Greetings, The Walking Dead fans. Welcome to Episode 203. When we last left off, Carl’s gunshot wound was getting steadily worse, but Rick and Lori’s new veterinarian friend Dr. Greene couldn’t do anything about it without heavy duty surgical equipment. Shane managed to find some, but now he’s trapped inside a zombie-infested high school. He has to find a way back, while Rick and Lori have to find the strength to keep going.
This is an episode that grapples with Big Questions like, “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why should we go on living?”, and “Why should we go on living during the zombiepocalypse?” Jesus is relied upon heavily. The show approaches Fireproof territory, but thankfully, it is saved at the last minute by some crazy shit.
…when Dr. Greene and his family reveal that they are cannibals.
That’s not the crazy shit I’m referring to. But how awesome would that be?
Don’t worry. The real crazy shit is only slightly less awesome.
We open on Shane in a bathroom. He is shaving his head with an electric razor.
Is this a flashback? It’s not clear when this is taking place. But the last time we saw Shane was at the high school surrounded by zombies, and he had hair. So it looks like a flash-forward.
Why is he shaving his head? Probably to signify he is undergoing some kind of Dramatic Transformation. Or maybe as a self-punishment. I’m pretty sure the Amish shave their beards when they want to atone for their sins.
I grew up in Pennsylvania, and thus am an expert in Amish…um, ology
The best part is they don’t know when I make fun of them because they don’t use the internet.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
But now it’s back to the present storyline. Night has fallen. We are back with Shane and Otis moments after they entered the school to take refuge from the zombies. But the gate they closed behind them hasn’t held for very long, because a metric shit-ton of zombies are chasing after them.
While this is happening we get narration from Rick. He’s telling Lori a story about a time when he and Shane were in high school. Back then Shane was a legendary prankster. One time he stole the principal’s car during lunch, drove it to a corn field without being noticed, and ran all the way back to school before lunch was even over.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE
It turns out this conversation is taking place while Rick and Lori are at Carl’s bedside, waiting for Shane to return with the surgical supplies. Meaning, Rick is trying to reassure Lori by pointing to moments when Shane pulled off incredible feats in the past. Shane is the awesomest and has really big muscles and could beat up your Dad, basically.
Things are so hopeless that this is the best Rick can do. Lori takes her head out of her hands and asks Rick to have a bite to eat for god’s sake, being that he’s already lost two pints of blood. He picks up a sandwich.
Look, Wonderbread survived the zombie apocalypse! And they said preservatives are bad. Fuck YOU, Fast Food Nation
Then it’s over to the RV, which is still parked at the traffic snarl on the highway. In case you’ve forgotten, Carl isn’t the only imperiled child these days—Carol’s daughter Sophia is still missing in the woods going on two days now, and Carol, Daryl, Andrea, and Dale have stuck around the highway in case she comes back.
Daryl is trying to get some sleep but Carol is sobbing loudly. So inconsiderate.
“Well ain’t this great. I can’t beat my meat because there’s no privacy, and now I gotta listen to a grieving mother’s sobs all night long. And grieving-mother-sobs are my biggest turn-on!”
Daryl decides he isn’t getting any sleep tonight, so he decides to do pass the time by searching for Sophia a little more. Andrea volunteers to go with him.
The plan is to shine flashlights along the edge of the forest to give Sophia something a guide light, in case she’s nearby. Dale thinks they could easily attract zombies that way, but Andrea warns him off with the stinkeye.
THE HIGH SCHOOL—GYM
The zombies have chased Shane and Otis into the gymnasium, and now they’re trapped on top of some folded-up bleachers, maybe two feet out of the zombies’ reach.
The zombies are blocking off the doors, and it appears the only way out is through the windows all the way across the gym. They’re not exactly idea. Otis says the windows are twenty feet above the ground so it’s a scary drop. And furthermore, Otis knows he’s too pudgy to fit through the windows himself.
But Otis has a plan: there are BIGGER windows in the locker room, ones he can actually fit through. If Shane covers him with shotgun fire, Otis can jump off the bleachers and lead the zombies away. Then Shane can make a break for the tiny, high window and Otis can make his way to a locker room window.
Boy, Otis is REALLY familiar with the locations of the windows in this school, isn’t he?
