Monday, November 28, 2011

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 207: Pretty Much Dead Already

Spoiler alert!

Shane (to Lori): “See Rick, he ain’t built for this world, not for how it is now.”
Synopsis:  Shane takes preemptive action with the barn walkers to protect the group; Dale realizes how big a threat Shane has become; the group finds Sophia.

Pretty Much Dead Already brings most of the simmering plot points of Season 2 to a dramatic conclusion that will change this series forever.   The events of this episode are going to have long-reaching consequences that may rip the group apart.

The preparedness lessons that lie in this episode have more to do about the psychology of survival than any gear or tactical tips.   This is a study of two contrasts:  Shane’s survival at any cost versus Rick’s survival while maintaining a semblance of humanity.   It’s a question every prepper must ask: what are we really willing to do to survive?

Deep discussion:  Rick pleads to stay at the farm.
As I said in a previous review, we need to understand our motivations and who we are before the survival situation is thrust upon us, and that in a long-term crisis group survival is going to be the only way to thrive.  Rick is willing to live with Hershel’s deluded reasoning to keep his family safe for the time being until he can make him understand just how dangerous the walkers in the barn are to everyone.   Shane is ready to take action.  The situation must be dealt with, but the men come to odds over how to do it. 

How it must suck to be Rick Grimes.  You just found out your wife is pregnant, she’s been sleeping with your best friend, and a dozen creatures who want to eat you are parked about a hundred yards away.  You can’t do anything about it, and these people expect you to find the solution.   Rick’s plea to Hershel is one of desperation both for his family and for his peace of mind.   

Gunfight at the Hershel Corral:  the group kills the walkers.
On the other hand, Shane has a pretty clear idea of what needs to happen and just gets it done.   He goes for the guns, tracks down where Dale had hidden them, and leads a vigilante gang to the barn to deal with the walkers.  He wants to run the group, and thinks Rick’s appeasement of Hershel is going to get everyone killed. He acts to “protect” the group, but at this point anyone who has seen this show should have serious doubts about his motivations.   There is more than just survival on his mind; his discussion with Lori, comparing his exploits to that of Rick’s, is more proof that he cannot let Lori go.  He’s obsessed with her, and is not going to stop until he has her or until his obsession short-circuits his loyalty to Rick with devastating consequences.  His real objective is to marginalize Rick and replace him as both the leader and the man in Lori’s life, and he’s willing to sacrifice everyone to do it. 

If nothing else, Shane is proof that being sociopathic can be extremely liberating.

The walkers did not have to be dealt with right then. Shane provoked the incident to both assert control of the group and to force a confrontation with Hershel.   When the series returns from hiatus in February I expect him to advocate taking over the farm.  Why not?  He already killed Otis and the “nomad” survivors already outnumber those on the farm.  Right? That’s a slippery slope, isn’t it?  He’s no longer a survivor then.  He’s a raider. 

Other points:
  • Dale knows what is coming, and tries to stop it, but in the end cannot pull the trigger on Shane.  Killing walkers is one thing, but he cannot kill a living person in cold blood, not even Shane.  I valued his discussion with Andrea admonishing her not to become another Shane; looking at her face at the barn in the final scene I think she finally understood what Dale meant.
  • Glen and Maggie seem to be the most standout characters in this episode.   They are caught between both camps.  Maggie has fallen for Glen and advocates that her father allow them to stay, pointing out that all the other farms in the area are overrun with walkers or burned out.  It’s very clear that Glen and Maggie mean something to each other, and that they fill a void in each other’s lives.  To me the most heartbreaking moment was when Glen, holding a shotgun as the walkers advance out of the barn, pleads with Maggie to let him help due what needs to be done.  This is hard for her both to see people she knows get put down and to watch her father deal with the grief.
  • Daryl and Carol also have a moment.  Daryl realizes that after a lifetime of being told he’s worthless, someone cares about him.  Carol realizes that after being brutalized by her husband there is something more than just fear.   There is hope.   Then that hope is taken away. 
  • I liked Carl in this episode;   he is starting to assert himself.  Carl becomes a major force in the comic series, and appears on his way here. 
The minor nit I have is with T-Dog; I really hope the writers make more use of him in the back end of the season.  He can shoot, he is good with his hands, and he is strong.  We need a T-Dog episode.

Real action:  Rick ends Sophia's suffering.
Finally, we have the resolution of the fate of the barn walkers, and we learn the fate of poor Sophia.   According to series creator Robert Kirkman, who was interviewed on the Talking Dead show after the episode aired, Sophia was found by Otis, who corralled her and put her in the barn before Rick, Carl and Shane showed up at the farm.  Since Otis died the night after Sophia disappeared, without telling anyone else that she was in there and before they told Hershel they were looking for a little girl, this means Sophia was bitten and died the first night she was alone in the woods, and had been in the barn all along.  It also means that Shane, for all his “this search is putting us all at risk” rhetoric, was the one who prolonged the search by killing Otis at the FEMA shelter. Once again his premature, violent actions have worked to the detriment of the group.

Where does this leave us, the preparedness-minded viewers?  We are left with a vision of what a survival situation might become and how two people with similar backgrounds and training can react in completely different ways.  Once again, we need to ask ourselves:  who are we and what motivates us?  How are we going to react, and how far are we willing to go to ensure survival?

Coming in February:  Rick and Shane FINALLY have it out, and Hershel orders the group to leave.   Will Shane do so voluntarily?  And who is getting put in those graves?


  1. Nice review! This episode leads me right to Viggo Mortisens saying on "The Road"; When the question comes up as to whether or not they would eat humans, he replies to his son essentially "No...and we have to keep the fire burning". Yeah, Shanes Die-Hard attitude might keep him breathing awhile longer, but in reality, with the things he's done, on the inside, he's dead already. While Rick has been able to live inside and out, by making the right decisions, both physically and morally.

  2. No doubt some awful choices might have to be made. What to do with pets would probably be among the worst.