Recap | The Walking Dead: ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’

“This world, what it is now, this is where you belong. And I may not have what it takes to last for long, but that’s okay. ‘Cause at least I can say when the world goes to shit, I didn’t let it take me down with it.” — Dale

After a sluggish and frequently dull six episodes weighed down by the lackadaisical search for Sophia, the forced escalation of tensions between Rick and Shane, and the improbable transformation of Andrea, The Walking Dead experienced a return to form, of sorts, just in time for its two-month hiatus. It’s frustrating, sure, but that’s become the byword for this second season.

“Pretty Much Dead Already” isn’t without flaws, mind you; many of the problems that plagued the previous six episodes are on display in the midseason finale. However, writer Scott M. Gimple, who also penned “Save the Last One,” ensures that some of the more subtle character developments of this meandering season pay off, particularly for Hershel, Carl, and the Glenn-Maggie relationship (oh, hell, let’s throw Rick in there, too, primarily for how he relates to Doc Greene). And the final scene? It’s visceral, affecting, something the rest of the season has seldom been.

To get everyone to that point requires Glenn, in very Glenn-like fashion, to fully spill the big secret of Hershel’s farm — “Um, guys … so … the barn is full of walkers” — kicking off a seemingly endless barrage of shouting and recriminations that continues for much of the episode. An enraged Shane lays it all out for the group, dismissing the idea that Sophia may be alive, and arguing they either have “to make things right” by killing the zombies in the barn, or leave their sanctuary and head to Fort Benning. As utterly unlikable and dangerous as Shane is, it’s tough to argue with him (unless, of course, you have knowledge of Lori’s pregnancy).

Carl, noticeably darker and more outspoken since his recovery, isn’t about to sit still while they leave his friend behind. Going over schoolwork with his mother — a nice visual reminder of Sophia’s absence — the boy proclaims, “I’m not leaving until we find Sophia. And I don’t want to go even after that. I just think she … she’s gonna like it here. This place, it could be a home.” (If that doesn’t telegraph where the episode is heading, you’ve not been paying attention.) Moments later he confronts Shane, saying, “I know you think Sophia’s dead and that we should stop looking for her. But that’s … that’s bullshit.” Bullshit, indeed. Where have you been the rest of this season, Carl? Oh … right.

Sparked by Glenn’s admission, Shane becomes the burning fuse of “Pretty Much Dead Already” — he even provides the episode’s title — inching us closer and closer to the powder keg. Whether the tail end of that metaphor refers to the barn full of walkers or the entanglement of guilt, trauma and resentment ensnaring the survivors is up to you. In any case, Shane is the key player here, moving from scene to tense, uncomfortable scene, driving the drama. It’s his demand for action that pushes Rick, now armed with the information about the barn, to passionately and desperately plead the group’s case with Hershel, who gives them until the end of the week to clear out. “I’ve given you safe harbor,” the once-kindly vet says, pausing from lunch and Bible study. “My conscience is clear.”

They’re very much alike, Rick and Hershel, each clinging to his own delusions — the former that he can find a safe home for his expanding family, the latter that one day soon a cure will be discovered, and life will return to normal. Shane tells Lori that Rick “ain’t built for this world, not for what it is now,” but he might as well be talking about Hershel. For all of his medical knowledge and self-efficiency, he’s not equipped, not willing, to face the widespread horrors lurking beyond the boundaries of his farm. And Rick’s group isn’t merely a threat to the walkers — those “sick” relatives and friends — in the barn, but to Hershel’s carefully constructed worldview.

Negotiations with Hershel stalled, Rick is forced to reveal to Shane why he’s so determined to stay on the farm, leading Shane to make his case to Lori as to why he’s a better man, a better protector, than her husband. In doing so, he divulges that he actually keeps count of how many times he’s saved the lives of her and Carl — it’s four, if you’re wondering — and that he blames Rick for the deaths of Amy and Jim in the attack on the quarry camp. Oh, also? Shane is certain the baby is his. No surprise there.

Barely stopping for an exchange with Carl, Shane goes to the RV to retrieve the group’s weapons stockpile, only to discover that the guns, and Dale, are nowhere to be found.

