The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 7: “Pretty Much Dead Already”
Written by Scott M. Gimple
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
“Pretty Much Dead Already,” directed by Breaking Bad producer Michelle MacLaren, opens with the scene that, frankly, I really wish last week had led off with: Glenn wakes up in the morning, gets in front of the group, and says plainly: “So, there are some zombies in the barn.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) Did I need that to be presaged by portenteously exchanged long-distance head-shaking from both Dale and Maggie, as well as a dramatic music cue upon the moment of revelation? No, but I’ll take it.
I know my nitpicking gets me in trouble, so I’ll get mine out of the way as quickly as possible. The pacing of this latest half-season of The Walking Dead has been all over the place, with this episode finally striking the sort of click it should approach much more often. The slow pace would have been ameliorated had the show taken more chances with editing and style, as in “Save the Last One,” but it’s been content to abandon those fledgling elements. (Given the show’s famously troubled backroom antics, one has to wonder how that)
I mention this because the last three hours of The Walking Dead have all been leading up, and have actually been utterly dependent on, That Scene – that is to say, the climax of “Pretty Much Dead Already,” in which the tale of Hershel’s farm and the search for Sophia are both (more or less) concluded over the course of a few bloody, brutal minutes. (Okay, two more nitpicks: first, sticking Madison Lintz’s name in the opening credits spoiled the return of Sophia, another sign that the show should really ditch putting the guest credits at the top of the hour; second, the digital gore f/x are really not optimal; I’d be complaining about them in any zombie film, and they don’t look or feel any better on TV. Throw Tom Savini a few grand and do it right. Would it really be so taxing?)
Bitching out of the way, That Scene is a righteous gobsmacker that lets one forgive some of the sluggishness, and it’s easily the best sequence of the entire series. Credit where credit’s due: half the reason the sequence works is thanks to surprise season MVP Scott Wilson. Hershel is not an easy character to sympathize with – frankly, he’s stubborn about things that he’s flat-out wrong about. As Wilson plays him, though, the fact that he’s wrong about the remaining humanity in his former relatives doesn’t matter, only the strength of his faith and conviction, which is what makes the mass slaughter of his (former) family so devastatng. And as if that weren’t enough, Sophia is the last to emerge (a contrivance, yes, but an acceptable one), bringing the internal conflict home. But it only takes a moment or two for Rick to do the correct wrong thing, proving that he can stand toe-to-toe with Shane when it comes to doing the ugly stuff that needs doing. MacLaren even brings a touch of Breaking Bad flair to the scene, especially in the shot of Rick pointing his pistol dead in the center of the screen with an anguished face. (That sound familiar?)
The one thing the episode doesn’t do, though, is get the gang physically off the farm. With only six episodes to go, and with the show’s current pacing “style,” it now seems less likely that we’ll see them settle into another location before the season is out, unless the next episode opens with the gang on the road after some time has lapsed. (Which, frankly, doesn’t sound like a bad idea.) For now, though, it’s gratifying that the show stuck this important landing. I just hope they get a little bolder with their pacing and style when the show returns next year; ratings have secured the show’s fate, so why not use that cache to make a bolder, more consistently confident show?
Nobody dies in tonight’s episode aptly titled “Pretty Much Dead Already,” but everyone dies in the inside.
I’m not interested in reading Simon’s review above (which I can only assume is mostly negative) – I’m not interested in trolling the net to see what other bloggers and critics are saying – and I’m not interested in pointing out the problems in the first thirty or so minutes – which had me extremely worried.
Tonight I am just going to sit back, rewind the last scene and watch it one more time.
With all the huss and fuss with fans and critics alike constantly quibbling about how they were fed up with the search for Sophia (myself included), The Walking Dead writers sure had one big smile on their face the entire time. And they knew they would have the last laugh. I can safely say that “Pretty Much Dead Already” not only offered the highest-highlight of the entire series thus far, but also the most emotionally devastating climax of any series this season. Whatever small quibbles I’ve had with season two, the journey was well worth my time.
It will be interesting to see if the group starts off on the road in the new year or if they will remain on the farm, and if they do leave, will Maggie and Glen come along? Can the series afford to lose two of our favourite characters?
Don’t forget to tune into our Walking Dead podcast for more thoughts on this episode.
Also please note: We will be recording a few bonus episodes during the break.