Episode Title: "Bloodletting"
Writer: Glen Mazzara
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
After abandoning Atlanta, former Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his band of survivors ended up stuck on the freeway when the RV driven by Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) broke down. As the survivors foraged for supplies, they were forced to hide as a horde of zombies headed their way. During the incident, T-Dog (IronE Singleton) badly cut his arm and Sophia (Madison Lintz) was forced to flee into the surrounding woods to escape a zombie who found her. Rick pursued Sophia and killed the two zombies that had chased her, but in the aftermath she was missing without a trace.
While searching for Sophia, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) admitted to Rick's wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) that he intended to abandon the group rather than stay with them and deal with his lingering romantic feelings towards her. With most of the survivors looking for Sophia, Rick's young son, Carl (Chandler Riggs) accompanied his father and Shane. They came upon a healthy buck in the wild; which held Carl's fascination. But then a shot rang out and struck both the buck and Carl, leaving Rick screaming over his fallen son.
In flashback, we see Lori talking with another woman about her failing marriage as she waits for Carl to get out of school. When Shane pulls up accompanied by another patrol car, she realizes almost immediately that Rick has been hurt. As Shane watches, Lori tells her son about what happened to his father. Back to the present, Rick carries Carl's body while Shane and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) run after him. Since the producers opted to not give Otis a proper introduction, I'll just say that he's the man who accidentally shot Carl. As Otis starts to fall behind, he tells Rick to continue to the farm of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), his employer.
At the farm, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) is the first to spot Rick and her father asks him if Carl was bitten. Upon hearing that Carl was shot by Otis, Hershel and his family spring into action to save Carl. Hershel tells Rick to give them some space and asks for his blood type, knowing that Carl will need a transfusion to survive. By the time Shane and Otis catch up, Carl is screaming in agony as Hershel tries to remove the first of six bullet fragments. Rick is practically in shock as Carl passes out and Shane has to wipe the blood from his friend's face.
Out in the woods, Lori, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Andrea (Laurie Holden) wonder about the single shot that they heard in the woods, but Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) keeps them on task in the search for Sophia. Daryl even offers his own words of encouragement… well, as much as he can anyway. Back at the RV, T-Dog tries to convince Dale to abandon the group with him, but Dale determines that T-Dog is feverish and that his arm wound is badly infected. Back at the farm, Hershel tells Rick that Carl is stable, but he has internal bleeding from the other bullet fragments.
Hershel says that he may be able to operate if he can get some proper medical supplies. Shane and Otis volunteer to head to a FEMA emergency camp at a local high school while Maggie goes off to bring Lori to the farm. In the woods, Andrea is attacked by a zombie and Maggie arrives just in time to bash its head with a baseball bat. She makes a brief introduction to Lori and fills her in on what happened to Carl, before taking Lori by horseback and telling the others where they can find the farm. When they get back to the farm, Lori reunites with Rick and watches her son as he lies injured. Later, she interrogates Hershel on his medical experience and he responds that he's just a veterinarian.
On the highway, the survivors reconvene as the news is relayed to them and Daryl shares his personal stash of drugs with T-Dog to help him fight the pain of his infection. Dale and Glenn opt to remain on the highway and wait for Sophia to return while the others take T-Dog to Hershel's farm. At the high school, Shane and Otis briefly lure the zombies away from the FEMA camp and get the supplies that they need. But when they attempt to leave they find that the zombies have surrounded them on all sides. To save their lives, Shane locks them inside the school. However, the school gate already looks like it's about to buckle from so many zombies…
It's no spoiler to say at this point that Carl was also shot in the "The Walking Dead" comic under similar circumstances. And while longtime "Walking Dead" fans may see the TV series as milking that event for a protracted period, it seems clear that the creative team behind the show is making things harder for the survivors than they had it in the comics. As a result, the situation with Carl seems a lot more dire and there is a genuine sense of jeopardy around his fate. One of the most harrowing scenes this week didn't involve a zombie. It was Chandler Riggs' screams of pain as Hershel took the bullet fragment out of Carl's wound. Again, that particular scene wasn't in the comic. But it is an improvement on what came before.
Carl's fate also gives Shane to come off as a better man than he had been in the last few episodes. From his affair with Lori and his continuous lusting after Rick's wife, it's easy to forget that Shane and Rick were best friends before the world went to hell. And it's here that Shane shows us how good a friend he can be as he steps up and takes care of Rick before volunteering for what is basically a suicide mission. I believe that Shane really does care for Carl like a son, but he still considers Rick his friend despite what passed between them.
As Hershel Greene, Scott Wilson gives the show a calming presence it hasn't really had before. Even in the face of Lori's skepticism, Hershel just kept his cool and did what he had to do to keep Carl alive. Plus, there's something really appealing about his daughter Maggie and the way she handles a zombie while on horseback.
But so far, it's Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon who keeps stealing every scene that he's in. His motivational speech to Carol and Andrea was hilarious, as was his disposal of a zombie later in the episode. I'm not sure what brought about the kinder, gentler Daryl who saved T-Dog and even shared his drug stash with him, but Daryl seems to relish being the guy everyone turns to without Rick and Shane to overshadow him.
Although Andrea's encounter with a zombie was one of my favorite moments of the night, she's fast becoming one of my least favorite characters on the show. Because the show is moving at such a slow rate, her arc has her stuck in an extremely unsympathetic place. That would be fine if we still felt like we could like her, but Andrea's sorrow and suicidal tendencies just haven't resonated yet.
I'm cautiously intrigued by the mystery of what happened to Sophia; which is another departure from the comic. I appreciate it when "The Walking Dead" manages to surprise me. Thus far, the season remains entertaining. I just wish the pace would pick up a bit.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.