Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 209: Triggerfinger

Spoiler alert!

Hershel (to Shane): "Do us all a favor and shut up."
Synopsis:  Rick, Hershel and Glenn have to fight their way out of town after confronting friends of the men Rick killed.  Lori gets herself out of a jam.  The group is split over a new arrival.

There are so many times I wanted to cheer during this episode; then there were other times I was unnerved at the Machiavellian manipulations on display.  Triggerfinger is at times full of sound and fury, but the quiet beats of the story when guns aren't blazing make for some compelling television.   How much preparedness information will we be able to glean from the screen? Let's take a stab at it.

Hi, I'm Glenn, but my friends call me The Load.
Rick is becoming harder and more heartless in this world of no quarter.  He killed the pair at the bar in the previous episode, but he hesitated to kill the other who showed up looking for them.   There are a few reasons why he would do so;  he'll kill when he has to, but he realizes there are precious few enough living humans to go around.   Also, having just seen Glenn, a.k.a. the guy who stands with a shotgun and does nothing while his friends are being threatened by thugs, freeze up in action might make one think he was the only gun that was going to be in that fight.  I tend to think it was the latter.   Rick would never call him on it directly, but the way Glenn refused to look at him after the shooting told the tale.  He knows he screwed up, Rick knows he screwed up, and now Rick has doubts where previously there were none. 
Hershel, in the meantime, has made his peace with his earlier reluctance to kill even walkers and grabs a weapon to defend himself.   He doesn't always agree with Rick (witness the look he gave Rick when the deputy tried to deescalate the standoff outside the bar)  but he knows what needs to be done.
This gets back to the survival mindset.  In a survival situation, you have to consider paths of action that you might not take in normal times, and in Hershel's case it appears he has followed and old saying from the foothills of Appalachia where I grew up:  you might as well get to doing it, because you've got it to do.  My grandmother told me that right after my grandfather died.  Family members were going to take turns staying with her and she turned them down. She was a strong woman.
In a survival situation, there can be no doubt.  You have to be able to count on the other members of your party to follow through.   Anything else could spell doom for the entire group.  Weapons training is not the same as combat, just as putting down walkers is not the same as shooting real people.  In a real-world situation where you have to defend yourself, unless you are trained and experienced in such situations, you are going to freeze, if only just a little bit, and do that "not me, not now, I don't want to do this" debate in your head.  Shane and Rick need to teach these folks how to cover each other and clear urban terrain.

You can't go wrong with face.
Outside the bar, it's Walkerpalooza.  The gunshots have attracted a large crowd of walkers (the town seems infested now) and one of the gunmen, wounded by Hershel, ends up being consumed up close and personal.   Another falls from a roof and gets impaled on a wrought iron fence, and the third bugs out in a truck.

Rick wants to try to save the dude on the fence, while Hershel, who has just witnessed walkers take down the other thug he shot, suggests shooting him so he won't have to endure being eaten alive.  Rick talks him into attempting an amputation, and the group is assaulted by walkers until finally Rick turns and yanks the leg off the stake in a fit of desperation.

I have some real qualms about Rick wanting to save the guy. I realize that every life is precious now, but this guy was shooting at him a few seconds before.  Then again, this was the Rick who went back for Merle Dixon ...

While I'd like to think I would try to save the guy, in my heart of hearts I probably would have shot him in the head and jumped in the truck.  Sorry, but this was a three way battle between walkers, thugs and our intrepid band of heroes, and I know who I am rooting for.

Really?  Are you that stupid?
On the other hand, I was almost rooting for the walkers out on the highway.    Lori has some serious issues.  Not only does she take off without telling anyone, she takes no backup, and doesn't know where she is going.  She has been taken care of for so long in this environment by Shane and Rick that she forgets just how dangerous the world can be.  

