The first scene is of a flashback to the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse. The audience sees the group prior to all hell breaking loose. We see Sophia’s abusive father back for a cameo as well as Lori in her former tramp phase. Shane and Lori are going to scout ahead to see what’s going on and I do hope that is actually what they are doing because I can’t really dislike Lori any more than I already do. Remember her jaunts in the forest last season? We do not need more of those scenes. Bombs are going off and helicopters are taking to the sky overhead. In an erudite moment, Lori observes that it is not thunder ripping through the sky. These pre-apocalypse scenes are my favorite moments of the season. Seeing things as they were rather than the hell it presently is shines a light on a lot of the back story between the characters that defines the emotional underpinnings of a lot of the action onscreen. Lori and Shane see the bombing of Atlanta by the government in a scene that concretizes the gravity of the situation they face.
The bald woman wants to cook dinner for Hershel’s family and Lori thinks it is a good idea. She tells Lori that she is like their unofficial ‘First Lady,’ making Rick their ‘President’ I would assume. I’m sure Shane will enjoy such a sentiment. One of Hershel’s group, a young guy named Jimmy, volunteers to help them continue the search for the still missing little girl Sophia. Shane offers to give Jimmy gun instruction and Andrea offers to supervise him while they scout for Sophia, already affecting some Hollywood version of a disenchanted and cold huntress. Andrea needs to break loose of this melodrama gripping her character or she may join the ranks of the list of characters who need to be eaten by the zombies.
Glen and Maggie are still flirting even though she does not even know if ‘she really likes him,’ playing hard to get like the perfect coquette she is. Rick and Shane try to have some awkward conversation between the two of them, beginning with discussion about some of the women that Shane used to sleep with in high school. Melancholia takes a chokehold of Rick and his nostalgia becomes a reason to be miserable. Shane begins to voice his concerns and the underlying, never voiced tensions with Rick come bubbling to the surface when Shane says that 72 hours into a missing child case they should be looking for a body, referencing their pre-Apocalypse job as cops. Maybe Rick is getting more honesty than he wants. Rick thinks Sophia is still alive and that is why he won’t leave her behind.
Next we have Daryl on horseback, shooting squirrels with his bow and arrow like the warrior he is. He sees Sophia’s doll in the river from atop his horse on the river’s bank and he goes to retrieve it but does not find Sophia. The music is of course ominous. The horse is spooked by a snake and throws Daryl from its back. Daryl rolls down the bank and accidentally sticks himself in the side with his arrow. We find out that Daryl is in a particualrly isolated location and of course something is rustling in the brush. Daryl retrieves his bow but he still has an arrow stuck in his side. He struggles to climb up the slope and the audience worries for him the whole time because he is one of the best the show has to offer.
Rick comes back with Shane, obviously tense and angry because Shane wants to call off the search. Rick relates to Lori that Shane thinks Rick’s good intentions for the group are spreading them thin and making the group vulnerable. We’re back with Daryl, who falls down the slope yet again. Hershel is upset that Rick took Jimmy out with them on the scouting group and also tells him that he has a missing horse. Rick and Hershel devise a power sharing agreement in which each will control their own.
Daryl wakes up from his tumble and sees his brother Merle in front of him. The audience does not know if this is real or a vision but it seems to entail it is imagined. Merle then makes some racist, classist and political comments trying to convey to Daryl how little he means to the group he’s with presently. We then learn that it isn’t a vision but actually a zombie attacking Daryl. Daryl fends the zombie off and smashes its skull in just in time to find himself under attack from another one. Daryl removes the arrow from his side in enough time to shoot it in the second zombie’s head. Survivalist Daryl is way more interesting than the rest of the group, this much is certain, but the taking of the zombies’ ears as trophies is creepy. Merle appears again but we know it is likely a hallucination due to blood loss. The way it rides that line is great because it would be a little ridiculous if it were a completely transcendent, ‘you can do it brother’ type of Merle. Instead it presents a plausible representation of Merle and his foibles. Even in a hallucination, Merle is still a pretty horrible guy.
Hershel tells Maggie that they need to set clear boundaries between the two groups. Hershel also asks Maggie what is going on between her and Glen, and she disperses his concerns by saying she is too old to be having this conversation with him. Tensions between Andrea and Dale continue. Maybe if Dale could find some sort of use other than in his constant screwing around with the RV Andrea might respect him somewhat. Glen asks Dale if Andrea is on her period because he thinks all the women are acting strangely after which he delivers his version of cycle theory. Dale advises him to keep that theory to himself. Glen reveals to Dale his relationship with Maggie and inadvertently some gossip about Lori. Glen then gets all emotional when he thinks Dale has rebuked him. Andrea takes aim at what she thinks is a walker but really it is just Daryl walking back in a struggle to survive. He is shambling like a zombie though, but it is Daryl.
She tells Dale to back off and Andrea goes on ahead and shoots anyway. The bullet grazes the side of Daryl’s head. If anything, Andrea will likely chill out after this incident, since she nearly killed someone. Hershel voices the opinion of most audience members when he says, “It is a wonder you people have survived this long.”
Shane uses this opportunity to interject his opinion that they are wasting their time looking for Sophia. Shane tells Lori that all he cares about is Lori and Carl, a sentiment that will only lead to further complications with Rick over the direction of things. Andrea is being mopey on the front porch steps and Dale comes out to offer her some emotional support, redeeming himself with her.
Dinner between Hershel and Rick’s group is a mostly silent affair. Glen only adds to the awkward atmosphere when he asks if anyone knew how to play guitar, only to be told that deceased brother Otis played the guitar very well. Glen and Maggie pass notes between each other at the dinner table in view of Dale and Hershel. In his bumbling way Glen is expressing his growing interest in her and it is quaint to watch this plot line develop. It is hard to imagine love in such an environment so it is nice to see that it is possible. Glen’s note asks Maggie to meet him in the barn so they can hookup in the hayloft. Likely we will discover what is in the barn. If anyone remembers in a previous episode the barn doors were rattling off of their hinges from some unseen force. Inside the barn Glen discovers a horde of zombies. He turns and faces Maggie, her face blanched as she says, “You weren’t supposed to see this.” I’ll say that is an understatement! This week’s episode was awesome compared to last week’s much more slowly paced narrative. Undoubtedly Glen is going to reveal what he discovered in the barn to the rest of the group, likely leading to the prompt departure of our heroes for somewhere else other than zombie ranch. By setting up the Hershel farm as an idyllic place and then subsequently revealing a dark secret such as this, the audience is once again questioning its expectations as the story progresses. Nothing can be taken at face value. It is also a form of pessimistic commentary on the plight of our heroes in general.