As the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead came to a close, so did one major storyline: the search for Sophia. As you know, this will be filled with spoilers if you haven’t seen it—so be prepared, because we’re about to burst open the proverbial barn and not hold anything back…
Many critics will say that the first half of the season got off to a slow start, aside from Carl getting shot and Sophia going missing. While Carl recovered nicely, the search for Sophia seemed to drag on, as did many other plotlines. The budding romance between newcomer Maggie and “Walker Bait” Glenn was a highlight for at least Glenn’s character, but every other storyline—even Lori’s pregnancy—really didn’t seem that big.
That was, until the barn came into play.
As was revealed two episodes ago, the barn on Hershel’s farm wound up being filled with walkers—mainly, Hershel’s family and friends. The farm owner believed the people to be sick, as opposed to dead, and he felt he could heal them. Unfortunately, the group disagreed with his notion for obvious reasons, as they had risked their lives out in the “real world” and saw what the creatures could do.
This episode came to a head early on, when Glenn finally told the group, despite Maggie’s pleas otherwise, that the barn contained walkers. As Dale had already confronted Hershel, now it is up to Rick to try to convince him that the walkers were unsafe, which does not go so well, as Hershel seems very hard-headed and decides it is best if the group leaves within the week. Not even Lori’s pregnancy seems to faze him.
The pregnancy does, however, faze Shane, who finds out through Rick and proceeds to confront Lori, claiming the baby is his. Of course, she has nothing of it as she still shows undying dedication to her husband. Even without reading the comics, just reading past reviews can show you that the writers are completely straying from the original story—be it for better or worse—and it seems that Lori is one of the characters who is protrayed in a much different light, staying loyal to her husband.
At any rate, Carl convinces Shane that they should stay at least until they find Sophia, and then longer afterwards if they can. This puts some ideas into Shane’s head that we’ll get to very shortly…
Hershel eventually comes up with a compromise for the group to stay, however: he tells Rick that he wants them to treat the walkers like people, even if they don’t believe that they are. To prove his point, he even has Rick help wrangle two walkers out of quicksand in the swamp and herd them to the barn.
Meanwhile, back on the farm, Dale is growing more and more suspicious of Shane. While Shane definitely has become a dark character, it’s hard to really see him as much of a threat to the group—he comes off as a loose cannon, for sure, but his dedication to Carl and Lori seem to be his only real motivation to do the crazy things he did (like, say, killing Otis). Still, Dale decides to hide Shane’s guns in the swamp, but Shane easily catches up to him. When Dale then threatens to shoot Shane if “that’s what it takes” to get rid of him, Shane walks up to the gun barrel, prompting Dale to lower it and give in.
The climax of the episode, however, comes when Shane decides, thanks in part to Carl, that they can stay—but only if they take matters into their own hands. It’s easy to see what he’s building up to: he wants to take down the walkers in the barn. With Rick off in the woods with Hershel, he rallies the group and pulls them to his side fairly easily. When he then sees Rick and Hershel guiding two walkers with share poles, he goes berserk.
What happens next is quite possibly the biggest redeeming scene of the season so-far, and it’s a huge one at that.
In his frenzy, Shane asks Hershel if “a living, breathing person [could] walk away from this,” and proceeds to shoot the female walker in the chest three times. “Why is it still coming?” he asks, eventually shooting it in the head. Hershel seems to go into shock as Shane then busts open the barn door, unleashing the walkers onto the crowd. As Shane begins to shoot, Andrea, Daryl, T-Dog and Glenn, with Maggie’s approval, form a firing squad.
But it’s not over there.
As it seems that all the walkers have been killed, the group stands and stares in silence, until one last walker is heard growling inside the barn doors. Slowly, two feet are revealed onscreen as the young walker stumbles into the sunlight: Sophia.
While many viewers could say, “I saw it coming,” could you really? After building up so much hope, even throughout this episode, that they’d find Sophia and reunite her with her mother, to kill her off in such a frenzied yet oh-so-satisfying way is… well, daring to say the least, but it also definitely drives the point home once more: they are in a zombie apocalypse, and nobody is safe, not even the children.
The utter air of hopelessness after Rick—the only one who seems to have a clear conscience to put her down— steps forward is overwhelming. As he shoots her in the head, in front of her sobbing mother and his own son, Carl, it is clear that Rick has learned, as we all have, that the world really is different, and not everything always plays out the way we hope. There are no happy endings.
Now with a long gap and the next episode, titled “Nebraska,” not airing until mid-February, we have to speculate just what happens next. Will Hershel kick the group off his farm, or, perhaps, will they go on their own? What about Gleen and Maggie? Lori’s pregnancy doesn’t seem all that huge, though that will prove a rough patch down the line… But then again, it seems like there are still many rough patches down the line. Let’s hope that from here on out, The Walking Dead sees more action—but still keeps its touch of humanity intact.
This article was originally published on AllMediaNY.com