Rick, meanwhile, is ready to head out with Andrea to search for Sophia (really!) only to be waylaid by Hershel and Jimmy, who urgently need his help in the woods … to rescue two walkers mired in the silt of the creek bed. Corralling zombies that wandered onto the farm had been Otis’ job, so they do need Rick’s assistance. However, this is also a test. “It doesn’t matter if you see them as human beings anymore,” Hershel says. “But if you and your people are going to stay here, that’s how you’re gonna have to treat them. My farm, my barn, my say.” I understand the need for this sequence, as it reinforces the Greene family views, explains how the walkers end up in the barn and demonstrates that Hershel has rethought his position on Rick’s group. Unfortunately, though, it’s very mechanical, as if we’re stripping away the covering to view the gears of the plot; it’s a writer’s cheat to move all the parts into place for the episode’s final scene. But, hey, it works.

Back at the farm, Glenn finally approaches a still-angry Maggie, confessing that he had to tell the others about the barn, that he’d begun to treat the walkers like a video game, losing sight of the threat they pose: “I forgot that they’re dangerous. I don’t care if they’re sick people or dead people, they’re dangerous. And then I realized something else. That I don’t want you in danger ever. So I hate to blow your dad’s big secret, but I’m sick of secrets. Secrets get you killed. And I’d rather have you pissed off at me and alive than liking me and dead. So that’s why I told them.”

In the nearby swamp, Shane finds Dale trying to hide the bag of guns in the hollow of a tree — “Imagine if you applied your tracking skills to finding Sophia,” Dale says, lending a voice to the viewers’ thoughts — resulting in a standoff that’s essentially a repeat of their previous confrontation, only this time Dale is armed. In the end, it doesn’t matter, as Shane takes the weapons and heads back to the farm, where he hands them out to the rest of the group.

Amid protests from Maggie, Lori and Carl, the now-armed survivors spot Hershel, Rick and Jimmy leading the walkers at the end of snare poles. Incensed, Shane leads the charge to the barn, where he fires three rounds into the chest of a zombie to illustrate to a shaken Hershel that they’re not “alive.” The boundary crossed, Shane opens the barn, and the armed survivors — including Glenn, who looks to Maggie for a nod of permission — open fire on the walkers. Hershel is on his knees, in shock, as Rick stands frozen in place and Lori tries to shield Carl from the carnage. It’s a gut-wrenching scene made worse when, just as it seemed all the undead had been put down, a growl emerges from the darkness of the barn and out shuffles Sophia, the girl they’d been (nominally) searching for these past five days or so. Held back by Daryl, Carol sobs, calling out her daughter’s name, but the rest of the group seems unable to move — everyone except Rick, whom we’re told isn’t made for this world. He’s the only one capable of lifting his gun and shooting Sophia in the head.

It’s an emotionally devastating scene even if, like me, you suspected Sophia might eventually turn up as a walker. However, it’s also one that raises questions about the characters and the timeline. I can buy that, because rounding of zombies was Otis’ job, the rest of the Greene clan doesn’t have a list of the barn’s inhabitants — and, therefore, Hershel wasn’t callously watching Rick’s group search for the girl when he knew where she was all along. However, I’m not so sure that Sophia could’ve been turned and shuffled her way onto the farm in the time between her disappearance and the arrival of Shane, Rick and a wounded Carl. (Was she not staying in the house Daryl found? How did her doll end up in the ravine?) But maybe it’s best not to pick at that loose thread …

Grade: A-

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Comments

  • Kev from Atl

    Best episode of the season (2nd best being the Daryl spotlight a couple episodes back). I would have done it a little differently at the end. Guilty and grief-stricken over the loss of this child, Rick should have waked up to her and, careful not to let her bite him, hugged Sophia as best he could one last time before shooting her. She deserved that much at least.

  • Anonymous

    One of the best episodes yet. Dramatic and deep. The more interesting thing is that Shane on the surface has always seemed to be right. He takes a logical and practical approach devoid of “faith” which at some point might grow on the group and might make them turn their backs on Rick. As he siad its a different world, and while many (including the viewers) may not like it, they need a Shane to survive. While Rick has successfully lead the group as a civic leader with his message of hope, it is the results driven Shane, much like a military, who is truly the protector.

    On top of this you have Shane’s reckless killing of the all those important to the Greene family combined with his inability to shoot Sophia, who he rightfully wanted to leave behind anyway. Rick shooting sophia was an act of diplomacy to make up for that behavior. He continues to the be the glue that keeps the group together but I do not expect Shane to see this.

    I hope they keep it at this level and not at the level of the rest of season 2, if not the show may become dead.

  • Sean

    you ever thought of proof reading your article or have someone else read it thru before you post it live on the internet? the amount of spelling errors, missing words, and or grammar errors is extreme. it is like you rushed this out and uploaded before thinking it thru. it was annoying you re-verbalized what was scripted out.. to give your examples .. the first time okay… but every paragraph?? that got annoying.. moral is you need to work on your writing skills. i did read it all the way thru, but i had to stop every few to figure what words were missing to complete your thoughts.

