Directed by Ernest Dickerson and written by Glen Mazzara, The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 2: “Bloodletting” was a more low key episode than the season premier but, in many ways, helped set up many new, key plot lines to be explored in future installments.
The episode opens up with a flashback to life prior to the apocalypse, showing Lori discussing a fight between her and Rick. Lori expresses her frustration with Rick’s levelheaded approach to life. The audience learns that Lori had struggled over her feelings for Rick and wondered whether she still loved him. Since we know that Lori and Shane have been having an affair for some time, this scene becomes even more poignant when he informs her that Rick has been shot . The opening recalls the introduction to the series in the pilot episode, namely, when Rick is shot by the hidden assailant. Of course, asking too many questions about how Rick then subsequently came to be reunited with his surviving wife, child and best friend perhaps pushes boundaries of believability best left untouched if the series is to be enjoyed.
The Walking Dead is nonetheless masterful in its circular framing of the plot so far. Evidence of this is in Rick’s carrying Carl to the Herschel farm to save his life, echoing Rick’s being shot in the series’ opener except for in reverse. Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, is absolutely masterful in his portrayal of a father in shock. Lori is unaware of Carl having being shot because she is with the group searching the forest for the still lost Sophia. The group needs to find antibiotics for T-Dog since he cut open his arm on the car door frame. Remarkable in this episode are the scenes in which Herschel attempts to operate on the dying Carl. They introduce a new kind of horror into the series that is somewhat more ghastly and unpalatable than the gory and insatiable zombies. Those scenes could not be over quickly enough for me. Carl’s operation requires medical equipment and blood to replace the blood lost. This sets up the plot element that requires Shane and Otis to work together to obtain medical supplies. Shane convinces Rick to let him go in his place to do what has to be done. Again, Shane is unlikeable but makes the audience long to forgive him, though most know this is impossible.
It is obvious he struggles with inner demons but Shane is also masterful in affecting the appearance of a devoted and loyal friend. Herschel needs surgical supplies, drapes, sutures and a respirator. He and his son Otis suggest a nearby FEMA shelter that should be stocked with said supplies. Otis, in a heroic gesture and in atonement for his having shot Carl, volunteers to go with Shane. Meanwhile, Dale and T-Dog have been unsuccessful in finding drugs. T-Dog questions why he and Dale have been left behind while the others search through the forest. T-Dog even brings up race issues which may or may not be as a result of fever due to the infection, though the audience is led to believe that they are nonsensical ramblings. He calls Shane and Rick good old boys and claims Andrea killed her own sister. He is clearly suffering from fever and infection thus anything he says is likely influenced by that but it is refreshing to see such divisions emerge even in this post apocalyptic world. Since the show has limited expository space, one should always be reluctant to write dialogue as meaningless and without substance.
The zombie attack on Andrea is like one of those tragedies that happens in slow motion, and even though the audience sees it coming, it is no less terrifying. The female knight in shining armor, who literally comes in on horseback to save the day, was both a ridiculous and awesome moment. Most all awesome moments require a bit of the ridiculous to be enjoyable so I do not mean that disparagingly. Rick informs Herschel that there is not going to be a cure to the disease that causes the zombies while Herschel cites the AIDS epidemic and compares the zombie outbreak to it, a conjecture that is both quite delusional and makes one question whether or not he truly understands the nature of the zombie threat. Herschel may have also suggested an even more terrifying variant of the zombie virus, one that is spread sexually like an STD. This would leave humanity with two choices: have sex and turn into a zombie, or abstain and die naturally if you’re not eaten first but either way, humanity dies out.
When Lori questions Herschel she finds out that he is a veterinarian, which brings Rick to his knees. Surely enough, upon arrival at the FEMA tent, Shane and Otis are greeted by zombies aimlessly shambling about the parking lot. Back at the RV, Daryl opens up his missing brother’s drug stash to give T-Dog the antibiotics that he desperately needs. Again, cutting back to the real action, Shane has devised a diversion to distract the zombies which consists of throwing road flares to mesmerize them. I would be curious to have someone explain to me exactly how the zombies’ sensory capabilities are still so effective given they exist in the state of a rotting corpse. Zombies in hordes are always the most terrifying type to encounter. Of course, the retrieval of the supplies does not go off without a hitch, and the pair of heroes are quickly pursued by the starved hordes of undead. With only a security grate separating them from legions of undead, Shane and Otis find themselves pinned down and their situation dire indeed.
This episode was a great interlude from the tension and action of the season premier and helped set up a lot of new plot threads to be resolved in the future. The minimal, but always effective, use of zombies is one of the series’ strengths and it is good to see this trend maintained in the second season thus far.