Monday, November 11, 2013

It's All About Hershel, Until It Isn't

Be forewarned: this episode is all about Hershel. Hershel, Hershel, Hershel. He figures so prominently, in fact, that I’m tempted to simply refer to him hereafter as “H.” So, if you are not a fan of Hershel (Scott Wilson), you may want to stop reading now.
Rick has just banished Carol from the farm. Carol does cry for Lizzie and Mika, but whom is she really crying for? Maybe her old self, the softer, more humane Carol who promised the dying bearded man she’d look after his girls. What happened to the Carol who had a daughter, Sophia, whom she loved? She’s erased her memories of weak, needy Carol, the woman who accepted a cheap watch from Ed on their first anniversary. She gives Rick the watch as a symbolic gesture; it’s an emblem from the past life she has consciously forsaken.

"Take my crappy watch, please."
 Rick is driving with Carol’s watch. It’s not talking much; as you can imagine, the two ride in relative silence. Rick and Carol’s watch enjoy a leisurely drive down deserted roads. He seems very determined, but also a little stunned. Hershel is working his magic helping a dying man breathe by intubating him. Sasha and Glenn enjoy a spot of Hershel’s anti-flu tea. Cheers! So far, Hershel doesn’t seem ill. He’s even joking, trying to lighten the oppressive mood. Unfortunately, part of tending to dead flu victims is stabbing them in the head. Hershel and Glenn disagree as to the logistics of doing this; that is, the where. Glenn says right here, right now, whereas Hershel moves them to a separate kill room. He is squeamish about having the living see the dead get killed. Stabbing your dead patient in the head is kinda sorta incompatible with the Hippocratic Oath, you see. And yes, I know Hershel is a veterinarian, but he shares the same sentiment: to protect rather than harm.
Also, is it just me, or is Hershel not taking his job as sick warden seriously? He’s acting more like the gentle country doctor and less like a vigilant zombie killer. So far, he has passed off his head-stabbing duties to Sasha and Glenn. When he finally does bring himself to do it, Hershel has to drape the victims’ faces with a sheet beforehand. His attitude does not bode well for the well being of his other sick charges. Maggie is concerned about Hershel’s late nights in the sick ward, whereas he is as determined as ever that the camp will pull through this latest setback.
A one-legged Hershel holds court in season three.

Rick returns! He spills the beans about Carol to Maggie. Maggie is visibly shocked. He tells her to tell Hershel but no one else. Rick is still second-guessing his decision to exile her, but Maggie affirms his decision as the only right choice. 
"Carol did WHAT?"
The walkers at the fences are piling up. Side note: Maggie is looking more radiant than usual. Could she be pregnant? Her hair and skin are particularly lustrous. As for Carl, he wants to be more in the thick of things, but Rick wants to make sure he stays healthy. Indeed, Carl may be immune from the swine flu. He says to Rick that his dad “can’t always keep [him] from what happens.”
Dr. S. (Caleb) has considerably worsened since last we checked in with him. He refuses Hershel’s treatment, claiming he’s in the end stages of the disease. He says that once you reach this point, recovery is all but impossible. He’s bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Dr. S. has prepared for the worst, hiding a shotgun under his cot in case the situation goes south. Life in the sick ward is more than a little disgusting, as people are dropping dead from choking on their own blood.
"I'm sorry, Hershel, but this tea tastes like a$$."

Hershel maintains that, “I still think there’s a plan…I still believe there’s a reason” for the outbreak. Perhaps he believes it’s God’s way of testing the survivors’ mettle? Maybe He is preparing them for an even more formidable force, like the Governor. We know the Governor (David Morrissey) is not dead; Michonne still searches for him at every available opportunity. He may be lurking somewhere out there, plotting his vengeance against Rick’s group.
Hershel finds out about Carol and it seems to have shaken him. Her guiding philosophy is so different than his, after all. Hershel clings to hope and life in spite of great adversity. He puts the needs of others before his own. Carol claimed to be doing the same when she killed David and Karen, but her actions were so inhumane that the end couldn’t possibly justify the means.
Can Hershel handle this crisis by himself? People are collapsing and in the meantime, other dead are reanimating. I can takes the suspense no longer! Sasha passes out due to dehydration but is OK. She expresses her gratitude to Hershel, calling him stupid for being so devoted to a hopeless cause. Momentarily struck by a debilitating coughing fit, Glenn is alone with a dead body but doesn’t have the strength to kill it. Chaos breaks out. Two flu victims reanimate; one attacks Hershel, and a son feasts on his father (nom nom nom). Thankfully, it’s not every day one gets to write a sentence like that.
Lizzie lures a reanimated dead swine flu victim towards…something. Does she intend to kill him? Hershel has been too lax in maintaining safety in the sick ward. I mean, he knew that people were going to die, and fairly quickly (as Dr. S. warned), and yet people’s cells were kept unlocked. It turns out that Lizzie was just trying to be nice to the walker, for pete’s sake. Meanwhile, Glenn is choking on his own blood. Maggie is trying desperately to enter the cellblock. FINALLY Hershel starts taking out the garbage (i.e. killing reanimated sick peeps), starting with Dr. S. The whole scene is incredibly frustrating.
In the mean time, the horde of piled up walkers has breached the fence! Rick and Carl flee. Back in the cellblock, Hershel starts loading up on shotgun shells from Dr. S.’ stash under his bed. He’s on his own, as Maggie cannot break in. The oncoming walkers on the outside break through yet another fence. Carl and Rick mow them down with what sounds like machine guns. 
Sometimes being a farmer isn't enough.

Maggie finally finds her way in via a breakable window. Hershel goes on a calculated shooting spree with the shotgun while Glenn is still choking on his own blood. Maggie and Hershel work to save Glenn. Will he make it? Or will another main character be killed off? It certainly is time. Now Maggie has been exposed to the virus first hand, a sad fact not lost on Hershel.
Carl and Rick finish the walkers off by stabbing them in the head with what look like fire pokers. It’s kind of like popping bubble wrap. The fun bunch gets back with the antibiotics, so Tyreese can now comfort sister Sasha. Maggie tends to Glenn as Hershel takes a much-deserved rest. He’s killed more walkers than ever before, after all. A soulful singer-songwriter croons as Hershel sits on Dr. S.’ cot, right next to a dead Dr. S. He pulls out his bible for comfort. Then, he starts sobbing. Forsooth, this episode was a veritable bummer!
More Michonne, I say, and less Hershel morally debating stabbing people in the head. Too bad her character was on a run the entire episode. Rick and Michonne drag bodies out of the way post-zombie carnage. Daryl pays Hershel the ultimate compliment: “You’re a tough son of a bitch.” Feeling his oats, H. replies confidently but quietly, “Yeah, I am.” He then accompanies Michonne out on a run—or is it another scouting mission for the Governor? Whichever, Hershel is now a certified bad-ass, which is good, because the group will need all the bad-asses they can get; the Governor is very much alive, spying on the prison from a short distance. A few questions remain unanswered: How will Daryl take the news about Carol? Has Hershel finally embraced the reality of killing walkers rather than romanticizing their reanimation? Has Carl earned a Boy Scout badge by annihilating the pack of walkers with dad Rick? All will be answered next week, so don’t forget to tune in to AMC next Sunday night at 9PM!

Hershel with a rather constipated expression.

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