Last night’s episode brought us into hour 4.5 of the “Sophia Watch.” In the history of drawn-out subplots, this one’s slowly making its way to the top of the pile. But the hunt for the missing girl finally spun off another decent storyline, albeit one that was resolved entirely too soon.
While searching a ridgeline, Daryl’s snake-spooked horse tossed him into the ravine. What followed was a subtle homage to Deliverance. Although that film has become known for its brutal rape scene, the film, and the James Hickey novel on which it’s based, are meditations on man’s struggle to survive against nature. How much pain can a man endure to pull himself to out of the grips of the wilderness?
In Daryl’s case, he’s willing to endure an awful lot. After tying off the arrow impaled in his side, he grits his teeth and climbs halfway out of the ravine, only to slip and tumble down again. He wakes to his brother, Merle, standing over him, calling him all manner of offensive names to goad him into getting up. (Last week, we predicted Merle would crash the party, so we’re happy to say we sort of saw this coming). Merle also plants the idea into Daryl’s head that Rick is using him and Daryl is taking orders from a lesser man. Then Merle morphs into a zombie trying to eat Daryl’s foot. After killing that one (and an associate), Daryl decides his big brother is right. He cuts off the walker’s ears, strings them on a necklace a la the Vietnam War’s apocryphal kill trophy and climbs out of the ravine.
(MORE: See the All-TIME 100 TV Shows)
We know that Daryl still has a shred of humanity because he goes out of his way to retrieve Sophia’s doll. And perhaps he is shaken out of his mania by Andrea shooting him in the head (thank goodness she has lousy aim) or by the touching conversation he has with Carole, but shortly after wearing an ear necklace, Daryl is back to cracking jokes. Is it too much to ask that we let crazy, crafty Daryl play out just a little bit? The writers of the show let “Sophia Watch” extend this long, but they can’t give us some more backsliding Daryl?
Of course the episode’s biggest surprise was kindly Dr. Greene’s little secret. He becomes increasingly snappy and suspicious of our protagonists the entire episode and we finally found out why. Glenn and Maggie’s fling seemed like a gimmick with a little comic relief, but when Glenn suggests they go for a romp in the hayloft, the sight of Herschel’s little colony of trapped walkers is well worth it. What does he want with all those zombies? (My editor tells me that the “walkers in the barn” reveal is from the comic series, which the show hasn’t followed very closely up to this point.)
Zombie Kill Count: Two. Daryl’s impaling of a zombie with a broken stick was brutally grand. I’m beginning to think that the real metric to track from here on may not be the number, but rather the creative and gory ways the characters dispatch the walkers. This one receives a solid 6 out of 10.
Most awkward conversation: When Glenn asked Dale about the theory that women’s menstrual cycles may be lining up, causing them to all act strange. The conversation revealed the group’s conflict between civilized values (don’t sleep with the daughter of the guy hosting you) and the reality of their situation. When Dale asks Glenn what he was thinking, Glenn replies, “I was thinking I might be dead tomorrow.”
Most intriguing unanswered question: Who fathered Lori’s baby, and will the pregnancy trigger the Rick/Shane showdown we know is coming? Actually, check that — what’s with the zombies in the barn?!? It’s clear that Herschel is not a fan of violence, but is he so opposed to it that he can’t even fathom re-killing the undead.
What did you think of this week’s episode? What do you think of the season so far? Let us know in the comments below.