“Aw shucks, I just like lookin’ at the youngsters while they shower. 12:50, 1:50, and 2:50 are the prime viewin’ hours”
Anyway, Shane thinks Otis’s plan is as good as any, and they begin. Otis shoots a couple zombies to clear himself a path. Then he jumps off the bleachers, and sure enough, twists an ankle. Did you really think that would go any differently?
He tries to get up but a legless zombie nearby claws over and grabs his leg, pinning him. The other zombies start to shamble over to him, but Shane manages to shoot the legless one dead. Otis is now free and leads the zombies towards the locker room.
Shane’s turn doesn’t go all that much better. He hops off the bleachers OK, but two of the zombies at the back of the horde notice. Just as Shane starts breaking the window the zombies catch up with him and he has to stop and shoot one in the face. It pitches backward, knocking the second zombie down the stairs.
Now Shane can squeeze himself through the window. He drops his sack of supplies and his shotgun to the ground outside, and realizes just how long a twenty-foot drop is. He hesitates, steeling himself for the task…but that gives the remaining zombie enough time to come back up the stairs and make another grab at him.
Shane has to release his grip on the window ledge to punch at the zombie, and when that doesn’t work he has to reach for his pistol and shoot the damn thing. But since he no longer has a grip on the window, he can’t prepare for his jump and just plummets to the ground below. Ouch. Now both of them have fucked up ankles.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE
Back at the Greene’s, Glenn and T-Dog drive up to the house—last week, it was decided that they would come here so T-Dog could get medical attention.
Before they step on the porch they realize the Greene’s have no idea who they are and wonder how they should introduce themselves, but T-Dog decides to just walk inside.
They meet Dr. Greene’s (hot) daughter Maggie outside. They explain they’re part of Rick and Lori’s party, but she immediately recognizes the severity of T-Dog’s wound and invites them in.
INSIDE THE HOUSE
T-Dog and Glenn come into the bedroom/ICU for a quick “hello” with Rick and Lori before leaving them be. They can see Rick and Lori don’t need any extra hassles.
Dr. Greene checks Carl’s vitals again and doesn’t like the results. Rick and Lori will soon have a decision to make. Carl’s blood pressure is continuing to drop. If Shane and Otis don’t return soon, Carl’s only hope will be surgery WITHOUT the respirator.
“The other option is, I get my rifle…wait, sorry, that’s what I’d do if he was a horse. Never mind.”
Andrea and Daryl are in the middle of their search. Still, Andrea’s hope is fading that they’ll ever find her since so much time has passed.
But Daryl isn’t even worried yet. Where he comes from this is common. In fact, when he was a kid he went missing in the woods. His father was off whoring and his brother was in juvie, so nobody even noticed. He wandered for nine days until he found his way home. And then he just went on with his life.
I want Daryl on my apocalypse-team
THE GREENE’S HOUSE
Back at the house Lori and Rick are asking themselves similar questions about hope and such. Rick finds Lori alone on the porch. She’s had a terrible thought: maybe children aren’t suited for a post-apocalyptic world. And this isn’t something she’s come up with just now. It’s been on her mind a long time. She’s starting to let go.
Rick, being Rick, won’t accept that and points out how they are duty-bound to keep surviving, because back at the CDC Jenner gave them a second chance by letting them escape. He tries to explain how Jenner gave them a second chance and that means they should fight
But Lori isn’t buying it. She keeps thinking about Jacqui, the only member of their party stay at the CDC and die. Yes Jacqui died, but she’s also been spared experiencing all the shit that’s happened since the group left—namely, seeing Sophia go missing, Carl get shot, and zombies deciding to roam the countryside in packs. At this point death might be preferable. Maybe, Lori offers…they should let Carl slip away.
Rick still won’t agree, but when she puts him on the spot, he can’t give a good counter-reason as to why life is worth living.
Kirk Cameron would have a reason, I tell you what
THE HIGH SCHOOL
And after his bad fall Shane has managed to get on his feet and can now hobble along reasonably well. Now he has to find Otis and figure out how to get to the truck.
He creeps around the corner of the building and finds another horde of zombies milling around. One of them spots him, and right away he shoots it in the face. Sure enough, that attracts the rest of the zombies and they chase him up to a chain-link fence. Dead end.
