Episode Title: Pretty Much Dead Already
Original Airdate: 11-27-11
Tensions mount between the Group and Hershel when Glenn spills the beans about the Walkers in the barn. Shane wants to leave, fearing for the Group’s safety and feeling that Sophia is a lost cause, but Rick wants to convince Hershel to let them stay since Lori’s pregnant. Hershel agrees, but only if the Group can live by his “we don’t kill the infected” rule. Dale becomes even more “old-man-knows-best” annoying by having yet another talk with the stubborn Andrea, then taking the Group’s stock of guns to hide, only to be stopped by a very angry Shane, who just found out Lori is pregnant and knows the chances are good that the baby is his.
Hershel tests Rick’s loyalty by taking him to retrieve two Walkers stuck in the mud. When Shane sees Rick leading the Walkers back to the farm, it’s the last straw. Shane officially loses it, hands out the Group’s firearms, and breaks the lock on the barn door. The Group takes out a dozen plus Walkers, as Hershel and his people look on in agony. Then they hear one more low growl as a turned Sophia stumbles out into the daylight. Daryl keeps a distraught Carol from running to her former daughter, Lori holds back a crying a Carl, and Rick steps up to deliver the kill shot to put Walker Sophia down, leaving everyone on the farm with a sense of loss and heartbreak.
As far as mid-season finales go, this is definitely one of my favorites, second only to Season 4’s fall of the prison episode, and it’s mainly for the final ten minutes. Most of the episode teeters on the very familiar territory of Hershel wanting the Group gone, but Rick pleading no, and Carol insisting they find Sophia, with Andrea and Dale being obnoxious. Then Shane just can’t take it anymore and all hell breaks loose when he throws those barn doors open.
Shane is crazy. There is no denying the man is unstable and the end of his affair with Lori set him on very dark path that will not end well. However, by the end of this episode, I was on his side, no matter how briefly it will last. He may be crazy, but he’s right to put Hershel in his place when it comes to Walkers. The people on the farm have no clue what life is really like, so they see the Walkers and think that they’re just sick. Rick and Dale tiptoe around the issue out of desperation or politeness, but Shane doesn’t have the patience for either and has the nerve to destroy the fantasy that there may be a cure. The moment he opened the barn, every viewer was just happy to finally see some real action on the farm, even if it was at the whim of a dangerous psychopath.
I also appreciate this episode because it was not a dreadful cliffhanger. It wraps up the “lost Sophia” chapter, tragic though it may be, so there wasn’t another three months of wondering where that kid was. There is of course the element of “now what?,” as everyone lost something with the barn massacre, but it leaves a feeling of something new beginning, and not a lingering feeling of dragging out something overplayed even further. And since I hate genuine cliffhangers (I’m looking at you Season 3 mid-season finale), episodes like “Pretty Much Dead Already” are the best way to get me back for the next block of episodes, with action, emotion and a real sense of moving forward.