It’s a waste of time, all this hopin’ and prayin’. We’re going to locate that little girl, and she’s gonna be just fine. Am I the only one Zen around here? Good lord.
For the second episode of the season, the story is relatively light on zombies and heavy on character interaction. That’s OK. No show can be all zombies, all the time, and luckily there’s enough going on with the Camp Fear refugees to fuel plenty of zombie-lite entries.
Last week, Carl was shot in the chest after a hunter felled the buck the boy was standing (stalking) near. After a short flash back to Before, where we see how Lori and Carl found out about Rick’s own near-fatal shooting, this week picks up in the bloody aftermath, with Rick running across an overgrown field, clutching his son’s body to his chest. The hunter, Otis, is directing them towards his house where they might find some help. There’s a whole other group of survivors out at this farm, one of whom is a doctor (of a kind). Once they realize Carl hasn’t been bit, the group jumps into action to save the life of a boy they don’t know.
Rick is at a loss once there’s not something for him to do. He’s supposed to be in charge, he’s supposed to be the one saving people. He’s supposed to keep his son safe. Rick is standing on the front porch of a picture perfect farm, this idealized version of country life, having a total mental breakdown. It’s Shane who steps into the void, wiping Carl’s blood out of his hair and off Rick’s face, offering what pale comfort he can. Shane gets his chance for redemption in this episode. I’ve said before that Shane is someone who wants to do the right thing but isn’t really sure how to go about it. He comes through here.
The group is now spread out in three locations ““ the new farmhouse, the group in the woods trying to make its way back, and Dale and T-Dog back at the highway wreck.
Daryl is leading the group back to the highway. The slog is long and there’s been no sign of Sophia along the way. Everyone is feeling the strain. Andrea is so wrapped up in whatever black muck that is going on in her head she doesn’t see the stray walker lurch out of the woods until it’s already on her. She flails and screams and stabs the zombie ineffectually in the heart with her knife until she trips and falls. Everyone else is running towards her but they’re too far away to help ““ which is when the cavalry literally rides in on horseback.
I gotta say. It was rad.
It turns out that the horse and rider and the rider’s bat are an emissary for the farm. Carl’s condition is deteriorating. Rick gave her the approximate location of the group in the hopes that Maggie would find them and bring Lori back. If her son is going to die, at least she can be at his side. Lori doesn’t even hesitate, shedding her backpack and leaping up on the horse.
I threatened while watching the episode to turn in this recap after writing only “Daryl is awesome.” There is no way to watch “Bloodletting” and come away with any other impression. Again the show proves that its strength is in creating complex, recognizable characters ““ Daryl began the series as a riff on redneck stereotypes and has quietly been proving himself to be more than that.
When Dale tells the group about T-Dog’s infection and bemoans the lack of antibiotics, Daryl saunters over to his motorcycle and pulls out a ziplock stash of pills. (And some meth.) When the group needs a leader to get them back to the road, Rick entrusts them to Daryl. He puts an end to the fatalistic and depressing talk about hoping Sophia is still alive. He rescues Andrea, makes a plan to signal Sophia in case she makes it back to the wreck while they’re not there, and provides a surprising source of centeredness to the increasingly fractured group. That’s a lot of awesome to pack into one episode.
Maybe Andrea could pull him aside and ask him for tips on how to handle post-apocolypse mental health, because she’s really coming off like an ungrateful brat. I get that we’re supposed to appreciate she’s Going Through Things, but it’s hard to dredge up sympathy for her when she goes bitchface on Dale just for making sure she’s OK after a walker attack.
While everyone else is out on their various adventures, Dale and T-Dog have been scavenging the wreck for anything the group can use. T-Dog’s wound has been hurting him. Dale is alarmed at the state of it, claiming infection has set in. They begin re-searching the wrecks for medicine. I don’t really have much to say about the car T-Dog finds himself in except to say that in a show full of horrible imagery, the gore splattered car seat was especially disturbing.
By later that day, T-Dogg has a dangerously high fever, which leads to the best bit of dialogue in the whole episode:
T-Dog: No, I mean, what are we doin’? People off in the woods, days lookin’ for that girl and we’re here. ‘Cause they think we are the weakest. Well, what are you, 70?
T-Dog: Oh. And I’m the one black guy. Realize how precarious that makes my situation?
Dale: What the hell are you talking about?
T-Dog: I’m talking about two good ole’ boy cowboy sheriffs and a redneck whose brother cut off his own hand because I dropped a key. Who in that scenario is the first that’s gonna be lynched?
Dale: You can’t be serious. Am I missing something? Those two cowboys have done all right by us and if I’m not mistaken that redneck went out of his way to save your ass more than once.
T-Dog: Yeah, and what about Andrea? Kills her own sister.
Dale: She was already dead.
T-Dog: Then wants to blow herself up. Yeah, she’s all there.
Dale: She’s having a tough time. What is wrong with you?
T-Dog: The whole world is having a tough time. Damn, man, open your eyes!
Back at the farm, the kindly old doctor, Hershel, who turns out to be a kindly old country vet, needs certain supplies to operate on Carl. Because Rick and Carl share a blood type, he can’t leave the farm to go scavenge. The responsibility falls to Shane, who is not entirely eager to go sneak into a zombie infested FEMA camp, but does it anyway, which is point 3 or 4 for him in this episode. Otis, who is completely wracked with guilt, goes along.
Most of the other survivors the group has run into have been standup folks, but their luck can’t last. I find it difficult to believe that an apocolypse has turned everyone left into altruistic heroes in waiting, so something is going to happen this season. But for now, Hershel is going to save Carl (of course) and Otis is going to take Shane for medical supplies.
The FEMA camp is overrun with zombies, who are dead and therefore not particularly bright. The guys are able to distract the horde with “ooh, shiny” emergency flares, getting into the medical shed with no problem. They get their supplies with no problems. They run into a big ole problem when they try to leave. The flares have either been burned out or been eaten and the zombies are back on brain patrol. Otis and Shane take off, but every turn is blocked with the walkers, and with nowhere to run, Shane blows out the glass in a set of doors. The guys take shelter in a vestibule with nothing but a flimsy metal grate between them and the horde.