With three zombies nearing, and the other side of the fence swarming with them, Shane is trapped. He takes a deep breath and reloads his shotgun…
…but then one of the zombie’s heads explodes. Otis has returned. But things are only marginally better. They still have to find a way back to the truck, and both of them are still limping. Oh, and Otis just ran out of rifle rounds.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE
After their conversation Rick and Lori sit in silence outside the bedroom.
I think Rick has finally given up trying to reassure Lori. That or he’s only got one “Shane is awesome” story
Suddenly, they hear coughing. They run into the room and find that Carl has woken up. The kid is understandably bewildered, and Rick and Lori try to fill him in quickly on the shooting, his medical situation, and who the Greenes are, but Carl can’t comprehend much. Instead, he turns to Lori and tries to tell her about the last thing he saw before getting shot, which was the deer. He tries to describe it to her, but it was just too beautiful for words.
Which, if we know our medical tropes, is really just the ravings of a sick person who is getting worse. Sure enough, Carl loses consciousness again. It looks like he might even be dying. But then he starts violently convulsing. It’s a seizure.
Rick and Lori can’t touch him because if they tried to pin Carl down it could hurt him, so all they can do is watch helplessly. Dr. Greene realizes the seizure is happening because Carl’s brain isn’t getting enough blood. The kid needs another transfusion, but the only donor, Rick, has already given two of them.
“We do still have my rifle. I’m keeping that option on the table”
Rick volunteers anyway. Dr. Greene warns him that losing more blood could give him a heart attack, but Rick shoves his arm out for the needle again.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
It looks like Otis and Shane have put some distance between themselves and the hordes, but Otis is very out of breath and needs to rest. They stop against a chain-link fence…and like nine zombies appear on the other side, completely out of nowhere. Since you can’t possibly catch your breath WITHOUT leaning against something, they are forced to keep running.
Their legs have gotten so bad that now they have to support each other to hobble along.
It’s like a three-legged race where if you lose you kill a kid!
Dale is standing guard atop the RV, but really looks like he’s just anxiously waiting for Andrea and Daryl to return. He hears someone climbing up the ladder, but it’s only Carol. She can’t sleep so she wants to wait for Daryl and Andrea to come back.
Daryl and Andrea continue their search. They hear a noise off in the brush and walk over to investigate.
They find another abandoned campsight. Well, maybe not entirely abandoned because threre’s a zombie hanging from a tree by the neck:
It’s another mutation of the Wildfire virus: now zombies can get depression.
They find a note pinned to a tree that explains what went down. The note says:
What do you know? It’s the theme of the episode!
Daryl is morbidly fascinated, but Andrea, being a dumb cityslicker, nearly retches. Using the note he figures out what happened…the camper got infected with Wildfire, and rather than wait to become a zombie he just killed himself. And then he became a zombie.
Daryl then notices that other zombies must have been by, because this one is missing all the flesh from the knees down. Ugh. That pushes Andrea over the edge and she pukes.
There’s no sign of Sophia, so it’s time to go. But before they do Andrea asks Daryl if he’ll put the zombie out of its misery. Instead, he makes her an offer: he’ll do it, but first she has to tell him whether she really still wants to be dead.
Andrea responds with the truth: she has no friggin’ idea. Maybe she does want to live, she says. Maybe she just feels obligated to live. Or maybe she’s still living because she’s a creature of habit. Then Daryl fulfills his end of the bargain and puts an arrow in the zombie’s head.
Atop the RV, Carol notices Dale worrying and surmises it’s about Andrea. She tries to reassure him, telling him that Daryl can keep her safe, but he doesn’t buy it.
He asks Carol to keep watch and climbs down off the RV. He walks along the road to the edge of the woods. He has to do SOMETHING, but all he can do is wait.
Then it’s over to Glenn and T-Dog for a bit. While everyone else has been preoccupied with Carl, Patricia (Otis’s girlfriend) and Maggie (Dr. Greene’s daughter) have stitched up T-Dog’s wound properly. (But still without anesthetic).
Patricia realizes that without the antibiotics T-Dog could very well be dead right now. She asks where he and Glenn found them, and Glenn explains they came from Merle’s stash. Then he over-explains, blurting out that Merle had them to treat his VD.
