The Walking Dead S02E02 Recap: "Bloodletting"

Last week, we gave a really positive review to the season premiere of "The Walking Dead". Maybe it was just the fact that it was good to have zombies back in our lives again on a weekly basis, but I had more than enough of a good time watching the episode.

Upon second viewing, there were definitely some problems with the show, mostly revolving around certain plot holes. The running theory is that the season premiere was actually pieced together from two separate episodes, the first written by Frank Darabont, the second written by Robert Kirkman. As we all know by know, Frank Darabont left the show early in production over the summer, or rather, he was unceremoniously fired by AMC higher ups after a dispute. What they were left with was an episode written by Darabont that was said to center around the group's arrival at the car graveyard and the eventual passing of the horde. The second episode would have been the search for Sophia after she was chased off into the woods by zombies, written by Kirkman.

Thanks to the departure of Darabont from the show, Kirkman had to salvage what was left of the intended episode 1, cut it down to about 20 minutes and then move on with a normal, 42 minute episode for the rest. The end result was a 90 minute premiere that, while entertaining, was most definitely a little uneven and took liberties with the viewers' suspension of disbelief. This theory is essentially confirmed by the use of Darabont's pen name (Ardeth Bey) in the first episode (even by the split duty of two directors).

I'm going off on a bit of a tangent here, but the point is that even though it was entertaining, I can understand certain viewers discontent with the episode. That said, with early production being the mess that it was, they sort of had an excuse. You don't have to venture too far away for a list of everything that was wrong with the episode's writing, but let's just say that Kirkman did the best he could on what was likely short noticed, pieced together scripts and footage, as well as a likely frazzled cast and crew.

With episode one out of the way, as well as the reintroduction of everything we know and love about "The Walking Dead", episode 2, titled "Bloodletting", needed to calm things down, even the pace, and bring us back to what made us love the show last season.

For all intents and purposes, that's exactly what they seemed to do.

Bloodletting picks up pretty much where "What Lies Ahead" left off last week, after a short flashback scene. As we all know, mere days before the zombie apocalypse, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was shot in the line of duty, falling into a coma at a local hospital. In this week's flashback, we see Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) contemplating her feelings towards Rick as she waits for Carl to get out of school, before Shane (Jon Berthnal) has to deliver the bad news. Lori is about to get a whole other set of bad news, only this time, related to her son, Carl, who had just been shot in a pretty epic moment at the end of the last episode.

As it turns out, a nice fat man, Otis, was out hunting while Carl, Shane and Rick were mystified by the presence of a buck. Unaware of Carl's presence next to the buck, Otis took his shot, which went clean through the buck and into Carl's mid section. Rick is running with Carl in his arms towards the farm Otis came from, with Otis and Shane in tow. They get to the farm, where they meet Hershel Greene, a doctor (a veterinarian, as we later learn) and the owner of a farm that seems to have gone unscathed from the plague.

Hershel wastes no time taking care of the boy, drawing blood from his father for a transfusion, and beginning to remove the fractured buckshot from the boy's abdomen. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the supplies he needs to complete the surgery, so Otis and Shane head to a nearby school, which doubled as a FEMA shelter early during the plague, for a list of supplies, but not before Shane (and eventually Lori, after running into Hershel's daughter in the woods), have to convince him that his place is with his son.

Meanwhile, back at the RV, T-Dog's cut on his arm has gone from bad to worse. He's developed a bad infection, which can be the only logical explanation to his diatribe about being the only black guy in the group, etc etc. Thankfully, Darryl has some leftover drugs from Merle's motorcycle (first Merle reference of the season!). The group splinters even further, as half decide to head to Hershel's farm, while the rest stay behind one more night, just in case Sophia makes it back.

The episode ends with Otis and Shane at the high school. They sneak their way into a supply truck and find everything Hershel needed, but unfortunately, their escape isn't as easy. They quickly catch the attention of the Walkers, who chase them around and eventually into the entrance of the school, where only a small pin separate them from a very large group of walkers.

Overall, while the score to your right might be a little lower, the episode was actually just as good as last week's (in other words, if we weren't stickler's for sticking to our guns, the season premiere's score would likely have been reviewed). We had fun, but there definitely needs to be some work done on the writing. It isn't so much the plot holes, but more the fact that outside of maybe Darryl, it doesn't seem like any character is evolving. Lori and Rick are still hard headed Southerners who are clinging on to their marriage out of necessity more than love, Shane is still the third wheel, Andrea is still damaged by the death of her sister, Dale is still the provider, and they're all still annoying, more concerned with talking over their problems than getting shit done.

We would understand all the sitting around and talking if it actually progressed any characters, but it doesn't. Even the flashback, to a degree, was an exercise in futility. We know that Lori isn't sure if she loves Rick. We know that Shane would jump at the first chance to get back with her. We know that Rick is the ultimate do-gooder.

There was interesting scene between Shane and Rick, after his first blood transfusion. Rick wanted to go find Lori (and later on he wanted to go find Otis and Shane), and he actually had to be convinced, in scenes that were way too long, to stay by his son instead of being the cowboy. Is it just me, or does it seem a little ridiculous that someone would rather play the hero than stay by his near-dead child?

The whole thing just kinda brought the episode down. And it's not like they have to fill an entire hour, it's a 40 minute episode. It's a little frightening that, sans Frank Darabont, Mazzara and maybe to a lesser degree Kirkman have to scrounge for enough content to fill an episode. Maybe it's the result of AMC's meddling, but not a good sign only two episodes in. The same could be said about T-Dogg's monologue about being the only black guy, or even Hershel's way too optimistic world view about the plague.

Still, we got some new, long-awaited characters in the Greenes, some nice character progression for the new antihero in Darryl, and to a lesser degree for Shane, who reiterated his care for the Grimes, in one way or another.

That said, this show is clamoring for a non-zombie villain. Some of the best moments of season one involved Merle or Jenner and their various motivations. The group needs someone to mix things up. Whether it's someone new, the impending return of Merle, or even maybe T-Dogg. Otherwise, we can't really tell where they're going with all this, and with only five episodes until their mid-season break, we're not sure if this is a good thing.

Still, for a second week in a row, we were more than entertained, so "Bloodletting" gets a cautious 7.5 out of 10.

Bits & Pieces

  • So, the CDC scientist who's had first-hand experience with the plague thinks it's humankind's "extinction event", while the veterinarian farmer thinks it's just a little old case of AIDS that man will get over. Gotta wonder whether this was intentional.
  • No matter what you thought of the boring, repetitive, annoying, inexplicable dialogue between characters, the last few minutes with Shane and Otis is exactly why we continue to tune into TWD. While we might get less of it this season, the strength of the show is the action, and the tension it is able to build until we get to see our next walker.
  • Did Merle get his meth from Walter White from Breaking Bad? The blue tinted crystal at the bottom of his drug bag seems to suggest so.
  • From Reddit, this is the only thing I think anyone could think of in the final scenes. No disrespect to Otis, who was awesome in short bursts, but let's just say he's not taylor made for the Zombie Apocalypse.
Comments 2
George Prax's picture

Blame AMC for slashing the budget.