A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I'm pardoned by the state of Georgia...
The action sequences in "Sick" weren't quite as prolonged or elaborate as what we got from the season premiere, but there was definitely a constant sense of tension, as one half of the group waited for Hershel to either pull through or turn into a walker, while the other dealt with the prisoners they had every right to be wary of. And the introduction of the prisoners brought with it a welcome dash of black comedy with their first attempt to kill walkers, ignoring every piece of advice Rick and company had just given them. The design of "The Walking Dead" doesn't allow for humor very often (it's a lot like "Battlestar Galactica" in that way), and that's fine, but the release I felt when they all started stabbing zombies in the mid-section was as satisfying in its own way as watching Rick and company work like a finely-tuned killing machine last week.
But as our heroes (save Andrea and her friend, who are absent this week) get the prison under control, and Hershel survives, the focus will have to shift away from non-stop action and more towards character moments. And for the most part, I thought the character scenes in "Sick" worked very well.
I don't care about the future of Rick and Lori's marriage, but I like that he doesn't, either, and that she had the self-awareness to acknowledge what a bad job she's done as a wife and mother since Rick found them by the quarry. What does interest me, though, is seeing the emotional descent of Rick as a result of the events of last season. He's taken firm control of the group (what some fans dubbed the Ricktatorship), and he's becoming someone the pre-apocalypse Rick Grimes likely wouldn't recognize. When he locks the small con out in the yard(*) and studies him for a moment, he looks barely human, and not just because his face is covered with blood. This is what you have to become to survive in this harsh new world, but does that make survival worth it?
(*) Why does Rick chase the little guy, anyway? Is it just bloodlust in the heat of killing the group's duplicitous leader? A desire to take the guy out rather than let him roam free in the prison and potentially threaten the group later?
The Hershel end of things provided good material for both Maggie and Beth (who is slowly but surely turning into a character whose name I will actually remember), but more importantly continued Carol's transformation from grief-stricken zombie of a different kind into an active, vital member of the group.
I would invite guesses as to who's watching Carol from the woods outside the prison, but I fear the previews for next week's episode will have spoiled that — which leads into our regular close to each "Walking Dead" review:
Once again, let me remind you again of this blog's No Spoiler rule and how it applies to this show, as I've had to delete a bunch of comments the last few weeks that violated it. Basic things to remember before commenting:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources — and, yes, that includes anything Mazzara and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. As with "Game of Thrones," the goal is to treat "The Walking Dead" TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org