Maggie seems to sense something is off with Glenn.
But she did just meet him, so she doesn’t know that Glenn is always this awkward.
Later Maggie finds Glenn sitting by himself on the porch. She asks him if he’s praying, and he admits he is despite not being religious. But he’s so worried about the other members of his group that he’s willing to try anything at this point.
Being a religious person herself Maggie tries to offer some advice, but admits things have gotten so crazy in the world that she’s had trouble maintaining her faith. Not very helpful, Maggie.
If I were in Glenn’s situation, would I be above pretending to be sensitive to get some ass? No, I would not.
Maggie turns to more practical concerns and offers to get Glenn a drink refill. But before she leaves, she does have one piece of advice: he has to “make it right”.
INSIDE THE GREENE’S HOUSE
Rick and Lori. Still waiting for Shane to get back. Still delaying deciding whether to give Dr. Greene the go ahead to operate without the respirator.
Rick fills in some of the blanks on what Carl was telling Lori earlier, about the deer. He tells her about how beautiful the moment was…there they were, searching for a missing child, and then this deer shows up and time stands still.
And then it hits him: that’s the answer to Lori’s earlier challenge as to whether life is still worth living. The moment he awoke, rather than bitch about being shot, Carl was most interested in telling Lori about the deer. Since the kid can still find beauty in the world, that means he hasn’t given up hope. Rick and Lori will try their damndest to save their son.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
Fatigue is making Shane and Otis hobble slower and slower. Now about a hundred zombies are on their asses.
Shane finally has enough and collapses. He gives Otis his backpack with the medical supplies and tells him to go on alone. But Otis refuses. They’re escaping together or not at all.
Shane slaps the pavement in frustration and heaves himself onto his feet. They each turn and pick off a zombie, but they’re almost out of ammo.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE
Dr. Greene checks Carl’s blood pressure again. Still dropping. Rick and Lori are out of time. They have to decide whether to give Carl the surgery or not. Rick leaves it up to Lori. And she picks life.
Dr. Greene and Patricia begin prepping for the surgery. They lift Carl onto a metal table that will serve as a gurney. Dr. Greene picks up his scalpel. He warns Rick and Lori to leave the room. But just as they’re about to step out, they hear a truck approaching. Shane and Otis have returned! Everyone runs outside.
Check that. Only Shane has returned. Dr. Greene orders everyone not to tell Patricia, because he needs her for the surgery. With that, he grabs the surgical supplies and hurries back inside.
Shane looks pretty darn shell-shocked. He gives Rick a rundown of the events, starting with the moment we last saw them: he and Otis were out of rounds. Otis volunteered to stay behind to distract the zombies so Shane could escape. Somehow they believe him.
“And the next thing I knew, Otis was taken up to heaven by the Rapture! Or aliens. I didn’t really get a look.”
Being that they believe him, Rick tells Shane it’s all right, that Otis wanted to make things right. And that’s what Otis did.
Back at the road, Dale has returned to the top of the RV to keep vigil with Carol. At last they see a couple flashlights off in the distance. Andrea and Daryl have returned. When Carol sees that Sophia is not with them, she runs inside the vehicle to be alone. Daryl looks like this is starting to wear on him.
But Dale just looks relieved to see Andrea again. He stops her before she can escape into the trailer, and she looks like she’s just as pissed at him as she has been.
So Dale eschews words for a gesture. He gives her pistol back to her. And he admits he was wrong for making her decisions for her.
She accepts the gun and turns to leave. Dale stops her. He asks if she’s forgiven him. He wants SOME sign his actions are working.
And Andrea admits that she’s trying.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE—KITCHEN
Maggie is sobbing. She’s taking Otis’s death pretty hard. She tells Glenn that she knew Otis since she was a kid.
Glenn’s not being awkward any more. He asks her to tell him about the other people she’s lost in the zombiepocalypse. Off her questioning look, he explains he’s trying to make the world a little more right by trying to help someone through grief. (Which I’m inferring, because all he actually says is, “I’m trying to make things right.”)
Glenn’s Song: a heartwarming tale about a young man who learns not to be awkward any more. Starring Jesse Eisenberg
THE GREENE’S HOUSE—THE PORCH
But hey! There’s still a surgery going on. Rick, Shane, and Lori are waiting outside the house. Finally Dr. Greene comes out to give them the news…and it’s good! Carl has stabilized!
