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Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 2.1, “What Lies Ahead”

I guess I’m losing hope that you can hear me, but there’s always that chance isn’t there? That slim chance. It’s all about slim chances now.

 It’s been ten long months since we last saw the survivors of The Walking Dead. Whoever came up with these horrendous year-long breaks between television seasons (I’m looking at you, BSG) needs to be taken out behind the woodshed for a serious talking to. Now that the long wasteland is behind us, let us all rejoice that TWD has returned in fine form.

We open up with Rick giving us a brief “as seen previously” in the form of a walkie-talkie confession to his buddy Morgan. He never hears back from Morgan ““ all his confessions are unidirectional ““ but that doesn’t break Rick’s faith that Morgan is out there, listening. The gang is heading out of Atlanta after the events at the CDC. Rick claims that the explosion was only “the day before last,” but they look like it’s been a coon’s age since any of them has seen a shower.

Importantly, Rick begins to mention what Jenner whispered to him but feints at this part of his story. Keep an eye out for this bit of information. How can it not be significant?

Camp Fear hits the road. Then Camp Fear hits a snarl of clusterfuck of a traffic jam. We’ve seen several times in the overhead shots of the city that the lanes heading out of Atlanta were turned into a parking lot graveyard. A few miles out, the traffic spread out, covering both sides of the interstate and the grass median in between. This is one of the things that really grabs me about the show ““ these little vignettes of other people’s stories. There’s a tale here that explains why all these cars are just stopped, why there are dead bodies inside their cars that look like they died of starvation rather than walkers. I always get the feeling that the writers know why the cars are stopped, that they aren’t just a device to get the survivors in trouble. It makes the world feel lived in.

The goddamn pump on the camper pops again. While Dale and Glen fuss over the engine guts, the rest of the gang stumbles out onto the blacktop. The traffic jam provides unexpected benefits ““ gas, water, clothes, and food that can be looted out of the cars. Lori purses her lips and reminds everyone that this blockade is a graveyard. Another time, another place, her moral objections might have had some weight. But Lori is slow to admit what everyone else has already accepted; the whole world is a graveyard. They’re just the ghosts walking through it.

Dale and Rick are the first ones to spot the horde of walkers headed their way. Almost everyone drops to the ground and slides under the cars. T-Dogg is stuck out, caught between some wrecked vehicles that not only don’t provide cover, but have sharp bits that stick out and slice up flesh. Andrea had been pouting in the RV and the horde is already on them when she sees the walkers outside the window. Things look grim for both of them ““ a walker traps T-Dogg between some overturned cars and Andrea hides in the bathroom while a walker sniffs around. But we don’t lose anyone quite yet ““ Daryl, who is my A #1 favorite, ninja snuffs T-Dogg’s stalker and then covers them both with corpses to hide from the rest of the horde and Andrea pummels the stuffing out of her walker’s eye socket with a Phillips head screwdriver.

Just when it seems safe to move, Sophia, The Other Child, is discovered by two stragglers. She doesn’t scream. Her mother doesn’t scream. This is the world they live in now; screaming can be death. Sophia bellycrawls out from under a truck and takes off into the woods with the walkers following and Rick close behind. Luckily, he finds her first.

Rick leads the walkers to (another) gory death but Sophia is missing from her hiding space when he doubles back to pick her up. Her disappearance drives the rest of the episode.

It says a lot about a show that I can sit here and watch the adventures of these fictional characters and think to myself, “Please just let them find Sophia alive. They’ve been through so much. Just let them find the little girl.” I meant it. I believe these characters. I recognize them. That’s a good television show.

Daryl and Rick tramp through the woods to find her. They perform zombie autopsy on a stray walker to make sure she hasn’t been eaten.  The next day, everyone else is pulled into the search. Camp Fear tramps through the woods, finds a church that mysteriously still has a working electronic steeple bells and a sanctuary of walkers. Pay close attention to how the walkers are killed in the episode, because it reveals a lot about the people killing them ““ Andrea, Shane, and even Rick show their instability in the way they overkill their zombies, hitting them again and again after the threat is put down. Daryl, by comparison, dispatches them dispassionately, with quick efficiency.

