That’s the beginning we were hoping for. When Glen Mazzara, Walking Dead‘s new showrunner, told New York magazine that what he’s trying to do with Season Two’s second half “is to accelerate and then figure out more story,” this was a welcome plan, given the first half’s utterly lethargic pacing. As we pointed out last week, the midseason premiere was well-crafted, with a few undeniably tense scenes. But in the spectrum of crawl-walk-run, “Nebraska” was a steady jog.
This week, we had a sprint. It took all of 12 seconds to see our first walker. The episode began with the ticking sound of a car’s flashers and faded in on Lori’s crumpled figure in the driver’s seat. Then “Bleumph!” a walker smashes his face into the glass and we’re off to the races.
First, Lori is staring down a hungry zombie, then we’re back in the bar where Rick, Hershel and Glenn are hiding from associates of the strangers Rick’s just killed, then back to the car where the zombie is practically tearing his face off to get in the smashed window. Lori stabs him in the eye with the car’s gear shifter then dispatches a second walker with a one-two combo of a hubcap and a pistol shot to the face. That’s just in the first four minutes.
But the pace hardly slowed. While we made the obligatory jumps back to the farm where the crew discovers that Lori is missing and (surprise!) Shane goes to rescue her, the action focused, thankfully on the pickle facing Rick and company. After Rick tries unsuccessfully to reason with the men outside the bar, the situation devolves into a gunfight. We got a glimpse of what anarchy would look like in Season One when Rick had to save Glenn from a gang in Atlanta, but that situation concluded quickly. This was madness and didn’t end well for anyone.
In short order, Glenn freezes like coward, Hershel shoots a guy who then has his face torn off by walker and one of the guys shooting at Rick jumps off a roof and manages to miss the ground. What he does hit is the spike of a wrought iron fence. Darwinian Rick, who five minutes ago was willing to kill anyone, suddenly becomes compassionate Rick again, and with walkers closing in on all sides, Hershel tries to amputate the unfortunate young man’s leg to save him. When even Hershel decides to leave the guy for dead, Rick tears his leg off the spike with a gooey ripping sound and the show blacks out to commercial.
In those few minutes, we not only had about a dozen walker kills, but some of the most intense violence yet. The pacing picked up, yes, but this new wild west mentality opened up a whole new possibility for brutal imagery and ethical pitfalls around every corner. Who decides who lives and who dies? we asked last week. We’re now finding out how hard it can be to make that decision.
What “Triggerfinger” also did was set up the sides that will eventually face off in a battle for control of the group. Andrea is aligning with Shane (and possibly Daryl; he’s just being a jerk right now), and pretty much the rest of the group is with Rick. In the last scene, when Lori asks Rick, “You’ll kill the living to protect what’s yours? Shane thinks I’m his,” we know it’s coming soon. If we take Mazzara at his word, we probably won’t have to wait very long.
Zombie Kill Report: A solid dozen. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this much carnage. An award for creativity goes to Lori for her intrepid use of car parts, while Glenn gets our “Go Back to the Range” grading for trying to shoot walkers from 100 yards. Give the kid credit, he tries, but he wasted an awful lot of ammo.
Elapsed time since T-Dog has spoken: 7 years. Not really, but it fells like it. If we add up the time since T-Dog has had anything meaningful to say, we’d have to go back to early this season when he cut his arm. We’re pretty sure the writers totally forgot he was there because he didn’t have a single line this entire episode (if I missed it, please correct me), and for much of the first half of this season, Sophia figured more in the plot than he did. Writers, please give the guy something to say!
Most blatant foreshadowing: In the final scene when Lori asks Rick whether he’d be willing to kill for what’s his, the camera panned out from Rick’s tense face while ominous music plays out the end of the episode. Clearly winter is coming (wait, wrong show). Alas, the idea is the same.
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