Walking Dead recap and review: 'Sick' finds Rick in an unwell place
Rick Grimes is not a well man. That certainly seems to the message that ‘The Walking Dead’ is attempting to convey in these first two episodes, and it’s come across loud and clear. My only question is: is Rick’s descent into crazy happening too quickly? We got to see the beginning of it during his ‘dictatorship’ speech at the end of last season, but since so much time passed between now and then, the Rick we’re catching up with is desperate, determined, and just a bit unhinged. His marriage has fallen apart, and each new threat to the group he’s sworn to protect pushes him just a bit further into the deep end. We got our biggest piece of evidence yet this week that Rick has hopped on-board the crazy train, and I’m not totally sure that the show earned the moment, although it was certainly cool.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. ‘Sick’ started us off right where we ended last week, with legless Hershel bleeding out on the floor of the prison cafeteria, while a group of inmates looks on. Once they get Hershel into a cell for Carol to look after, (Hershel has been teaching her doctor-y stuff, in case anything happens to him) it becomes apparent that these inmates (Tomas, Andrew, Oscar, Axel, and Big Tiny) have no idea what has become of the world outside. At first, they’re thrilled to get out of the prison, but once they realize that there’s nothing to escape to, they’re instantly protective of their home.
Rick and the leader of the inmates, Tomas, clash immediately, and I think this whole storyline would have worked better for me if Tomas hadn’t been so over-the-top evil right away. Neither him or Rick really ever makes any attempt to treat the other one with even a shred of civility, and while I get that that’s the point, it all seemed to build a little fast to me. I will say that I did like the deal that they reached, that Rick and the crew would help them clear a cell-block to live in, in exchange for half of their food, and the scene where the prisoners just started shanking zombies was hilarious.
Since we’re shown pretty early on in the episode that Tomas is unstable and violent, we spend most of the episode waiting for the dam to break, for him to do something stupid. It comes when the prisoners and main characters are taking down a bunch of walkers, and Tomas keeps ‘accidentally’ almost killing Rick, so Rick buries a machete in his head. It’s a well-shot and played sequence, with a moment of tense silence before Rick decides that it needs to be done. Then Andrew takes off, and Rick, in a slightly less understandable move, locks him in a courtyard with a bunch of zombies. Rick isn’t messing around anymore, you guys. If he feels that something is even a slight threat to his group or family, he will deal with it swiftly and without a second thought. This is the sort of place that I expected to see Rick in by the end of the season, but it’s interesting that they’re starting him off there. I’m curious to see where they take it, even if I have some reservations. If they’re trying to draw comparisons between Rick’s behavior this season, and Shane’s last season, then I’m all for that.
Axel and Oscar, the surviving prisoners, (with Big Tiny having had his head smashed in by Tomas after he got bit) get their cell block, as promised. These two seem relatively harmless, but in the world of ‘The Walking Dead,’ you never know. I’m excited to have some new faces adding to the group dynamic.
I thought that everything relating to the inmates was pretty strong this week, and everything else was just alright. We had some bickering between Carl and Lori, a lot of despair from Maggie and Beth about the possibility of Hershel dying, and some anxiety from Carol about being the group’s primary doctor. While none of this was outstanding, it was still handled better than it would have been last season.
In times past, Maggie and Beth would have had long monologues about their childhoods, but the show has gotten smart enough to know that we want to see how the characters are affected by events, and not hear about it straight from their mouths. Beth fixing Hershel’s pants was a great way to show how much Hershel’s condition is getting to her, and the mostly wordless scene between Maggie and an unconscious Hershel was kind of long and dull, but at least it wasn’t an on-the-nose soliloquy.
Carol has Glenn help her catch a Walker to start practicing surgery on, which is actually a kind of cool idea. I just hope that now that Hershel’s okay (which I’ll talk more about in a bit), this thread isn’t abruptly dropped. Carol’s a character who’s had nothing to do since Sophia died (besides awkwardly flirt with Daryl), and it would be nice to see her find some purpose in the group.
It’s no secret that ‘The Walking Dead’ is a bleak show, but every now and then it’s nice for our characters to get a win. In the season premier, they clear part of the prison, but Hershel gets bit. It seems that in every episode the situation gets more and more dire, which is why, at the end when Hershel opens his eyes, I was thrilled. Not because I would miss Hershel a ton (although I do really enjoy that actor’s performance), but because it was a nice little reprieve from the darkness and despair that both we and the characters are so used to on this show.
The episode ended with a Rick/Lori scene, and it was fine. This relationship isnt the most thrilling thing in the world, (or even on this show) but to see Rick struggle with even having a tender moment with Lori was interesting. He places a hand on Lori’s shoulder and says that “We” are very grateful for what you did (resuscitating Hershel). “We,” not “I.” That’s pretty cold, Rick.
This episode kept up the action-oriented momentum from last week, without quite reaching the same level of quality. I wouldn’t be surprised if the show hits a lull partway into the season, but considering that it looks like we spend most of next week with Andrea, Michonne, and our new friend the Governor, I’m not too worried.