So--wow. This was a big week, and one that's starting to show that the world of AMC's The Walking Dead is as much (or more) different from its comic book counterpart as the True Blood TV series is from the novels upon which it's based. And while fans who were a little concerned about the slow, thoughtful pace of last week's episode will be pleased to find quite a bit more action in episode 3, fans of the comics may be more than a little unhappy to see what's happened to their beloved canon. The first change (and the hardest to pin down) is that Andrea seems here to be developing a relationship with Daryl. While it's not entirely surprising that the TV series should downplay the romance/sexuality in her relationship with her sometime father figure, most fans of the comic have probably been a bit vexed to see her flirting with a character who didn't even exist in the comics (I noticed it as early as the season premiere, when he was helping her with the guns). I personally don't mind it being a new character but a white supremacist seems an odd fit. The second major departure from Robert Kirkman's comics is--well, we'll get to that in time. Suffice it to say, the episode served as a bit of a reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same--and that Shane (even in this brave new world where the actor is beloved and he's lasted longer than a single story) is still a dangerous and unpredictable variable. Like in the comics, Shane is a man whose moral compass has been altered completely by the zombie apocalypse in a way that neither the viewers, nor the rest of the survivors, are likely to be comfortable with. The episode opens with Shane and Otis alternately running from and killing off zombie FEMA workers in an abandoned high school (apparently Hurricane Katrina WASN'T the organization's worst-ever response to a crisis) while Rick and Lori continue to sit by Carl's bedside. There's something of a thoughtful exchange there, with Lori laying out for Rick the idea that whatever happens to Carl--whether it's death by walker or a world where he grows up to be a man with the emotional development of a ten-year-old and a waist-high pile of corpses in his past. is the world of The Walking Dead a place where it's safe for children? Regular readers of the comics know that both Carl and Sophia have been pretty major characters for a pretty substantial amount of time and that, relative to other horror franchises, it's pretty kid-friendly--but you certainly would think twice about that if, say, you were pregnant.
Besides the question of whether the world is even worth living--or raising kids--in, there was a lot of very defeatist talk this week. Maggie and Glenn, one of the couples who have become a staple of the comics, starts here in a big way, with a philosophical discussion that leaves little doubt that they're not in the best place emotionally while the scenes between Daryl and Maggie carry an "I don't know why I even bother" vibe through. Carl's recovery is inching along, giving his parents hope this week as he wakes, stirs and mutters about the deer he saw at the end of the season premiere. Rick clings to it as a sign that there's something good left in life for his son. A shallow argument? Maybe, but a spot of hope was called for in this fairly bleak episode and Glenn's attempt at prayer didn't really cut it. The moments between Daryl and Andrea came while they searched for the (surprisingly) still-missing Sophie. Daryl, who was lost in the woods at age 9, believes they'll find Sophia, even while Andrea--not exactly a fountain of everlasting enthusiasm this season, after her suicide attempt at the CDC--thinks it's a lost cause. Their discussion of glass half-full, glass half-empty is interrupted, though, by a zombie hanging from a tree. Apparently, rather than experience the sensation of turning, a bite victim had hanged himself while still lucid. With bits of his legs missing as a result of other walkers, he provided a gruesome tableau that fascinated Daryl (anyone surprised by that statement?) and made Andrea sick. "I don't know if I want to live, or if I have to, or if it's just habit," she tells him, and asks him to put the walker (is that really the right term for this one?) out of its misery. One wonders whether Lori's fears about kids in the world of The Walking Dead may be something the writers wanted to play with a bit this year, as both Sophie and Carl seem to be in more legitimate danger than I ever remember from the comics. It's an interesting stylistic choice, and it'll be fascinating to see how they pay it off.
At any rate, the big moment of the episode--and one with far-reaching implications for the rest of the season, I think--is when Shane returns from his pilgrimmage to the FEMA site with all the necessary medical supplies to save Carl. He's alone, and he says Otis willingly sacrificed himself to save Carl and sent Shane ahead--but a quick flashback shows that, in fact, Shane had played a direct role in Otis's death. With a pack of walkers on their heels and each down to their last bullet, Shane blasted Otis in the foot, took the supplies and ran like hell while leaving Otis to be pulled apart by zombies. A head-shaving later and Bernthal's Shane has really separated himself from his comic book counterpart, while Otis (a character who lasted several stories in Kirkman's version of the mythology) is gone in the blink of an eye and the Grimes family are reunited. the family dynamic here is a driving force for the story, and really makes one wonder whether it's unrealistic to ever see the events of The Walking Dead #48.