Episode Title: "Nebraska"
Writer: Evan Reilly
Director: Clark Johnson
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
It's a beautiful day on the farm of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson). The birds are singing, the dead are rotting… Oh right, there was that Barnageddon shootout after Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) let all of the walkers out and the last one to emerge was Sophia (Madison Lintz); whom Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) put down with a shot to the head. In the immediate aftermath, everyone is stunned. Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) goes to her mother's body to cry, but her body isn't quite dead yet. And thus the survivors have to quickly pry Beth loose and shoot her mother, again.
As Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) escorts her shaken father back to his house, Shane angrily berates Hershel and accuses him of knowing all along that Sophia was a walker in the barn. Hershel says that Otis must have trapped her there before he shot Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). But it doesn't matter, because Hershel wants Rick's group to get off of his land. Shane doesn't let up on Rick either as he accuses his friend of being deluded for making the group risk their lives for Sophia when she was most likely dead from the start. The accusation stings Rick and he openly questions his leadership while speaking with his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies).
With little else to do, the group is joined by Jimmy (James Allen McCune) as they dig graves for Hershel's wife, stepson and Sophia and then prepare to burn the other bodies. Across the farm, Shane notices Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) staring at him intently, and Shane makes a point to angrily defend himself against Dale's silent condemnation. Meanwhile, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) sits by Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), who can't even bring herself to bury her daughter because she "died a long time ago."
The rest of the survivors and Hershel's family reunite for a brief funeral for those that they lost. Afterwards, Carol loses herself in the woods and Hershel retreats to a hidden flask of liquor in his room. Shortly there after, Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie are talking when Beth collapses with a high fever. But when they look for Hershel, he's no place to be found. After Maggie explains Hershel's past as a drinker, Rick and Glenn volunteer to go to the nearest bar and retrieve him. Elsewhere, Shane comes across a distraught Carol and he washes her hands and arms while telling her he had no idea Sophia was among the walkers.
Meanwhile, Dale catches up to Lori and shares his theory about Shane sacrificing Otis to the walkers to save Carl's life. Lori doesn't believe him, but Dale insists that Shane is dangerous and that he will kill again. As they are about to leave, Rick witnesses an uncomfortable goodbye between Maggie and Glenn, who later confesses that he didn't reciprocate when Maggie told him that she loved him. The duo find Hershel in the bar drowning his sorrows and in no hurry to return. Back at the farm, Beth gets worse, so Lori tries to enlist Daryl to go into town after Rick and Hershel.
However, Daryl is apparently done caring about other people after sacrificing so much to find Sophia. So Lori decides to go by herself and along the way she accidentally slams her car into a walker and ends up flipping her vehicle. Back at the bar, Hershel has given up all hope and he calls Rick's people a plague even as he finally agrees that the walkers in the farm were dead long ago. Rick gives Hershel a rousing speech about providing hope for others even if they don't believe it themselves, which seems to reach Hershel until two strangers walk into the bar.
Tony (Aaron Munez) and Dave (Michael Raymond-James) introduce themselves and they get a few drinks alongside Rick and Glenn while Hershel abstains. At first the conversation is cordial, as Dave says that everything has gone to hell everywhere, even Fort Benning, where Shane was sure that they would be safe. When Dave starts asking about where Rick and Hershel are staying, things tense up and they don't mention the farm… but it doesn't stop Dave from guessing about it anyway. Both Rick and Hershel apologize, but they insist that they can't take on any more people.
After a threat to take the farm by force from Tony, Dave tries to calm the situation by putting his gun on the counter and pouring a drink while trying to get more out of Rick, who isn't fooled for a second. When Dave reaches for his gun to shoot him, Rick shoots first and he then executes Tony before he can react. Hershel's mouth is agape with shock, while Rick doesn't seem to be sorry at all. Back at the barn, a bonfire of walker bodies is burned as the group watches.
This is the first post-Frank Darabont episode of "The Walking Dead," which was reportedly filmed shortly after Darabont's dismissal by AMC. And it held pretty tightly to the strengths and weaknesses of the series. "Nebraska" had a great opening scene and an intense conclusion, with a lot of "blah" in-between.
The resolution of the Sophia plotline was one of the most powerful moments of the season, and the beginning of this episode made good use of the aftermath. The reanimation of Beth's dead mother was darkly funny and another reminder that the dead don't always stay dead in this world. But even beyond that, the eerie silence that carried the scene up to that point really sold the moment well.
The ongoing tragedy of this storyline is that every time that Rick seems to have Hershel convinced about a course of action, something comes along and screws everything up. In the last episode, Hershel was finally going to let Rick and his people stay if they respected his intent to catch the walkers and refrained from shooting them. Barnageddon ruined that, but we learned in this episode that Hershel realized his family was dead when Shane fatally shot the walker and it didn't die from its wound. Which made Barnageddon completely unnecessary.
In "Nebraska," Rick pulled off one of his more inspirational speeches that seemed to move Hershel, right before Tony and Dave walked in. Both Rick and Hershel seemed to pick up right away that Tony and Dave were bad news, and only Glenn was naive enough to start sharing information with them. The slow build in that sequence was terrific and it was nice to see Michael Raymond-James (of "Terriers") on the show, however briefly. But after Rick took them out, the look on Hershel's face wasn't gratitude or relief. It was horror. Rick was completely justified in what he did and why he did it. I think that Hershel has a lot of respect for Rick, however, he seemed to be really unnerved by just how easily Rick could kill when threatened.
The other thing to consider about Tony and Dave is that they were also traveling pretty light for two men crossing the country; which means that there could be another band of survivors out there who may be looking for some revenge if they find out that Rick murdered two of their people.
The majority of the episode seemed to cover ground already worn thin. I enjoyed the Dale and Shane confrontation, but we got a better version of that scene in the previous episode. And how many times are we going to get a conversation between Rick and Lori where he questions his leadership? I haven't been counting, but it seems to happen at least once every episode.
I enjoy Glenn and Maggie as a couple, but their scenes together in this episode didn't entirely ring true, especially when Glenn was going on and on about the importance of Sophia to the group. That wasn't two characters speaking to each other, those were just talking points going back and forth between actors who had to deliver a layer of exposition that we just didn't need. Also, some ambiguity between Glenn and Maggie would have been more effective. Their one scene together this week that really worked was when Rick saw them, but he couldn't hear what they were saying. Once we found out it was just Glenn being unable to say "I love you" back to Maggie, it just wasn't as interesting.
But in "Nebraska," the good parts of the episode far outweighed the bad. The pace of the story still needs to pick up and get moving, but with five episodes left in the season, the show doesn't have the time to keep dragging its feet.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.