If you were at all wondering why kindly vet Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) has been so protective of his seemingly walker-free farm and the people who live there, then the end of last night’s episode of “The Walking Dead” will explain Dr. Greene’s skittishness at keeping Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and crew around any longer than is necessary.
Thanks to Glenn (Steven Yeun) and his desire to have a tryst with Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) in a hayloft, we all get to learn the Greenes’ dirty little secret: a barn full of bloodthirsty walkers. Who those walkers are, and how they haven’t busted out of the barn in search of live flesh are two things that we don’t know yet, but what we do know is that things on the Greene farm aren’t all they seem to be.
What that ending did, though, was make the rest of the episode into more of a MacGuffin than something that was dramatically effective. Up until the moment in the barn, we got some good insight into a few of the folks in the ragtag group, even if there wasn’t a whole ton of action. The person we learned the most about was Daryl (Norman Reedus), who not only seems to be finding out the most about where Sophia went, but also has a few issues with how he was treated by big brother Merle (Michael Rooker).
Oh, Merle, you lovably racist sociopath! How we missed you! Sure, Merle only appeared in Daryl’s hallucinations after he tumbled down an embankment and got stabbed by one of his own arrows. He’s as real as that chupacabra that Merle claims he once saw. But those hallucinations were glorious: not only was Merle as much Daryl’s enemy as he was his protector, but he also sets up a situation where, hopefully, he’s encouraging Daryl not to blindly follow folks like Rick or be the group’s errand boy.
The Daryl of the first part of the season was becoming a great leader, but the crazier parts of his character were being sanded down. Maybe this is an opportunity to amp things up a bit. I’m sure he’s none too happy that, even after he made it out of the woods, he got shot by Andrea (Laurie Holden), who thought he was a walker.
What else happened? Lots of angst. Shane (Jon Bernthal) talking to Rick about how everyone they know is dead and how maybe decisions like slowing down to look for a child don’t make sense anymore in an everyone-for-themselves world. Then we have Shane telling Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) that the only thing motivating him is the safety of her and Carl (Chandler Riggs), which Lori thought was more of an excuse than anything. Finally, we have the continuing angst of Lori, who’s pregnant but isn’t sure what to do or who to tell — other than giving the guileless Glenn some stern warnings not to tell anyone, that is.
We also got a glimpse of how some of the ragtag gang got together, as the cold open showed people escaping from Atlanta before realizing all hope was lost. The feds napalmed the city, Shane did what he could to protect Lori and Carl, and Ed (Adam Minarovich) was such a raging survivalist jerk to Carol (Melissa McBride), it drove her to tell Daryl later that he’s done more for Sophia than Ed’s ever done.
The non-Daryl stuff may have been a bit overwrought, but at least if the show is going to slow down, then it should be doing so in order for us to explore what’s going on in the minds of the characters a bit more. And, while the Maggie-Glenn “romance” is a nice distraction, let’s hope they just get together permanently soon; this rom-com back-and-forth stuff is taking away from our zombie time.