Monday, November 7, 2011

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 204: Cherokee Rose

Warning:  Spoilers Below!

Synopsis:  The Greene farm seems to be the sanctuary the survivors are looking for, but might harbor a secret ...

“Cherokee Rose” slows down the action significantly after the stunning events of “Save the Last One” by offering us a set piece of character development; at the same time, the episode establishes the onset of tension between the farm’s original occupants, led by Hershel and Maggie, and Rick and his band of refugees.

The opening scene, which depicts the memorial service for Otis, is moving.  It was obvious he was cared for, and Shane's lionizing of a man he condemned to a grisly death has its own perverse truth in it.  There is something not quite right about how he described the events that led to Otis' demise, though, and the way the episode is filmed, I think Dale is working it out in his head.

 It’s the quiet beats of this story that make it work.  We get plenty of preparedness tidbits that show how the Greenes have managed to maintain an almost idyllic existence in the midst of the collapse of society:
  • Maggie remarks that there are five wells on the property, with one feeding the house proper and another used primarily for the livestock;
  • Maggie also notes there is a generator shed on the property that obviously houses a generator and a large supply of fuel; if it were my farm I would still want to practice blackout rules;
  • The property is situated just outside of a small town, but is adjoined by large stretches of undeveloped land and fenced in to keep out most of the walkers; you get the sense of how remote it is from the walk Rick and Hershel take and the review of the map;
  • The shots of livestock and the mention that Otis ran the farm for the Greene family in “Save the Last One” indicates that the family has the means to feed itself, although the arrival of more mouths might stress those resources.

All in all, it seems like a location set up for survival.  The only problem is that Hershel Greene is not going to let the newcomers stay.  He tells Rick that once Carl is ready to travel and the group can determine the fate of Sophie, they need to move on to somewhere else.   The scene where Rick and Shane review the property map to set up the search for Sophie is revealing in what it doesn't tell the viewer. The search party agrees that if they find Sophie and she has been turned, they will have to do what they must and tell her mother the truth. Hershel and Maggie exchange a glance, and Hershel indicates she should not say anything.  It seems they are keeping secrets, too.

The discussion between Dale and T-Dog is a nice resolution to T-Dog's doubts voiced on the highway.   In a group survival situation like this, even if only for a few days, tempers are going to flare, doubts will emerge,  and conflict will erupt.  Dale, the wise old one of the party (does anyone else besides me see Jeff DeMunn channeling Ray Walston from The Stand in this scene?)  dismisses the entire discussion.   

Group Dynamics Survival Rule 1:  Sometimes you have to give people the grace to be human.

Maggie and Glen get some one-on-one time.
Shane is still dealing with his actions of the previous episode, and it's nice to see he hasn't gone totally over the edge.  At the conclusion of that scene I had a fresh flash of insight about where his character is heading.  Rick and perhaps Dale are providing the moral compass for the group, but Shane just gets stuff done, like making the call on who should live or die for the good of the group.  I still don't agree with what he did, but he's willing to do the things Rick cannot do, and at some point, Rick is going to have to face that.  Survival situations are like that; you might have to find yourself doing the unthinkable, and the hardest thing you might have to do is defend yourself from someone who means to harm you.  While that was clearly not the case with Shane, it does raise a question for us all, doesn't it?

Glenn and Maggie go on a supply run, revealing the primary source of their medical supplies.  It's interesting that the Greenes didn't confiscate all the antibiotics the first time Maggie went to town, but left some for other people in the area.  I didn't think southern hospitality would extend to a survival situation.

This brings us to our second survival topic for the episode:  how much stuff do you need?  My current plan is to provide for myself and my immediate family for a month if needed.  How would that change if some of my extended family or neighbors show up on my doorstep?  If the emergency turns out to be short term and you turn people away from your door, when it's over you are going to have to deal with the fallout.  Once you have met your immediate goal, start thinking about some extra bulk food, etc., to help neighbors and family who might not have prepared like you have.   One of the principles of preparedness should be to not only provide for yourself but to be prepared help those in need.

Cherokee Rose:  Daryl finds a present for Carol.
There are lots of other character interactions that show the survivors, with the immediate threat abated and a sense of normality restored, have bonded through their experience.  Daryl is showing particular attachment to Carol; they have both obviously been subject of abuse in the past, and in this situation have bonded over the search for little Sophie.  Given what Daryl finds in the abandoned house, I hope we will get Sophie back next week.  Daryl has one focus right now - finding that girl.  Perhaps he is trying to quiet the guilt he feels for not retrieving his brother Merle from Atlanta.   

Group Dynamics Survival Rule 2: Emergencies make strange bedfellows.

There is the zombie action piece that highlights the need to secure a safe water supply.  The well should have been better covered to avoid the swimmer from contaminating one of the ground wells.   In our own preparedness plans, we should reflect on how much water we can store, and if we cannot store enough to meet our needs, identify other sources using the PACE method (see my review of Episode 202 for more details).  This could mean water filters, adding a ground well to backstop our municipal supply, or various catchment and cistern systems.  Check the Preparedness Podcast or The Survival Podcast for more information on this topic.

It is nice to see that Andrea is becoming trusted enough to get shooting lessons from Shane, and despite Hershel's no-guns policy, he allows one armed sentry on the RV. The walker in the well shows that their fences will get penetrated.   Hershel may be worrying more about enemies within than without.  The newcomers outnumber his original family.  What's to stop them from simply overwhelming the Greenes and taking the farm as their own.  Rick's word?  While we should always have an eye toward charity, preppers also have to take practical security issues into mind as well.

Preparedness lessons for Episode 204:
  •  Practice the PACE method to ensure your water supplies are adequate.  A human can live thirty days without food but only three without water.  Make sure you have a way to protect water against contamination or to purify it;
  • Security is paramount.  Have a way to secure your home or bug out location against intrusion.  While you are doing this you need to ask yourself one question: "to what lengths am I willing to go to ensure the safety of me and my family?";
  • Stock enough supplies to be charitable to family and friends in need.  A little good will goes a long way.
  • Group dynamics is still tough.  Give people the grace to be human and understand everyone is going to have to work together. The situation will be helped by providing security and enforcing a routine that provides a semblance of normality;
  • Finally, practice operational security and make sure that your location cannot be overwhelmed by those that mean to do you harm.

Next week:  Walkers mount an attack on the farm, and Merle returns to offer sage advice on survival ... unless you're African American, Asian or Hispanic.

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