“The Walking Dead” returned to AMC Sunday night and immediately resumed its decidedly ooky zombie-killing business.
During the 90-minute premiere of season two, an episode dubbed “What Lies Ahead,” we witnessed flesh-deprived, shuffling zombies getting knifed in the back of the neck, stabbed in the eyeball with screwdrivers and taking arrows straight through their heads. And that doesn’t even count the undead dude whose stomach got sliced open so Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon could verify that he’d recently ingested a woodchuck.
But those gory details weren’t the most upsetting elements in this installment of “The Walking Dead,” an episode that made it clear that no character is safe in this post-apocalyptic journey that is now taking our heroes away from Atlanta and toward Fort Benning.
Seriously, no character is safe. Not even the children.
Warning: “What Lies Ahead” spoilers lie ahead.
The final moment of this episode — in which Carl Grimes appeared to have been shot in the chest while communing with a stag at his father Rick’s and one-time surrogate father’s Shane’s urging — was clearly the big jaw-dropper moment.
Could Carl actually be dead? Could Rick have possibly screwed-up in his babysitting duties twice in the same episode? And who the heck shot Carl?
But before we talk about that, let’s discuss poor Sophia (Madison Lintz), the rag-doll-clutching daughter of Carol who has now gone missing.
If there was any doubt that “The Walking Dead” is not a show for the under-11 set, the sight of that little blonde girl scooting under a car to evade the grasp of a face-deprived zombie pretty much confirmed it.
After taking off into the woods, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), ever the hero, was able to scoop her up and save her from the two walkers who had been chasing her in their creepy but not at all speedy way. Unfortunately, he got the bright idea to hide young Sophia and run away so the zombie duo would follow him instead, allowing him to eventually knock them out and run back to reclaim Sophia.
But Sophia disappeared from her clandestine spot by the creek and went AWOL. When Rick attempted to explain to an understandably distraught Carol (Melissa McBride) what had happened, he said he had no other option but to leave Sophia in order to throw the walkers off her trail. But is that really true?
As soon as he set the girl down and left her by herself, all I could think was: bad move. Why couldn’t he hide Sophia but stay in the creek and clock the two former humans while still keeping the kid in his line of sight? Or why didn’t he just more clearly communicate to her that she should stay put so he would know she’d still be there when he returned?
Obviously in a moment of zombie panic, even Rick Grimes might not be thinking straight. But the notion that he had no choice seemed like more of a rationalization than an honest truth. And it was a theme that bubbled up again during Andrea’s argument with Dale over his thwarting of her suicide attempt during last season’s finale.
“You took my choice away, Dale,” she said.
Choice — which also includes Shane’s apparent call to break out from the gaggle and go rogue — is the one thing that each of these people has left. They all cling to it in their ways, even, perhaps, as a means to assuage the guilt brought on by their decisions.
Anyway, with Sophia suddenly being in a Walt-from-”Lost” situation, perhaps you, like me, were assuming that surely nothing bad would happen to another child during this episode. Oh, but that’s where you, like me, would be wrong.
As if things weren’t bad enough for Rick Grimes — the guy who stood in that combination church/zombie graveyard begging the Lord to give him a sign — he then had to watch his son get shot in front of his own eyes while he stood just a few feet away, letting him approach a male stag under the false impression that for a few sublime seconds, he was safe. At first, that stag seemed like an answer to Rick’s prayer, a “Harry Potter”-esque patronus sent by God himself. (Because God, of course, is a huge fan of J.K. Rowling.)
Instead, the peaceful animal’s presence led to an act of violence, again, one that might have been prevented if Rick had just stayed closer to his child instead of letting him step just out of arm’s reach.
Is Rick to blame for what happened to Sophia and to Carl? Do you think Carl is really dead, or was that shooting just a way to end the first episode of the new season with a literal bang? Weigh in by posting a comment.