Episode Title: Bloodletting
Original Airdate: 10-23-11
The episode opens with a flashback of the day Rick was initially shot. Shane meets Lori outside of Carl’s school to deliver the news and watches from afar as Lori tells Carl. Cut to present day, Rick runs through a field struggling to carry his son who was just accidentally shot in the woods. Trailing are Shane and the shooter, Otis. Rick comes upon a serene farm and calls for Hershel, as directed by Otis. Hershel examines Carl and informs Rick and Shane that the bullet shattered and he has to remove all six pieces to save Carl. In order to be successful, Hershel needs a long list of medical equipment. Shane and Otis, also a former EMT, volunteer to get everything from a nearby abandoned FEMA station.
Meanwhile, Rick stays with Carl, donating his own blood to help save his son. Maggie, Hershel’s oldest daughter, finds Lori and brings her back to the farm on horseback, providing directions for the rest to find them from the highway. At the RV, a few members of the group stay, hoping Sophia will return, while others head to the farm, effectively splitting everyone up for the moment. The episode ends when Shane and Otis, having successfully acquired all the equipment during a clever Walker distraction using police flares, are trapped and surrounded by hundreds of the undead once the flares go out.
This episode introduces six new characters, the main of which, for now, is Hershel. He is an older gentleman who runs a farm that’s been in his family for over 150 years. We also find out, much to Lori and Rick’s dismay, that he is a veterinarian, not a “people doctor,” but they don’t exactly have much choice in who gets to save their son. However, the most interesting thing about Hershel is his unwavering belief that the Walkers can be cured, and it’s just a matter of time. This belief will have huge repercussions as the season continues.
“Bloodletting” was a great followup to the cliffhanger of the Season 2 premiere. Aside from finally getting some new blood, the suspense is palpable. As Carl’s life hangs in the balance and Sophia is still missing, the group truly comes to a crossroads when they must split. Carol is determined not to the leave the highway, as any sane mother would be, in case Sophia does make it back, but the notion of “We can’t stay here forever” is weighing heavily on everybody else. Then it ends on another intense cliffhanger with Shane and Otis, but doesn’t feel like the plot is simply being stretched out to cover more episodes. Not now anyway.
Finally, as a personal sidenote, this episode contains one of the most chilling images I’ve seen on the series. As T-Dog searches an abandoned car for antibiotics, he glimpses in the back to see a toddler’s carseat soaked in dried blood. Since I had a toddler during the premiere of this episode, and have another one during this repeat viewing, it’s something that continues to haunt me.