The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 2: “Bloodletting”
Written by Glen Mazzara
Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
“Bloodletting” opens, somewhat surprisingly, on a pre-zombie-era flashback: Lori, complaining of her husband’s too-placid nature, receives the news of her husband’s shooting from Shane, who tries his darndest to take the blame. It was an odd wrinkle in an hour that turned out to be mostly about Big Feelings, something the show has historically been less than thrilling at.
After last week’s encounter with the Jesus Deer and a stray bullet, Carl is led by the accidental shooter, Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince), to the home of Hershel (veteran character actor Scott Wilson), who owns an immaculate property. While Rick gladly gives up some of his blood to aid his son, but it’s soon discovered that Carl will need more medical supplies in order to survive – lots more, in fact, including a respirator. Meanwhile, the search for little Sophia carries on with no luck, and Dale and T-Dog ponder their current predicament while guarding the van back on the highway.
Despite a pretty solid cliffhanger – with Shane and Otis trapped inside the school, pinned by walkers, and no clear way back to help Carl – “Bloodletting” is unfortunately a bit of a snooze. With not one but two children in peril, most of the more interesting interpersonal dynamics are subsumed for the moment, with most of our heroes putting aside their disputes. The addition of Hershel and his family might eventually prove interesting, and it’s always nice to see Scott Wilson, but we don’t really get a sense of any distinct personalities at work there beyond Hershel’s vague hopefulness. (Also, his veterinary experience, which Lori takes issue with in one of the hour’s less appealing moments.) The low point of the hour, though, was the interminable scenes between Dale and T-Dog – and hey, ever notice that Irone Singleton isn’t listed in the main cast? Just saying – dude’s a goner.
This also means for the second week in a row, the group is now spending all of its time reacting, rather than acting. Once again, there’s no destination or greater goal at work than survival. That makes sense for the setting, but that means the show is relying pretty hard on its character dynamics, which for the most part aren’t terribly interesting at the moment. New showrunner Glen Mazzara takes his turn at bat with the teleplay this week, and while he doesn’t embarass himself, “Bloodletting” doesn’t do anything particularly memorable, and the opening scene’s dialogue was an unpleasant reminder of the bland exchanges the female characters tend to have with each other.
Next week brings the promise of, if nothing else, some serious siege action, so hopefully that will help right the course a bit.
“Completely in over your head, aren’t you?” -Lori
“Ma’am, aren’t we all?” -Hershel
It’s interesting to see The Walking Dead finally returning to the idea of opening up an episode with a flashback. Hopefully we’ll see more of these in future instalments. Much like another hit AMC series, Breaking Bad, these flashback can really go the distance in helping to flesh out the characters. In tonight’s episode it does so even more. Apart from displaying Shane’s admiration for Rick’s wife and son even before the zombie apocalypse broke, the opening scene also opens up the moment after Rick was shot prior to the show’s pilot. Here we are now, months later, but this time it is Carl who is fighting for his life, via a gunshot wound. The flashback wasn’t added just to serve as a parallel to Rick’s past and Carl’s present life and death situation (although the juxtaposition worked extremely well), but instead it is there to build on the strength of Lori: arguably The Walking Dead’s most problematic character, yet she has the potential to be the brain, heart, soul, backbone and muscle of the entire series.
Not much happens in terms of advancing the plot forward in “Bloodletting” but it does introduce a new setting and a group of characters who all promise to be something more than just zombie bait. We’ve seen quite a few characters come and go in season one, with a big question mark hanging above a few of their heads, as to wether or not they will ever return. However “Bloodletting” proves a satisfying follow up to the season’s premiere as the highly anticipated introduction of Herschel’s farm (a key locale in the comic series) comes into play. The farm and the new group of survivors introduced, will be the most important aspect this season.
One can’t complain about the newly added cast either, which includes screen veteran Scott Wilson as Hershel, and Lauren Cohan (The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural) as his daughter Maggie. Perhaps the show will fix its “lady problem” by having the women step up and serve for more than just pushing forward marital issues, love triangles and spousal abuse. You got to love how Maggie rode in on horseback, baseball bat in hand, swinging hard to save Andrea from being eaten alive.
“Bloodletting” offered some effective scare moments, a thrilling end scene, and also answered a question Simon, Kate and I argued about in last week’s podcast: If T-Dog had zombies piled on top of him with an open wound totally exposed, wouldn’t he become infected? With his fever becoming increasingly worse, and as Simon pointed out above – his name off the credits – someone can start writing his eulogy.
It remains to be seen just what effect a 13-episode season will have in the long run considering they’ve already spent 150 minutes running around in circles in search of Sophia. As I pointed out in last week’s podcast, Sophia and Carol have served no purpose in advancing the plot forward. There characters have only slowed down the story and both remain the two least interesting members of the group. Personally I’d trade both of them to keep Carl alive.
Two quick notes:
– Daryl is quickly turning into my favourite character despite his little screen time. He seems to be the only person in the group who not only has his head straight, but is constantly putting everyone else’s needs ahead of his.
– The most disappointing aspect of tonight’s episode was how the writers continue to ignore Glen, offering his character little if nothing to do.
– Ricky D