AMC’s The Walking Dead ends its fall run with “Pretty Much Dead Already,” the seventh episode, with six more to begin in mid-February. In this week’s entry, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) confronts Hershel (Scott Wilson) about the Walkers in the barn, whom Hershel thinks of as people. Hershel considers letting the group stay, as Rick begs, if they will respect his opinions on the undead. But before Rick can appeal to his party, Shane (Jon Bernthal) takes matters into his own hands, leading a slaughter of every zombie in Hershel’s barn. The last Walker out (SPOILER ALERT!) is the little girl the whole group has been searching for: Sophia (Madison Lintz).
One interesting, nagging question: why do most zombies stay away from Hershel’s farm, and how is he able to protect it without keeping constant watch? How come only a couple of stragglers get stuck in his swamp? Where are the crowds that decimate surrounding lands? Is there more to this mystery, or is it happy coincidence that he is able to keep his family safe?
The Walking Dead spends this entire batch of episode searching for Sophia, only to learn she is a zombie in a barn on the property they are staying at the entire time in “Pretty Much Dead Already.” This isn’t exactly a shocker, since comic book readers already know that Walkers are in the structure, and the barn is within the vicinity that Sophia could be in. It might be assumed, even if not confirmed, that Sophia is one of the captives before this episode. Of course, the one person who would have been able to tip off the group as to Sophia’s whereabouts is killed by Shane before he even knows that they are looking for the lost girl, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) discovers enough clues to keep some off balance.
But whether Sophia’s sudden appearance in “Pretty Much Dead Already” is a shocker to you or not, there is much impact in the reveal. Hershel is watching the group kill his family, friends, and neighbors, as he still sees them as such, as Shane and the others shoot the Walkers in the head. These people mean nothing to them. But when Sophia emerges, they all stop shooting. Suddenly, both the main characters and the audience are really given a face to the tragedy of the epidemic. Sophia is not the first actress shown before and after turning zombie in the series, but it is done with such raw emotion, that one cannot help but be moved. Of course, she must die, too, and does. But now none can deny understanding Hershel’s stance on the Walkers, even if they don’t agree,
Will Hershel kick the group off of his farm now, since they murder his loved ones, or is he finally seeing the Walkers for what they are? This is a debatable point that will not be answered until February. He is still insisting it’s only a sickness in “Pretty Much Dead Already,” which may someday be cured, as the zombies are released. But he gets a first hand look at a hoard of hungry flesh eaters, and it must be very scary. Also, watching Rick take down one of his own has got to mean something, and maybe Hershel will take pity on the travelers, despite what they do.
The people who suffer the most over Sophia’s death are Rick, Carol (Melissa McBride), and Daryl. Carol’s grief is obvious, being Sophia’s mother. Rick takes the loss as a father himself, and the leader who cannot protect everyone. But Daryl’s connection is less obvious. He invests a lot of himself into the search for Sophia, and one cannot help but think that Daryl sees finding Sophia as a chance to really be an appreciated member of the group. Often an outsider, rescuing the missing girl would allow everyone to separate him from his also missing, good-for-nothing brother, as Carol begins to. It also gives him a chance to do something good and selfless, something his brother does not approve of. Sophia’s death is a set back for Daryl, and there is no telling how he will respond to it.
Shane is going down a very, very dark path in The Walking Dead. He thinks that he can make the tough choices that Rick can’t, and only be being completely logical and ruthless, does anyone stand a chance to survive. He applies this theory when he kills Otis, and continues to bellow it throughout. He is the one who gets the guns and opens up the barn, even when others try to convince him not to. Can he recover from such bad choices?
Yet, Rick is the one who must kill Sophia in “Pretty Much Dead Already.” Despite Shane’s insistence that he is a better protector, Rick saves the group from one of their own. Why doesn’t Shane act first? Might his theory falter when confronted with a living person that he cares about? If so, then maybe he isn’t too far gone to be saved.
No one will convince Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) that Shane is salvageable, though. Dale is the one who tries to hide the guns from Shane, and cautions Andrea (Laurie Holden), who shares sex with Shane, not to follow the former cop down his chosen path. Dale tries to act as father and conscience to everyone, but his biggest challenge is Shane. It isn’t likely that Dale is strong enough to help Shane, given the way that Dale backs down in “Pretty Much Dead Already.” But maybe he can help Andrea see the truth, even if she likes the way that Shane makes her feel, not being a victim anymore.
Is Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) baby Shane or Rick’s? Does it matter? Can she ever know for sure? In the world of The Walking Dead, a DNA test to determine paternity will be nearly impossible to come by. Lori’s resolve to raise the baby as Rick’s, no matter what the truth is, also determines that Rick will be the dad, whether he is the biological father or not. Maybe someone can use a calculator after the baby is born to give a good guess. But given Lori’s decision to cut Shane out, as well as Rick’s forgiveness towards his wife for sleeping with Shane, given the circumstances, it probably doesn’t matter anyway which genes the baby has.
In the midst of all the darkness in “Pretty Much Dead Already,” love finds a way to bloom. Which is kind of a metaphor for the hope that springs in each character in The Walking Dead, no matter their conditions they endure. Of course, the couple referred to is Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun). Despite Maggie’s insistence that their relationship only be physical, and her anger at Glenn for telling his friends about the barn, the two manage to forge a bond that seems strong. Especially after Glenn expresses some real care for her. Maggie may love Hershel, but she isn’t above questioning him. If the group is allowed to stay on the farm, Maggie will be a big influence in the decision. And she will be so because of how she feels about Glenn.
The Walking Dead will return in February to AMC.