“It’s all about slim chances now. And a slim chance is better than none.”
— Sheriff Rick Grimes
After the first season’s fireball of a final scene, the opening of season 2 stands in stark contrast. Atlanta is a desolate, disturbingly quiet, ghost town. Ownerless dogs wander the trash-strewn streets. But they aren’t skinny. Oh, no. They have thick, glossy coats and plenty to eat. Dogs don’t mind chewing through a double-breasted suit or the occasional underwire bra to get at the soft, tasty parts. No-doubt they’re loving their new freedom. An endless variety of revolting things to roll in and nobody to force them to take a bath that’ll make them smell like green apples and canine shame.
Right away any concerns about the rumored cutbacks on zombie makeup and special effects are allayed as the camera pans past a long-haired woman who appears to have been sunbathing for seven years straight.
As we see the dogs and that sunbathing beauty, Sheriff Rick’s voice over talks about losing hope and wondering if he is being heard. He talks about slim chances and how slim chances are better than none. He confesses that he’s tried to do right and keep people safe. The tone is confessional. For a few moments I thought maybe he was actually trying to speak to God. But then, police radio in hand, he speaks directly to Morgan and lets him know where he and his group have decided to go. He tells Morgan that the CDC is a dead end, Atlanta is done, and that he should not try to come there.
(Keep in mind that he has not had any actual communication with Morgan since he left him with Morgan’s son Duane in his small home town. Rick’s continued broadcasts to him show that he still has hope. It’s also a nice narrative device to fill in backstory in case you’re new to the show, missed an episode, or don’t read the recaps on Hey, Don’t Judge Me. (Ahem. Shameless plug.)
I really liked Morgan and Duane and hope they show up soon. Sadly, Morgan is anchored to his house by his once-beautiful undead wife who wanders around his front yard and occasionally tries to come in the door to devour her family. He has a sort of sniper’s nest in one of his upstairs rooms, but he just doesn’t have the cajones to put her out of her misery (and his, and his son’s.)
Morgan and his son could be on their way to safety, or at least chance of safety if he and his wife had simply gone to legalzoom.com, shelled out the $49, and filled out their living wills. I’m sure there’s a zombie clause that allows you to, “pull the plug” or “plug a head with lead.”
But I digress.
In this episode Sheriff Rick leads the group out of Atlanta. They’ve set their sights on Fort Benning which is 125 miles away. In a sort of middle class, suburban, Road Warrior-like convoy. With fewer homosexual undertones and a lot less leather and eyeliner, they head out on an empty highway. Daryl leads the way on his motorcycle with ape-hanger handlebars, followed by Dale’s ancient Winnebago, and Rick’s faded yellow Wagoneer. During the trip, Shane begins to teach Andrea how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble her handgun. (They get as far as the disassemble, so of course, you know she’s going to need that gun imminently and it will just be a pile of useless metal.)
At first the road is clear, but then they run into a traffic jam of wrecked cars full of corpses and an overturned eighteen wheeler that’s blocking most of the road. It’s here that Dale’s decrepit Winnebago blows its rigged, re-rigged, and taped-together radiator hose. The group quickly realizes they are surrounded by supplies. Including radiator hoses.
Lori (Rick’s wife) doesn’t like the idea of looting what she sees as a graveyard and immediately gets snooty about it. At this point in the apocalypse timeline, I’m thinking she should have a completely clear conscience about looting from the dead. The mummified couple in the bashed-in 1987 Corolla are not going to care if you take some canned corn out of their trunk. They are not hungry anymore. They also won’t care if you siphon off their gas. They’re not going anywhere.
Dale teaches Glenn how to fix the radiator hose explaining that radiator hose clamps always require a flat head screwdriver. Then Dale shoves the Phillips head into his pocket and leaves Glenn to the job, while he goes up to stand watch from the roof of the Winnebago. Andrea gets inside the Winnebago and sets about reassembling her gun (without the help of Shane) who between his pouting and pining sessions for Rick’s wife, manages to find a full water bottle delivery truck. A major coup.
But the good times can’t last. It’s time for some undead action.
Dale spots a walker among the wrecked cars, Rick sights her in his rifle and chambers a round. Then he spots a second shambling figure. And then they just keep coming en masse. I imagine that’s what the crowds leaving a Jeff Dunham performance look like.
Rick quickly gets everyone hidden under cars as the horde passes through. Are they migrating? Why are they in the middle nowhere all grouped together and travelling in the same direction?
Inside the Winnebago, Andrea is intent on putting her gun puzzle back together, when out of the corner of her eye she sees movement and then, to her horror realizes there are probably at least 50 of the undead walking right by the RV. She grabs her gun parts and drops to the floor.
While trying to hide from the horde, T-Dog’s arm gets ripped open on a sharp piece of automotive metal. It’s serious. Spurting serious.
From under the cars everyone stays frozen in quiet terror as a parade of zombie footwear goes by. Before now, I had never really noticed that even though most zombies walk with very odd stumbling gates, they never seem to lose their shoes. And they’re also quite adept at keeping them perfectly tied. You’d think some would be barefoot, some with only one shoe, some in socks. Odd. And actually now that I think about it, there would definitely be lots of them just stumbling around completely bare-ass naked. Or maybe completely bare-ass naked with one jolly Christmas sock.
