For an episode titled “Bloodletting” there was surprisingly little of it last night.What we got instead were outpourings of emotion and frustration. Two entries in, and it’s already clear that the show wants to strike a balance between gore and humanity.
We quickly learn a few things as the episode opens: Carl is alive and, as luck would have it, there’s a farm about a mile away with a kindly old country doctor named Hershel Greene. Hershel’s actually a veterinarian, as we find out later, but he seems to know what he’s doing, calling for bandages, coagulants and blood STAT!
Young Carl was very lucky–the bullet that struck him went through the deer he had been admiring, slowing down enough not to kill him. Only now, there are six bullet fragments inside Carl that Hershel must remove. In one of the series most brutal scenes yet (which, obviously, is saying a lot), Hershel tugs out a piece of the slug while the boy cries out in agony, a reminder of how barbarous medicine was before the advent of anesthesia. He informs Rick and Shane that without surgery to repair torn blood vessels, Carl will die. Anesthesia will be necessary. And where would we find that? At a local high school turned FEMA emergency center that’s been overrun by, you guessed it, zombies.
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That trip to Fort Benning hasn’t exactly worked out the way everyone had hoped. Carl has been shot, little Sophia is still missing and T-Dog is in the midst of an infection fever on account of his sliced arm (in a moment of meta-realization, he muses on how he’s the only black guy in the group—which typically means imminent death in most horror movies).
With their forward motion halted, several of the survivors begin to turn inward and reflect on how crappy their situation really is. T-Dog: “The whole world’s having a tough time. Open your eyes!” Daryl, after a touching moment where he comforts Carol: “Am I the only one Zen around here? Good lord.” And sweet old Dr. Hershel Greene, who explains to Rick that mankind has survived many a plague. “We get our behinds kicked for a while, then we bounce back. It’s nature correcting herself. Restoring some balance.” He’s also one of the show’s most rational characters. When Lori, skeptical of an animal vet slicing open her son, says to Hershel, “You’re completely in over your head, aren’t you,” he responds with the very measured, “Ma’am, aren’t we all?”
Number of zombies killed: One. A single measly zombie killing. But what a one. When a walker ambushes Andrea in the woods, Hershel’s daughter comes riding out of the shadows on a horse and bashes the walker in the head with a baseball bat (Daryl actually finishes him off with the crossbow, but the single-horse cavalry charge was pretty damn cool).
Most interesting character development: Daryl’s increasingly complex personality. Sure, he’s still an asshole, but so far this season we’ve seen him save T-Dog’s life, comfort Carol and offer up his brother’s stash of pills to help T-Dog’s infection (Best line of the episode, when Daryl tosses over the antibiotics: “Not the generic stuff neither. First class. Merle got the clap on occasion.”)
Most predictable reveal: Shane and Otis (the hunter who shot Carl) climb a hill outside the high school and duck behind a car. Then the camera pans up to show about a hundred zombies blocking the entrance to the medical trailer. Though the pair come up with a very smart diversion to get into the supply-filled trailer (throwing road flares across the parking lot), they didn’t seem to plan for a way out.
And so Shane and Otis find themselves surrounded by walkers with only a flimsy metal gate keeping them safe. Should they manage to fight their way out, they have the supplies needed to save Carl. Cliffhanger!