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    That scene with Sophia coming out of the barn–geezus, talk about heart-breaking. I wasn’t expecting that.

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    You, sir, would not survive the zombie apocalypse. Hugging zombies? lol

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    Really? Your punctuation, capitalization, and grammar are atrocious.

  • Kev from Atl

    No, hugging the thing that was once an innocent little girl who had been left alone, gone through hell, and died. A zombie that probably weighed 80 lbs and who could have been hugged one last time by a man who is probably 6 ft tall and close to 200 lbs. Yeah, I think he could have done it and I think it would have been the human thing to do, especially since Rick blames himself for leaving her behind in the first place. You are right-like Dale, I probably would not survive the Zombie apocalypse, but I would die with my humanity intact.

  • http://twitter.com/stripy_tie Ross

    A good review of a fairly good episode, the level of character development that’s happened over the course of this season really began to pay off at the end and i didn’t see that last twist coming unlike another supposed plot twist airing on the same night (yes i’m looking at you Dexter). 

    When it comes back in February i’d like to see the group get back on the road where they belong, then maybe the plot can move forward properly and throw off this meandering sluggishness that’s marred the season so far.

  • Magnusjragnarok

    It could have gone either way and still be meaningful. The whole point of zombie movies is to show in which ways we change or remain the same in the face of a tremendous paradigm shift. How well the writers & actors are able to portray the human element can be the deciding factor of what makes a “good” horror movie.

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    Dude. All you have to be is scratched by one of these things and you’re toast. In THAT world, you don’t hug zombies. Well, maybe YOU would. But sane people wouldn’t.

    PS–if you die in the Zombie apocalypse, you don’t die with your humanity intact, you shuffle around as a zombie forever.

  • Kev from Atl

    I don’t think so. Rick and (Glenn, wasn’t it) covered themselves in zombie guts and blood, and we have seen them many times attack Zombies up close and personal and get covered in zombie blook and gore; you think none of that got in their cuts or noses or mouths. It looks to me like it takes way more than  a scratch to turn someone into a zombie in this world.
    And yeah, I would not hug some full-grown zombie, but I would have hugged that little girl.

  • Drhiphop85

    Unlikable? Sure…Not interesting? Hell no… I think Shane is the most interesting character on the show. If anything he seems to be a character from the Sopranos, The Wire, or Oz thrown into the Zombie-hell. Everything he did this episode was just so awesome for his character. He keeps me drawn in, him and Darryl’s bad-assery.

    If one character needs to die it’s T-Dog. As a man of color, I’ve never wanted another minority character killed off as badly as I want T-Dog killed off. He adds nothing to the series and is a bastardized version of another much more interesting character.

  • Nemu

    If there was a person who had watched for the past few weeks and thought that Sophia was alive, I would be floored.

    That being said, this episode saved the series for me. Up until this point, I’d grown more and more bored with the season and started wondering whether the writers would mess up the Glenn/Maggie plot or if they’ll keep Rick’s family in tact. I’m now hoping that the 2nd half of the season will bring back some intensity to the series and get on the road to the Prison.

  • LtMarvel

    ” He’s the only on capable of lifting his gun and shooting Sophia in the head.”  Can we fix the typo?  Thanks.

    According to the comic book author on “Talking  Dead”, no one knew that Sophia was in the barn because it was Otis’s job.  The missing Sophia wasn’t mentioned to the farm group until after Otis became zombie food.

  • Savonti

    As a longstanding fan of the source material (and Zombie fiction in general for that matter) I’m going to say that it’s a little dismissive assuming that scratches or bites have anything to do with turning into a zombie.

    I think the fact that you’ve seen those things should make you give some more thought to how/why people are turning.

  • http://twitter.com/Ecovore Booster Gold

    Even if Kirkman says that Otis did the rounding up of zombies, that kid (Jimmy?) said that the last one to wander onto the farm was easier. In retrospect, that was probably Sofia; a little girl would be easier to manage. It might even be in line with Hershel’s mentality to shield the group (and Carol) from the knowledge that Sofia was a walker (and hoping for a cure). 

    I for one, have loved every episode, though this one packed a punch. 

