The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 8 - "Nebraska"

Getting caught up.  Spoilers ahead. . .

Part of the delay in my writing about The Walking Dead again was, frankly, I wasn't sure that I was going to keep watching after all the meandering from the first half of the current season.  But as I reviewed the run-up to the Big Barn Shootout at the climax of "Pretty Much Dead Already," I could see that the producers and writers at TWD were doing the work necessary to create a different sort of television series.  Let's not forget that your typical zombie movie ends is a couple of ways, basically. 1) Everyone dies. 2) A few people escape into Plot Ambiguity.  To have an ongoing television series set during the Zombie Apocalypse means that you have to build some sort of continuity in a world where the casualty rate is high and mobility is essential.

I would agree with the assessment of many that the first half of this season's TWD has been clunky at times as the characters engage in dialogue that smacks of motivation/background notes from the producers.  In its best moments -- many of them with Daryl Dixon in his search for the doomed Sophia -- TWD was without dialogue, stripped down to simple movement and situation, expressive of the drive for survival that lies at the heart of this new world.  Really, who's got time for the soap opera stuff when you could be killed at any moment?

In the numbness after the Big Barn Shootout, as the RV Crew dispose of the downed walkers, Hershel slips off to town to renew his old drinking ways.  Rick and Glenn set off to find him, and when they (inevitably) do, Rick and Hershel have a real "let's cut the bullshit talk." And, although it drags on a bit, both of them come to an agreement that whatever high standards that either of them might have held -- Rick's sense of justice, Hershel's hope for a cure -- the deal really is about survival, plan and simple.  Kill or be killed.

Easily the best segment in the episode is the slowly building standoff between Rick, Glen, and Hershel and two men who discover them in the saloon.  Dave and Tony say they're from the northeast, and although fat Tony seems like a jerk from the start, Dave seems friendly enough, if a little nosy.  But as they all talk, Rick quickly reads the conversation for what it is -- Rick and Tony are fishing around for details, in effect, casing the area for things they might take by force.  Rick's role as leader -- and, in an Old West way, sheriff -- jumps to the foreground here, and when Dave reaches for his pistol, Rick is quick to put take down nice-guy Dave and fat Tony.  It's a refreshingly brutal moment, all the more surprising for the matter of fact way that Glenn and especially Hershel acknowledge it.  They had it coming, now they're dead.  Let's head home.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Shane is getting all crazy, one of Hershel's daughter's goes comatose, and Lori heads off in a car to retrieve Rick in town.  But wait, Lori's not paying attention, and there's a walker in the road.  Wham, bam, car wreck, and darkness is falling.  And it's time to warm your hands and hearts around a bonfire of brain-dead ghouls.  I'm not sure I'm completely turned around, but the tension of that barroom face-off suggests that everyone might just know what they were doing all along.

Zombie Kill of the Week (Honorary) - Fat Tony, killed by Rick
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (a major herd) - 1.1