Andrea sees a walker start to come into the Winnebago and scoots down the hall with her bag of useless gun parts to hide in the bathroom. He looks around a bit and is about to lose interest when she drops several metal pieces and the noise draws him back. She bars the door with her feet, but it’s flimsy and it’s going to be no match for him. Dale, who is still on the roof, tosses her the Phillips head screwdriver that is no good for radiator hoses, but just the ticket for gauging out zombie eyes.
Meanwhile Daryl sticks a knife into the base of the skull of a walker that was about to get a little taste of T-Dog and then quickly buries himself and T-Dog with a mound of dessicated corpses and they go totally unnoticed by the other zombies. Now that’s some fucking hardcore hide and seek.
Finally, everyone thinks the horde of walkers is gone, and they start creeping out from under the cars, but poor little 12-year old Sophia is discovered and chased into the woods by two horrific male walkers. Only in this case, they’re not walking. They’re running. Rick dashes after them and is able to hide Sophia, in her little rainbow shirt and still clutching her doll, in a hollowed out spot under the roots of a tree on a riverbank. He tells her to stay hidden until he comes back for her, but if he doesn’t make it back, she’s instructed to get back to the others up on the road by heading up the river bank and keeping the sun on her left shoulder.
Now here’s a whole new Rick! He’s not in uniform. He’s dirty. He’s wet. He’s pissed. And he’s not going to use a gun so that whole Thriller-wannabe flash mob of the undead will hear it and return for a second enraged act of Beat It. He’s got a rock. A big skull-crushing rock. And each of the walkers gets a turn.
When Rick gets back to where Sophia was hidden, she’s gone; Rick takes Daryl, who’s an expert tracker to try to find her. While they are searching, they come across a walker, who Daryl takes out with a quick crossbow shot through the eye from the back of the head. (I’m starting to like Daryl more and more.) And then all kinds of nasty break loose. They can tell that the walker has just eaten something because he has fresh flesh stuck in his fetid choppers, so they do a little field dissection that Dr. G would certainly not approve of. They don’t find Sophia, just a woodchuck. And a whole lot of putrescence.
Meanwhile Carl finds an arsenal of axes, hatchets, and knives in the lap of a mummified man in a truck. He snakes it and adds it to the group’s growing stash of weapons.
They have to call off the search for Sophia when it gets dark. Her mother, Carol blames Rick for leaving her out there in the woods. Hmmm, I didn’t see her go tearing after the two walkers when she saw the shit go down.
Back at the Winnebago, Andrea confronts Dale about her gun. She wants it back. He doesn’t trust her with it since she had wanted to stay at the CDC and be incinerated. She is angry because when he said he would stay and be incinerated if she stayed, she’d have his blood on her hands. So she left with him. Each thinks they saved the other. But she wanted to choose the way she would die and feels that he took that from her, forcing her to continue living a constant nightmare. He does not relent. She does not get her gun back.
The next morning the search for Sophia resumes. Almost everyone joins in. Daryl finds a tent in the woods, but Sophia is not there. Instead he finds a man who took his own life, or ‘opted out,’ as Daryl puts it. He takes the dead guy’s handgun.
Church bells begin ringing, startling them. Thinking it could be a signal from Sophia they run for a church and hack apart several of the undead in the chapel right under a big cruciform. The bells turn out to be electronic and on a timer.
Carol prays for Sophia’s safe return to the giant creepy, zombie-looking form of Jesus on the cross (who, as you all know also came back from the dead—making HIM THE ACTUAL LIVING DEAD!) This is mere minutes after they’ve just slaughtered three of his faithful followers. The carnage is probably still all over the pews, hymnals, and tiny pencils as she prays.
The group is fracturing and falling apart. Shane has decided to leave the group and go out on his own. Andrea wants to go with him.
But before they go their separate ways, they decide to keep searching for Sophia until dark.
Rick prays to the cruciform for a sign from God. He wants to know that he’s doing the right thing. Just a sign, Buddy Jesus, that’s all. He says, “Any sign will do.” Mmmm. Careful there, Rick. Yahweh could get pretty creative. You already have a big-ass zombie problem on your hands. Any sign? You sure? Some that spring to mind are rivers of blood, insect plagues, boils—and killing eldest sons!!! I think I’d be a little more specific there.
Lori confronts everyone about blaming Rick for everything that goes wrong. Everyone shuts up.
Rick, Shane, and Carl are searching the woods for Sophia when they come upon a beautiful buck. Instead of shooting it, they allow Carl to walk up closer. The buck is calm and allows the boy to get within a few feet of him when a rifle blast tears through the deer and then through Carl. Both fall to the ground. The buck is certainly dead. Carl looks like he is, too.
NEXT WEEK: Who shot
JR Carl? Is this Rick’s sign from God? Is Carl even dead? And if he is will everyone bring venison casseroles to his wake? Will Sophia be crowned hide and seek champ of the week?