  • Savonti

    You know, I’ve got to say I’ve been waiting for Shane to get his since episode one (just like everyone else who reads the series). I knew we were going to be given a different direction and i’ll admit at times to be on the fence about Shane’s being around. Now they have given Shane more depth but to call him the most interesting character, it really seems to me that they (more or less) split rick in half, giving Shane Rick’s more aggressive side (and then roiding it up).

    I absolutely agree with you on the T-Dog issue, Dixon was a great addition to the group, a made for tv character who is kicking ass all over the place but T-Dog is just a tired cliche (they named him T-Dog for crying out loud). As a really, really white guy I can’t wait to see ol’ token get his face eaten so we can get Tyreese and Michoone already.

    Also anyone else think that Andrea should die? She may be one of my favorite characters in the books but here she’s taking entirely too long to be anything near useful to the group. “Three people told me not to take the shot, I’ll do it anyway because my sister is dead and I know better than boys”.
     For real, just put her out of my misery already.

  • Savonti

    See, I didn’t watch The Talking Dead anymore but I hate the response, just putting it on Otis seems a little lazy.  I would much rather have not been given a final answer and would have rather posed the question “Was Sophia turned and lead in the barn, or did she wander to the barn for shelter only to be turned inside the barn”. 

     

  • Drhiphop85

    Jesus, yes bring in Tyrese and Michonne. Easily their characters are miles more interesting than T-Dog.

  • Randomlychelle

    I read the books and I watch the series and I would say that I’m a fan of both but more so the books.

    I agree with a few other posters that T Dawg needs to go, He adds nothing if to only constantly fumble the ball I did not realize he would be Tyrese’s replacement til I read a post here that he is supposed to be?

    Andrea and Michonne are my favorite character’s I feel like Andrea is some how being lost in translation to the show and now with Sophia being killed and Tyrese not being included I’m wondering if Michonne will make it in at all.

    As far as Shane goes I think he should have been dead already and is the reason for a lot of the slow pacing,They are focusing way to much on him and they tend to get flashback happy for the whole tension of what Lori and he shared during Rick’s absence,

    Great episode and Decent mid season finale, hopeful this pace sticks around since what season 1 covered in 6 episodes it feels like this season will cover less in 13,

  • Andrew

    I had the same thought — that she wandered in a human and was bit by the walkers in the barn. Makes it a little more devastating since she was so close to safety, and also puts some of the blame on Herschel for keeping these walkers around with no warnings posted.

  • Savonti

    I’m with you on Andrea, I think it’s reasonable for her to be going all through that, and maybe she even did in the books, we just never saw it because at the time the cast of the book was much larger and there was more going on, so it was going on in the background. The smaller cast here mean there’s less to focus on so we end up hating Andrea because rather than being the person we know she is, she’s just being a pain in the ass.

    Don’t give up hope on Tyrese and Michoone, I firmly believe we’ll see them. I just hope we get true representations of them. T-dog isn’t supposed to be Tyrese, while I don’t “KNOW” that (by virtue of not being a mind reader or a fly on the wall) I have to believe Kirkman would be pretty vocal about one of his favorite characters being mistreated so spectacularly.

    I’m sort of with you on Shane, he (like Dixon, I like him but this is true) is chewing up too much screen time. There are other characters and we could introduce new ones but it’s hard to make time to let us care about say, Carol when you have to take up half an episode reminding us that Shane is the bad guy and that Dixon is the bad ass.

    I do have trouble with people complaining about the pacing though, the book goes the same way and for a story like this, it’s perfectly fine. What bothers me is all the commercial breaks and now this mid-season break. I sometimes come away form a show feeling like “nothing happened” and while I know that’s not true I feel that way because in my mind the show just started.

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    They carefully covered their CLOTHES. Big difference.

    Whatever. We’re arguing about zombies, for God’s sake.

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    Source material? I’m talking about this series alone. If you get bitten in the Walking Dead, you’re toast. If you die of natural causes, you wake up a Walker in the comic.

  • Savonti

    Why are you assuming the rules are any different? They thought the bites turned you into a zombie in the books until the point where someone who wasn’t bit came back. They bites may cause you to die, but we don’t know that the bites cause you to turn.

  • Anonymous

    I understand your need to show compassion one last time for a dead little girl, I wouldn’t have hugged her but i get it. That compassion though was written all over Rick’s face as he did what no one else in the group could, not Shane or Daryl. When everyone else was frozen Rick put her down and that’s why he’s the best choice to leads this group. He still has compassion but will make the tough choice when push comes to shove.