Believing in Jesus was totally the right call
Rick and Lori are too thankful for words, but Dr. Greene reminds that things are still pretty shitty…he still has to tell Patricia the news about Otis. Rick offers to do it with him.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE—SURGERY ROOM
So they go off and do that, but since Patricia’s not important, the camera doesn’t follow them. Instead, it follows Shane into the bedroom where Carl is recovering. Lori is watching over him, still overjoyed and grateful. This is the result of his sacrifices, yet he doesn’t look too relieved about it.
But Lori doesn’t notice, and instead asks Shane to stay with their group. He nods and leaves the room.
He runs into Maggie in the hallway. She’s got clean clothes for Shane. They used to belong to Otis. She points him upstairs to the bathroom so he can change.
THE GREENE’S HOUSE—BATHROOM
And now Shane is alone in the bathroom, right where we saw him at the beginning of the hour. Now here’s where the episode goes back to being crazy…
Shane notices he’s got a scratch on his forearm and a chunk of hair missing. Hu-wha?
THE HIGH SCHOOL—FLASHBACK
So here’s what REALLY happened.
We’re back to the last time we saw Shane and Otis together. They’re almost out of ammo, and the zombies are close enough now that Shane and Otis have to shoot a few down.
Each guy has one bullet left. Shane realizes that they won’t BOTH outrun the zombies. There’s an old joke that if you’re being chased by a bear, you don’t have to outrun the bear, just have to outrun your friend.
Well here’s an addendum: if you can’t outrun your friend, use your last bullet to shoot your friend in the thigh.
So basically it’s the same story Shane told Rick, except without the whole “Otis giving consent” part
Still in flashback, Shane and Otis struggle over the remaining pack of surgical supplies until Shane grabs Rick’s revolver and slams Otis in the face three times and Otis lets go. And that’s where Shane leaves him. As he limps out of the parking lot, he pauses for a moment to watch the zombies tear the guy apart with their teeth.
Don’t have too many things to talk about this week…
-Well then. I guess Shane has to be my favorite character now. The fact that he basically murdered Otis on TOP of the fact that he could have sacrificed HIMSELF makes him about as anti as an anti-hero gets. And honestly…I fucking hate “good” characters like Rick who never do stuff that’s stupid or reprehensible. Thank you, Shane. You are interesting.
-I really liked the part at the end when Maggie gave Shane the clothes that used to belong to Otis. I’m guessing his guilt will be pretty hard to suppress now that he’ll be draped with Otis’s man-scent.
-Doesn’t Dale look like Terrence Malick?
-I don’t think TWD has ever reminded me of any Classics of Western Literature, but that’s what it did this week. The note Daryl and Andrea found on the tree is almost exactly the same as a scene in another story, Journal of a Plague Year, by Daniel DeFoe, which is about the last time the bubonic plague hit England. (I read it in college. It’s really great. You should read it).
In the scene, the narrator finds a hut in England that used to belong to a couple peasants. Like the man at the camp site, the peasants contracted the sickness and knew they were going to die. They didn’t commit suicide, but they too left a note. It said: “O mIsErY, We B’oTH ShaLL DyE, WoE, WoE.”
That can’t be a coincidence, can it? The scenes are SO similar: plague, dead bodies, death note, despair. If TWD really is paying homage to one of my favorite books ever, I’m pretty impressed.
-And finally, I’ve been rethinking my whole “mocking the characters for making terrible decisions” thing, and here’s why. It ISN’T because I acknowledge that I’d do just as poorly if I were in their shoes. That’s a given.
I was thinking about the polar opposite of characters looking like idiots, and that is, making them look like superhuman. I usually roll my eyes whenever Bruce Willis or Schwartzenegger or Stallone or whoever does something silly, like kill 10 henchmen with one 30-round clip, or have a chair broken over their neck and not skip a beat. I always want stuff to be a little more realistic. And you know what? That’s what The Walking Dead is giving me. It’s pretty dumb of me to complain when things are outlandish AND when things are real, so I’m going to pick one, and I’m picking real.
I will still be making fun of Sophia for the foreseeable future, however.
Seriously, go read Journal of a Plague Year