Rick is struggling to maintain hope and faith in his own leadership. Shane has been melting down since last season ““ he barely avoided murdering Rick in the woods and Lori had to fight off his rape attempt. Shane is the guy that wants to be good and plays at it, but hasn’t really taken it to heart. He wants to abandon the gang and strike out on his own. Andrea is furious that Dale kept her from committing suicide back at the CDC, spitting on their friendship and pretending that her sister’s death isn’t still a gaping wound. She’s ready to split too, but not before sowing seeds of dissatisfaction in the gang.

When the church is a bust and God doesn’t provide ready answers to anyone’s prayers, Rick and Shane send most of the group back to the interstate while they and Carl spend a couple more hours searching.

On the way back, Lori gives Andrea and Carol whatfor for the way they’ve been treating Rick, wanting him to make the hard decisions as the leader and then blaming him for them to. He’s doing his best. And since no one else is stepping up to take care of them, he’s all they got. It might seem callous to tell a grieving mother to stop bitching about her missing child but anyone else would have already done the survivor math, as Dale calls it, and weighed the needs of the many against the grief of the few.

Out in the woods, Shane and Rick have a moment of almost-companionship. A buck stumbles out across their path, beautifully alive, and Carl approaches it carefully, awestruck. The two men lower their weapons and watch him. There is so little wonder left.

And then a bullet takes down the buck, and then takes down Carl as it passes through.

By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com.

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

8 replies on “Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 2.1, “What Lies Ahead””

Daryl is rapidly becoming my favourite character. He’s practical, fast and efficient and all that with zero whining. I enjoyed the scene with him and Rick tracking Sophia. They work well together and Rick is willing to listen to Daryl. These two could even form a kind of friendship eventually, though I doubt that will be allowed to happen.

Now, that “autopsy” scene. Oh. My. God. I couldn’t watch all the way through. I’d sneak a peek occasionally but it was just way too gory and vomit-inducing. Kudos to all who made that scene possible. :-)

I must have a cold, cold heart because I wasn’t in the least moved by Rick’s son’s moment with the buck. IMO, the actor didn’t sell it well. It looked like acting, not feeling. I found Shane’s and Rick’s reactions more real.

I first thought that Rick and Shane were letting Carl have the kill (for the deer meat) because the kid walked up to it with a psychopathic grin on his face. Less “wonder of unspoiled nature” and more “I’mma knife me a deer.” Which of course, would have been dumb, but the kid wasn’t selling it.

It’s so funny that you noticed the overkill vs. efficient kill thing. I pointed it out to my husband as we were watching. Shane, Rick, and Andrea just emotionally keep going, and Daryl’s all, one shot, collect the arrow, keep moving. I know a lot of it has to do with his background as a hunter/tracker, but I think it also ties into his survival instincts being stronger than his emotional ones (how he deals with Merle’s presumed death vs. how Andrea deals with Amy’s- that’s the sister’s name, right?). Also, I unapologetically love Norman Reedus, so there’s that, too.

Also, Laurie can STFU with her robbing-the-dead conscience. They’re DEAD. They don’t care if you pilfer their shit. The one thing that has been really bugging me is how poorly they’re portraying the women: emotional to the point of being useless.

Oh my god this episode was so good. I cannot remember the last time a show had me as on edge, stressed out, and like you said, invested in these people. The flips my stomach was doing as they all silently huddled under the cars as the walkers wove so painfully slow through the cars was wrenching. I am a big chicken and cannot watch scary movies, even cheesy ones, so I’m not really a huge zombie geek (though I fully support my husband’s desire to build a zombie apocalypse van because that is just awesome), but fuck if I don’t enjoy this show so much!

Awesome recap, Slay, as always. Did you watch Talking Dead afterwards? I was glad they addressed the issue of the zombies not smelling them, since they had to drench themselves in entrails last season, because as soon as that scene started I said “oh boy, the message boards are going to go crazy with that bit…”

I was thinking that EXACT same thing, but I’m old and couldn’t stay up late enough to watch it. If you don’t mind, what was their reasoning for that? All the other dead people around them? That was really the only thing I could think of that would make it okay.

Also, being a country girl, I just could NOT get why the deer was letting Carl get that close to him. A couple of my friends and I were all thinking maybe zombie deer or something. But obviously we think too much into things.

I was saying the EXACT same thing during that scene! I used to camp with my grandparents as a kid and one time some friends were with us and a deer came up and gutted their little dog, literally gutted the poor thing with it’s razor sharp hooves, so all I could think was that that deer was about to rear up and eviscerate the kid. I hate deer.

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