  • Anonymous

    I get what you’re saying about Shane but I really don’t think he’s out to protect anyone except himself, maybe Lori and Carl but that’s it. In season one at the quarry when they got the call that about six or so of the group were trapped he was ready to leave them there, pretty much write them off. Then later when Rick wants to go back for Meryl (sp?) the guns and the walkie he’s against that as well. Shane always says it’s about the group but I don’t buy it, I think it’s all about Shane all the time hidden beneath concern for the group. But hey I could be wrong, even with all his faults he really is growing on me.

  • Anonymous

    Me neither, at first glance I though for sure it was Hershel’s wife, I did not expect Sophia at all. I had my own ideas how the missing Sophia problem would be resolved and they’re all out the window now, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I really felt bad for Hershel, if you look past the carnage that first zombie that busted out of the barn looked to have a smile on his face, it’s that kind of thing that could make it so tough if you’re still looking at them like family, poor old fella.

  • http://www.gregpak.com/entries/002275.shtml D.Smithee

    The only person in the comics who ‘came back’ after being bit–he got his arm lopped off to prevent the infection from turning him.

    I’m not assuming anything. I’ve read the comics, I’ve seen the show–you get bit, you’re done.

  • Savonti

    You understand that this started with me replying to Kev, actually supporting your position right?  I mean I was specifically commenting on his ” It looks to me like it takes way more than  a scratch to turn someone into a zombie in this world”.

    Anyway…

      In the comics, if you die, you turn. If you get bit, you die faster. Jim, for example was bitten (in both the show and comic) suffered form infection for, a while actually, died and turned. Jule on the other hand died or non-zombie related causes and also came back.

    In the series we’ve only seen people come back after they’ve been bit so it’s an understandable assumption that is the only way to turn. But we’ve never seen someone die of anything else, have we.

    I mean hey, maybe Merle Dixon died of blood loss and his zombie self just walked off the ledge.

    While we’re on it, I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the big “secret” that Jenner the CDC Monkey whispered to Rick at the end of season 1.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XA4RDSRSUX3XRSCPRR7XNGSPUQ Joshua

    I think the episode was aptly named

  • RunnerX13

    Finally, the show is back on track.  I’ve been watching Boardwalking Dead on Sundays, and recording and watching Walking Dead later in the week.  I’m glad that we finally got to see zombie Sofia, I knew she would be walking out of the barn the moment we saw how Hershel corral walkers.  Also, in regards to the Laurie-Rick-Shane love triangle, is Laurie not the most uninteresting character?  It’s not like she’s the only woman of the group, Andrea seems better in every way.  It’s the same with Twilight, Kristine Stewart seems more lifeless than her vampire boyfriend, yet wolfboy can’t get enough of her??? 

  • LightningBug

    Who was this article written for? A beat by beat synopsis of the episode isn’t really a useful review if you’ve watched the episode and want insights. If you haven’t seen the episode it’s a total spoiler and wont help you decide if the show is for you unless you’d rather read this instead of watching it. Reviewing and summarizing are not the same thing. This article could be boiled down to the two and a half paragraphs of opinion.

  • RunnerX13

    In fairness, it is billed as a “recap”.

  • Rick69g

    What I found most affecting was that, to me anyway, Zombie-Sofia didn’t act like all the other walkers do.  She didn’t go running, or even walking at them with jaws biting, ravenous for food.  She seemed to almost recognize them and just want to go to them.  I know that’s impossible in the zombie mythology but I felt that was done deliberately so that we’d feel even sadder about her fate. 

  • LightningBug

    That is totally fair. Missed that somehow. The article still doesn’t strike me as useful, but at least it isn’t misrepresenting itself.

  • Stuartkearns

    I think they should have let Carl keep Sophia as a pet, like Ed in Shaun of the Dead!

  • Kev from Atl

    Agreed. In many ways Sophia acted like a confused child. It was very affecting. One of the reasons I wanted her to be shown final act of love before being dispatched.

    And on the subject of zombie mythology: I have only read a few issues of The Walking Dead comic (1-6), so I am not certain of the current state of zombie mythology in that comic. However, I see no reason for the show to have to stick to the rules established in every single Zombie movie since “Night of the Living Dead”. I am hoping that we see zombies who are maybe not quite as mindless as others, and that maybe we even see some, gasp, evolution of zombies. I actually think a ravenous but smarter (not smart, smarter) zombie would make a challenging enemy and an interesting storyline. For instance, at any point in the comic does some sort of leader of the zombies emerge? I think it makes for an interesting concept.

    God I’m going to get skewered for this. Bring it on, muchdrama.

  • Ruush

    i like this part more than other