As soon as Shane sparked a massacre of zombies — zombies that had previously been friends and relatives of the Greene family — on Hershel’s farm in the mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead,” we knew that lines were drawn. We knew that the survivors would side with either hothead Shane or analytical Rick in how to move forward. But if you were hoping for that showdown to happen with more spent ammunition than words when Season 2 picked up with Episode 8, “Nebraska” … well, better luck next week.
“Nebraska” was heavy on the survivors’ reactions — how Carol became hysterical, then numb and unresponsive when she saw her little girl, Sofia, emerge from the barn as a walker, whom Rick had no choice but to shoot dead; how Daryl, who so doggedly searched for little Sofia and had kept hope alive, became even more guarded and bitter and angry after witnessing the little girl’s fate. Carl sides with his dad, Rick, and talks about how he had hoped to save Sofia himself — and that, just like dad, he would’ve shot Walker Sofia, too. Hershel is remorseful over keeping walkers in the barn and turns to drinking. T-Dog and Andrea feel vindicated and are quick to help bury and burn the bodies. Glenn and Maggie confront each other and what it means to lose someone they love — even if Glenn still can’t say those three little words to Maggie. Dale’s belief that Shane is “dangerous” is reconfirmed and so he tattles to Lori that Shane killed Otis. And Lori — well, Lori is caught between Rick and Shane, as always.
The action finally picks up and moves off the farm when Beth Greene collapses in the kitchen — it appears she’s in shock after witnessing the massacre — and it’s discovered that Hershel has fled to the local bar. He hasn’t had a drink since before Maggie was born, but, you know, a zombie slaughter on your front lawn calls for a glass or two. Rick and Glenn head out to bring Hershel home, to much protesting from Lori, Shane and Maggie, all for very different reasons. Rick and Glenn head off anyway.
They find Hershel at the bar, as expected. As he and Rick are wont to do, they have a philosophical debate on human existence — as it was, as it is, as it may once again be. The word “hope” is thrown around like they’re at an Obama fundraiser circa 2008. And then Rick breaks through to Hershel with the argument that “there are people back home who need us” and “this isn’t about what we believe, it’s about them.” Just as they are about to leave, the bar door swings open and two unknown men enter.
These outsiders are: 1. Alive; and 2. From the north (Philadelphia, or thereabouts). They’re crass and calculating and call walkers “lame brains.” They want in on that sweet farm deal Hershel and Rick and Glenn seem to be hogging all to themselves. Rick says the farm’s overcrowded as it is and the pair isn’t welcome. The new guys keep pressing the issue. So Rick shoots them dead.
It’s a nice contrast to see Rick in pure, out-for-his-own survival mode. His actions are very Shane-like, which is made more poignant when Shane has a very Rick moment with Carol. She had stumbled into the forest to mourn her daughter and startled Shane on her way back to the farm. Cut and dirty, Shane tenderly, almost lovingly, washes her hands and apologizes, repeatedly, for opening the barn and revealing, unwittingly, that Sofia had turned into a zombie. Which guy is the right guy to lead the group now?
Oh, and did we mention that Lori might be dead? Yeah — that happened. Determined to bring Hershel back to the farm to tend to Beth quicker than Rick and Glenn were moving, she hopped in a car with a gun and a map to find the bar and bring hope to Beth, who was still comatose and now feverish as well. But Lori took her eyes off the road to study the map — while still cruising along — and ran over a walker strolling across the road. The impact stunned Lori, which caused the car to spin out of control, flip, and land upside down on the roadside — unbeknownst to any of the survivors, but sure to have been heard by any zombies in the general vicinity. …