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Recap | The Walking Dead: ‘Chupacabra’

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all wanted to shoot Daryl.”Dale

“Chupacabra” makes two assertions virtually indisputable: one, that Daryl Dixon is part John Rambo, part Tony Poe, and all bad-ass; and two, that The Walking Dead is really, really bad at flashbacks.

This week’s cold open brings us back to those halcyon days, when Lori and Carl thought Rick was dead, Shane was playing dad, and Atlanta still held promise of safety. Snarled up in traffic on a secondary road, they fall in with Carol, her now-dead husband Ed and their daughter Sophia (remember her?) as Shane realizes radio broadcasts about the refugee center have stopped. He and Lori make their way to a wooded knoll, where they discover what seemed like lightning and thunder is actually the military dropping napalm on the Big Peach, by now overrun by walkers. Hotlanta, indeed.

As with virtually all of the show’s previous flashbacks — the Season 1 finale may be the sole exception — this one doesn’t offer any insight into the characters or new information about their situation. Shane’s protective of Lori and Carl? Ed was a controlling, abusive dick? We knew that. The Army firebombed Atlanta? While that delivers a nice, but brief, Apocalypse Now moment, it doesn’t enhance the survivors’ story.

Thankfully, the opening credits roll and we’re transported to the Greene farm, where Rick & Co. are, after four days, finally getting serious about the search for Sophia. There’s a map, a grid, color-coded cloths, and Jimmy, the teenaged boyfriend of Beth Greene, at last offering his services (without Hershel’s permission, we soon learn). Daryl borrows a horse to head for higher ground, where he can get a clear overview of the area, while Shane and Rick, the most experienced at search and rescue, inexplicably pair up, leaving Andrea and T-Dog with Jimmy.

Although their teaming doesn’t make any real-world sense, it ratchets up the tension between the two as Shane criticizes Rick for spending too much time in the hunt for the girl. “Sophia only matters to the degree that she don’t slow us down,” he tells his guilt-ridden friend. It’s a harsh, if pragmatic, sentiment underscored throughout the episode, most plainly by Hershel when he marvels, “It’s a wonder you people have survived this long.” There’s something else that comes out of the exchange between Rick and Shane, though, and that’s a little better understanding of their relationship. Rick, who in “Save the Last One” told Lori about Shane’s athletic prowess in high school, here recounts his friend’s legendary sexual conquests in an effort to get him talking. Having little luck with girls, good and wholesome Rick confesses he lived vicariously through Shane. Theirs, it seems, was an unequal friendship; Shane was Rick’s high-school hero. Now it’s Rick who is, more often than not, idolized by the group. Before Rick seemingly returned from the dead and stumbled into camp, Shane was the undisputed leader, the only thing keeping the larger rag-tag group together.

Shane’s not the only one with reservations about Rick and the thinning group, though. On horseback, Daryl looks every bit the Western … well, maybe not hero; let’s go with “antihero.” Killing a squirrel with a bolt from his crossbow, he’s a multitasker, hunting for dinner as he searches for signs of the girl. Alas, our Western antihero encounters a Western-movie cliche as his horse is spooked by a rattlesnake and he’s thrown down a ravine into a creek, driving his bolt through his side in the process. Bloody, wet and probably concussed, Daryl is visited by his long-lost racist, meth-addicted brother Merle, who offers the kind of support you want when you’re bleeding out into a creek: “Look at you, lying in the dirt like a used rubber.”

He’s a hallucination, naturally, giving voice to Daryl’s doubts about his place in the group — “I’ve got news for you, son” the Ghost of Merles Past says, “one of these days they’re gonna scrape you off their heels like dog shit” — while antagonizing him into action. (It’s also the first time we’ve seen the brothers interact, even if one of them is a product of the other’s head injury.) Daryl comes to his senses in time to realize that it’s not Merle standing over him, but a walker, which he dispatches with a branch through the skull before spying a second one making its way up the creek. Yanking the bolt from his side — yes, Daryl’s that awesome — he fumbles underwater for the crossbow and makes quick work of that zombie, too. It’s not all bad, though, as Daryl finds Sophia’s stuffed doll in the creek, and makes himself a necklace out of the ears of the two walkers. Jewelry and a solid clue? That’s a pretty good outing.

Things are somewhat better back at the farm. For reasons unclear, Glenn apparently doesn’t participate in the search, and instead awkwardly tells an unimpressed Maggie that he still has 11 condoms, wink-wink — “You see 11 condoms,” she replies, “I see 11 minutes of my life I’m not getting back” — and briefly confronts Lori about her pregnancy before having a weird and uncomfortable sitdown with Dale that boils down to, “What, are all the women on their periods?” In the process, Glenn reveals he slept with Maggie (he kept Lori’s secret, though), upsetting Dale, who wonders what Hershel will do if he finds out.

Meanwhile, returned from the wilderness, gun-crazy Andrea is in the lookout post atop the RV, telling a questioning Dale, “I don’t want to wash clothes anymore. I just want to help keep the camp safe.” That, of course, highlights one of the problems of The Walking Dead, one that first arose back in the first season, in “Tell It to the Frogs,” when now-dead Jacqui wondered why the women are saddled with the “Hattie McDaniel work.” Although the not-exactly-stable Andrea is beginning to rebel against division of duties, we still have Lori and Carol fussing with Laundry Day and dinner plans while the menfolk venture into the woods. It’s understandable if Lori wants to remain near a recovering Carl, but Carol? She should want to search for Sophia from first light until sundown, not to rustle up a big “thank you” dinner for the Greene clan to take her mind off her missing daughter. Has she given up, too?

