'Walking Dead' recap: Two guys walk into a bar...
"The Walking Dead" returned from its month-long hiatus with the episode "Nebraska" in which the visitors to and the residents of Hershel's farm deal with the aftermath of Shane's decision to open the barn and free/dispose of the walkers inside, not realizing that poor missing Sophia was among the creatures inside. Picking up exactly where the previous installment left off, the action begins with inaction -- Hershel and his kin frozen by shock and horror at the massacre they've just witnessed, Rick and the others paralyzed by the realization that Sophia is not only beyond saving, but that she's been nearby the whole time.
Shane is furious with Hershel, who he believes has kept the secret of Sophia's whereabouts from them, though Hershel insists he had no idea the girl was in the barn as it was Otis who rounded up the walkers and left them there. As the older man recovers his wits and heads into the farmhouse, he tells Rick that Shane must leave his property at once. Not everyone is so furious with Shane, however -- Andrea and T-Dog think he did what was right and required. Dale is beside himself with grief over the event, but Carol, after an initial outburst of sobs, grows silent and distant, saying that clearly, her little girl was lost some time ago. When a hasty funeral is arranged, she chooses not to attend.
The incident leaves its imprint on Rick and his family, too, of course. Lori listens to Carl tell her first that he thought he would be the one to find Sophia and bring her back alive; then to go on to say that Shane made the right call. After an altercation with Shane, Rick, who struggles mightily with the obligations of his leadership role, seems to be furious with himself that he had endangered the lives of the others by looking for the girl and confesses as much to his wife.
But no one is perhaps more profoundly changed then Hershel, who packs up his departed wife's belongings and heads to the local bar to begin drinking, ending decades of sobriety. Glenn accompanies Rick to find him and bring him back to the farmhouse, telling Rick on the way that Maggie has told him she's in love with him. Caught off guard and doubtful of her sincerity, Glenn didn't return the sentiment, but Rick tells him he should -- that anyone can see Maggie loves him.
Glenn apologizes for bringing Lori the batch of morning-after pills she nearly used to try to terminate her pregnancy; Rick forgives him, saying he knows Glenn was just trying to do what he thought was best. As it happens, Lori's condition might be in question: Driving to retrieve Rick, Glenn and Hershel herself, she doesn't notice a walker in the center of the road, her car hits the zombie, the auto flips and takes some serious damage and we don't see Lori for the rest of the episode.
Central to the entire series is that one basic question of how to define what's morally right in a lawless world where the chief priority is survival. But "Nebraska" returned to that theme time and time again, most pointedly with the final stand-off between Rick and two strangers he runs across at the bar. The men -- a couple of sleezy guys that you probably wouldn't want anywhere close to your wives, sisters or daughters, even if there hadn't been a zombie apocalypse -- break the bad news that Fort Benning reportedly has been overrun by walkers.
There's a friendly drink, and the duo asks where they might find shelter, the conversation growing increasingly more threatening, until it concludes in a firefight with Rick channeling "Justified" lawman Raylan Givens and shooting the pair as they draw on him. Who's to say what's right?
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-- Gina McIntyre
Photo: "The Walking Dead" Credit: AMC