raymond-James imbues this mysterious character with during his conversation with Rick is a joy to behold. There is this creeping tension that looms over the entire the sequence. The bloody payoff to all the suspense is fantastic as well, with gunslinger Rick making quick work of the newcomers. I loved this scene! There was a very Tarantino feel to all the action, dialogue, and suspense. In fact, it reminded me of the tavern scene from Inglorious Bastards quite a bit. Both scenes feature two characters that have strongly antagonistic feelings towards each other, but play nice and posture until well past the breaking point. Bravo, Walking Dead! This was the strongest moment of the season so far. I think human villains are going to be essential to this shows DNA and continued success. There is only so much you can do with zombies as your primary antagonists. If the show builds off this episode’s momentum, and keeps on raising the stakes higher and higher, then we’re in for a great batch of episodes. That’s it for now. The autopsy of Nebraska is complete. See you next Sunday!
P.S. My Walking Dead nerd card will be revoked if I don’t say this: the following two characters MUST be introduced in the season finale. THEY MUST!