Hershel, in no mood for a communal meal, summons Rick to express his displeasure about the horse and the 17-year-old Jimmy, both of whom were taken off the farm without his permission. Rick, under the impression their host had been aware of both, suggests they could improve communication. Hershel, however, cuts to the chase: “Keep it simple. I’ll control my people, you’ll control yours.” He soon discovers that’s easier said than done when Maggie resists his efforts to put distance between them and the other survivors, and between her and “the Asian boy.” “We need to be settin’ clear boundaries with these people,” he says when he sees dinner preparations. “They’re gettin’ too comfortable.”

As tense as the situation is in the farmhouse, it’s worse outside, where trigger-happy Andrea spies a walker at the edge of the woods. The alarm goes up, with Shane, T-Dog and Glenn springing into action even as she offers to shoot the interloper. Rick calls out that Hershel wants to handle walkers — an aspect of their arrangement he’s apparently not questioned — before taking off after the others. It’s obvious to everyone watching that their visitor isn’t a walker but rather Daryl … who, in fairness to the characters, has seen better days. Surrounded, and with Rick’s revolver in his face, a bloody and exhausted Daryl finally speaks: “It’s the third time you’ve pointed that thing at my head. You gonna pull the trigger or what?” That, naturally, is Andrea’s cue to pull the trigger from her sniper’s nest, firing a shot that grazes Daryl’s head. “I was kiddin’!” he says before passing out.

Hershel patches up Daryl — Rick was quick to remove the ear-necklace before bringing him to the house — before everyone else sits down for a quiet, uncomfortable dinner where, at the kids’ table, Maggie passes Glenn a note setting up a rendezvous, under the watchful and disapproving eyes of her father and Dale.

After helping to clear the table, Maggie finally reads Glenn’s response, only to learn with horror that he’s meeting her in the hayloft. As she runs toward the barn, Glenn climbs the outside ladder and walks among the bales of hay, catching a whiff of something rancid. Shining his flashlight on the floor below, he sees the barn is filled with the world’s quietest walkers, the reason behind many of Hershel’s rigid rules. “You weren’t supposed to see this,” Maggie says as she arrives in the loft a little too late.

No, but we’re glad he did as, five episodes into the season, the revelation holds the promise that tensions will soon be brought to a head. Although I suspect Glenn will pledge to keep the Secret of the Barn, for a while at least, something will have to give. With the group at least relatively safe, and Carl recovering, there’s little on the front-burner, story-wise: Merle’s disappearance, Lori’s pregnancy, Shane’s resentment (and the emotional aftermath of his murder of Otis), Andrea’s suicidal tendencies, Rick’s self-doubt — they’re all slow-boil, back-burner threads. The search for Sophia is nominally the driving force of the story at this point, but only Daryl seems serious about that. So as the season approaches the halfway point, it needs this conflict to burst out into the open, if for no other reason than for too-trusting Rick to re-evaluate why he’s never paused to question the myriad prohibitions of their malevolent dictator Hershel Greene.

Grade: B

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Comments

  • Mariner101

    Best episode of the season. Darryl is by far the most interesting character on the show and I thought this episdoe was a great showcase for him. Please find Sophia…that subplot has dragged out way too long.

  • Zahilia

    Finally, Shane and Hershel said what are thinking at home. Why they are still looking for Sophia and how they manage to survive since Rick arrive. Daryl can be  a better group leader that Rick, and we know Shane is by far better that Rick, in tha aspectt

  • Evil_s2003

    So having not seen this yet, I appreciate the picture on this article letting me know something happens to Daryl. Spoilers. Thanks.

  • nailsin

    I think Merle will return as The Governor and Sophia(and I hope I’m wrong about this one) will
    end up being the little zombie girl chained in the Governor’s room.

  • RunnerX13

    Sophia is single handedly ruining season 2.  This story arc is no longer interesting.  It’s enough that Carl is keeping the gang at the farm, but they should have come with another conflict to worry about.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AUUQ6WSIND5GOTKGRAR6P4IHII RuckTheFaiders

    why would you even click the article?

  • Savonti

    It’s been made pretty clear in the past that Merle is not going to be the Governor.

  • Jwdieterich

    seriously…the articles title says “RECAP”, which is the same as spoilers…

  • B L Zebub

    Here you go:

    The Walking Dead aired last night. There were some zombies, and some commercial breaks, and then the credits rolled, ending the show.

    Is that “spoiler-free” enough for you Evil_s2003?

  • goof

    I think Sophia will return as The Governor if they keep stretching this story out any longer.

  • Waddupjoshjohn

    this show is still my favorite series, BUT…the sophia plot is getting to be a drag. it’s slowing the series down and making me think that the writers are making a big mistake by not picking up the pace. i know that last season was only 6 episode and that there wasn’t a plan to renew for a second. the stories really kept moving and each week a new episode was as good as the last. with a big surprise on great ratings, the series got renew for the 2nd season AND later, a 3rd season. let’s find sophia so we can get off this farm and venture into new territories!

  • Waddupjoshjohn

    you are so correct. the sophia plot line is bringing the series down! it’s time to either find her and get the hell out of there, or if she turned into a zombie, capture and drag her along as a kid zombie! time to venture out to new areas and stop boring us with the farm!

  • pDUB

    seriously, man, way to bitch about something that was basically your own fault.

  • Yobofofas

    If the government/military fire-bombed Atlanta with napalm, why weren’t more building destroyed? From what we seen in season 1, there was some destroyed building, but not to that extent. How come that was never brought up with the Jenner at the CDC? Or the Vatos?

  • Dancmh

    There’s always one vocal person who thinks the entire internet needs to come to a complete stop just because he or she can’t manage their DVR time like the rest of the universe.