That being said, she drops the two walkers who attack her pretty quickly, including using the old blade in the eye trick pioneered by Andrea and the good ol' .38 round to the head trick pioneered by ... just about everyone else.  It's nice to see that another female besides Andrea can take care of herself.  I just wish she'd think a bit more before she did stuff that put her in positions like this.   Preparedness isn't just buying guns and food;  it's about saying "what if" and avoiding situations that could be life threatening as well.

Lori's disappearance leads Shane on a one-man rescue mission (as only Shane can do) to find her, and he lies to her and tells Lori that Rick and crew are already back at the farm.  This leads to a confrontation between the two that reinforces a couple of points for me:

  • Way back in the series premiere when Shane asks Rick how he and Lori were doing, it wasn't just idle curiosity.  He wanted her back then, even before the dead starting walking around eating people.   And all his sexual conquests were ultimately worthless because the one woman he wanted he couldn't have.  
  • Lori still has unresolved feelings for Shane and she doesn't want to deal with them.
What does this have to do with preparedness?  Not much on the surface, but it is a direct result of a dysfunctional group dynamic caused by supposedly intelligent people making very bad decisions the pressure of a survival situation.  And that has everything to do with it.   These characters need to start thinking about the repercussions of their actions in a world where the snap of a twig underfoot could make the difference between life and death.  There is a mental state called normalcy bias, and these people have a bad case of it since coming to the farm:

 The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.  ~ Wikipedia

Daryl has done the oh so smart thing and retreated way from the others, moving his tent away from them and withdrawing from even Carol.  Sure, he's tough, but he has to sleep sometime.  Ask Ed Peletier about that. Actually, you can't, because he was eaten by walkers while sleeping in a bloody tent.

The group's cohesion is further strained over the decision to bring Randall to the farm and treat his leg, then send him on his way.  Fans wondered what would happen to the group after the search for Sophia was over, and now we know.  Whatever force of hope that bound them together in the hunt for Sophia is long gone.  Things are falling apart, and no one appears able to step up to put the pieces back together.  In fact, Dale is actively helping things along by his continuous (and cowardly) attack on Shane's support in the camp.  The poison pill he fed to Lori in the last episode finally bore fruit at the end of the episode this week, when Lori, in a scene reminiscent of Macbeth, tries to convince Rick he has to get rid of Shane, because Shane will never stop coming after her.  It was unnerving to watch her behave in such a ... conniving way.   She channels into Rick's protective instincts and what is probably his unspoken yet understandable desire to confront his friend about carrying on with his wife in his absence.

No good is going to come of this.  

Preparedness lessons for Episode 209:

  • Groups of people have to stick together in a survival situation and be able to count on each other when the chips are down.
  • Just owning a gun is not enough.  You have to have the will to use it to defend yourself and other, and have training in its tactical application if possible.
  • DON'T GO OFF BY YOURSELF.  There should be a group of three minimum when outside the fence.  
  • Normalcy bias can kill.
  • Sometimes group cohesion unravels because of the stress of the crisis; sometimes it is by design. You need to think hard about how to prevent it.  Either live together or die apart.
 Next week:  More walkers, Maggie threatens Andrea, and Shane and Rick finally have it out.


  1. Rick taking the guy whose leg was impaled makes perfect sense to me, he might be able to find out something about these (to borrow a term from "Lost") others - do they stay put, are they passing through? How many are they? Are they well supplied or well led?

    1. Good point. The intelligence might have been worth it IF the walkers hadn't been bearing down on them.

  2. "Dale is actively helping things along by his continuous (and cowardly) attack on Shane's support in the camp"
    I'm going to disagree with you here. Dale is not an 'Alpha male' and not young/strong enought to stand up to Shane. But he has good powers of observation and has noticed the issues with Shane. Is it "cowardly" to notice issues with others in your group and tell fellow members? I'd think it would be cowardly NOT to tell, and let everyone be surprised when that person has a melt-down.

    1. Maybe I was too harsh, but honestly if you aren't going to pull the trigger yourself - assuming you believe Shane is such a threat - is a bit cowardly IMO.