The tension between the characters is increasing this time as the foreshadowing of future conflicts continues. As usual the cast is on fine form as Daryl takes centre stage. However this episode does flounder a little bit as some of the individual moments don’t work well with the whole.
On the positive side though Hershel’s continued reluctance to keep our survivors around is made even more interesting with the end of episode reveal. The fallout from that secret will probably be left for the mid season Christmas break in two episodes time, but it looks like it’s going to be a fantastically explosive moment. Also flowing out of this reluctance, Hershel’s scenes are highlights this episode. Scott Wilson (and the writing team) doesn’t just present Hershel as a dodgy old man who comes across as a villain. They allow him to be conflicted between his obviously altruistic tendencies and his desire to keep his ‘people’ safe. It is a stance which will have most of the audience understanding his actions so far, but after the episode’s cliff-hanger his motivations for wanting Rick and the others to leave have changed significantly.
On a side note the tension between Hershel and Rick’s group leads to an awkward dinner scene which really reinforces not only the resentment building between the two groups, but the strained friendships between our original survivors. But there is some humour injected into the scene when Glenn and Maggie try to arrange another rendezvous via written notes. In fact Glenn gets more of a focus this episode and his earnest attraction to Maggie is fun to watch. His character brings a lighter tone to the proceedings that works well and is needed sometimes in a show like this. Also it’s nice to see that he is the character who is given the two big secrets this episode. He is a man who wants an easy life in this zombie invested world but is given the burden of knowledge, which will tear both the group of survivors and their current cohabitation with Hershel’s people apart.
Adding to the tension and foreshadowing things to come, Shane’s moments continue to impress. If this season is remembered for anything, it will be the work Jon Bernthal has put into Shane. As with previous episodes he is a joy to watch and leaves you wondering where this performance was last season. The argument he has with Rick is the first step towards their inevitable confrontation. Shane’s perspective about leaving Sophia behind and moving on is a harsh one but in this situation it’s understandable. And as always with this show it is dealt with in a way which makes it reasonable to the audience. However Shane does get a flashback at the beginning of the episode, which serves to re-establish his protective feelings towards Lori and Carl. To be honest it isn’t necessary and the episode wouldn’t lessen in quality if it were removed. Especially in light of the conversation between Shane and Lori, which succinctly presents his feelings for them.
Continuing with what doesn’t quite work, Daryl is given a hefty chunk of this episode and quite frankly it seems to be filler. This isn’t to say Norman Reedus doesn’t continue his great work portraying Daryl, just that the actual events aren’t interesting. Yes they serve to strength his character and perhaps sowing seeds of doubt in his fellow survivors, but it just seems to be forced on the audience. The hallucinations of his brother are a bit too much and distract from what the writers are trying to enforce with Daryl’s scenes. Also Daryl’s moments get the obligatory zombie appearance, which is starting to become old. Yes it’s a show that’s based around a zombie apocalypse, but having them constantly appear and be defeated decreases the threat of them. Daryl’s predicament in this episode is deadly enough and throwing zombies into the mix doesn’t really do anything other than provide a contrived action/gore moment.
But problems aside it is still a compelling episode of television and the promise of future events will continue to have the audience hooked. But this was perhaps the weakest episode of the season so far and it has done enough to take away from the solid character work the shows writers have done with Daryl. On the bright side the show succeeds in keeping the tension that has been building ever since the survivors arrived at Hershel’s farm.