That is the plot of this episode. That is all you need to know.
In Search of a Question
The weight of the mid-season finale's final moment pulled us back into the show the moment we left it, with Rick's smoking gun and the still corpse of Sophia. With Sophia's death, the great question of the season had been resolved.
(Maybe it was just my imagination, but did it seem to anyone else that the arrangement of the mowed-down corpses were in the shape of a Z?)
The question that guided the show through the first half of the season (Where is Sophia?) is resolved. Sophia had provided the momentum of the plot itself. Her death stopped the show in its tracks. They are left with a need to find a new question.
Their last question had just been answered with a bullet.
I'll Cry No More
This is an episode of reactions. And of heart-breaking hardening.
Most people's reactions are contained, rooted in almost a superficiality. Glenn rues over what to do after Maggie tells him she loves him. Dale uses the event as an opportunity to further his agenda against Shane, sharing with Lori his (absolutely correct) suspicion that Shane sacrificed Otis as zombie food to escape. (Otis was a pretty big meal, after all.)
Shane acts like Shane. Although he does suggest, to Carol, had he known Sophia was in there, he'd have acted differently.
Carol destroys a grouping of white flowers. "Wuh?" you may ask. This was an allusion to an earlier episode, when the underutilized-in-this-episode-but-always-awesome Daryl gives Carol a white flower. He tells her it's a Cherokee rose. When a Cherokee mother lost a child, where her tears landed, these white flowers would sprout.
She destroys the flowers to deny her grief over this "thing." "That's not my little girl. That's some other thing." She is denying the sorrow that has arisen over the death of a "Walker."
Andrea, however, is not plagued by this paradox. "We bury the ones we love and burn the rest." She is the one who covers Sophia's body. She sees the humanity in the monstrous.
This motif of abhumanism (simply put, something that is human but increasingly not) is illustrated by the juxtaposition of the funeral for the loved ones. And the burning of the dead during the closing moments of the episode, which is accompanied by the song "The Regulator," by Clutch.
It also connects to Hershel's downward spiral.
Holding Out for Hope
Rick goes to the town bar to find Hershel, in order to bring him back to help his daughter, who had gone into shock.
During his alcoholic breakdown, he admits to Rick that he had been an ass. But he wasn't being an ass. He was holding out for hope in a world that actively denied it. It wasn't "medical naivete." He still saw the humanity in his family, even though his medical mind told him they were rotting meat. And while that is self-defeating, and horribly dangerous, it is so god damn beautiful. There is a rationality to believing in miracles in such a world.
But his hope died along with his family. And, in a moment of clarity, he saw the same death of hope mirrored in Rick's eyes. In this moment, there is a sense of victory, of Shane's sociopathic pragmatism over the humanistic optimism of Rick.
Rick, however, comes to a realization that saves Hershel along with him. "I just quit drinking," he says later. It is no longer about them. It's about the people they love, and giving them a reason to go on. There is no greater love than that, according to the Bible, a book close to the religious Hershel's heart.
But is this a case of Rick adapting his optimism? Or is this a new pragmatic Rick, who is willing to become more and more like Shane in order to ensure his group's survival? After all, the only reason he went to save Hershel at the bar was because he needed him to deliver his and Lori's baby.
And then there is how he dealt with the two men who came into the bar. Old Rick, pre-Sophia Rick, would not have shot first. While the tension was building, certainly, there was no solid indication that the men were going to make a move. In fact, they informed them that the fort they were heading for was overrun by zombies, and that Nebraska was where it's at.
Rick shot first.
Oh No, Sara Tancredi, er, Lori!
During the only other moment of action in the show, Lori flips her car after crashing into a Walker. This other moment left us with the only issue of tangible concern.
Maybe the new question this season is going to be, "Where is Lori?"Marshall BlackContributing Writer
(Image courtesy of AMC)