By Harry Markov
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“Nebraska” made me question why in the world I continue to invest my time in this series, but “Triggerfinger” restored my hope in The Walking Dead franchise. “Triggerfinger” took me by the throat and didn’t let me go. Despite the sloppy stage-setting in “Nebraska”, the writers of “Triggerfinger” added substance to the drama and some necessary danger. Is this the second chance The Walking Dead needed to recapture its audience interest? We won’t know until the 10th episode, “18 Miles Out”.
What made this episode stand out from the mediocre melodrama The Walking Dead presented every Sunday for a whole season? I will explain, but before we venture on, you do know that I will spoil someone’s fun, right? Spoilers, darlings, abound.
I’d like to discuss Lori at length, because there is something quite wrong with how women are portrayed as survivors in this show. Women in The Walking Dead universe do not fare well when left to their own devices and that’s a shame. While the men deal with the dead coming to life as you would expect from action stars, the women can’t get their shit together.
As you might remember, before Andrea turned into a gunslinger, she first demonstrated signs of suicidal tendencies within the Atlanta group. She owes her life to Dale, who handed her the screwdriver in the RV. Even after she learned how to shoot, her efforts were more detrimental than not, as she almost killed Daryl. Carol embodies physical helplessness, and relies on Daryl and Shane to be somewhat functional. I’m also sure that, if it were Carl instead of Sophia who got lost in the woods, he’d find his way back in one piece. Probably, he’d also drag in a severed zombie head as a trophy, ’cause he is a man.
It’s true that Sophia is a secondary character compared to Carl, but I believe her gender had a thing or two to do with her early death. [Geek Alert!] In the comics, Sophia is still alive and well. She has outlived many characters, including Carol, who committed suicide. But in the show, even the spunky Maggie fears and obeys Hershel. She almost would have died if it weren’t for Glenn. I find it very bizarre that one of the toughest women in the comics falls into a situation in the show where one of the all-time meekest male characters rescues her.
This brings me to Lori and her criminally dumb traffic accident.* She’s unconscious and it’s only a matter of time before a zombie takes a bite. I half-expected for her to either die or be saved, because such is the pattern The Walking Dead has established. Instead, she saves herself, which I honestly rooted for.
The scene itself is a thing of beauty. The moist sounds of flesh scraping on glass; the pops as the glass gives way to the walker’s tenacity; the walker’s disregard to the damage it’s doing to itself; all emphasise on how real the danger of the walking dead is. There is no safety from death. The most you can do is improvise. Postpone the imminent death, but never avoid it altogether. I’m happy to see The Walking Dead remind its audience of this. Lori does a spectacular job of disposing two walkers, while being disoriented, bruised and probably concussed.
What the episode shines with, though, is using the rapidly changing environment to add real momentum to all the small, slow-paced changes in the inter-character dynamics at the farm. I enjoyed that Rick, Glenn and Hershel entered into an altercation with the search party of the guys Rick killed. The gun fight draws the attention of the zombies. Now Rick, Glenn and Hershel have to not only outgun the other survivors, but avoid the walking dead.
These scenes prove that, even when up against a common enemy such as the dead, the core of many societies’ ‘us vs. them’ mentality thrives. In this context, the ‘us vs. them’ conflict tests the humanity of Rick and his band. Rick doesn’t hesitate to kill the two other survivors, which is very strong evidence that humans discard their compassion to strangers easily in these situations. This manifests in the readiness of the rival band to leave one of their own behind. This also manifests when Rick, Glenn and Hershel quarrel about whether they should save or kill the remaining wounded man. After the hasty rescue, those at the farm discuss what to do with the wounded man, Dennis. Let me tell you – neither alternative speaks highly about the survivors as altruists.
Except for finally giving the survivors a different problem to be worried about, Dennis’ presence furthers the divide within the group. Shane and Andrea form a coalition of their own as their inner dissatisfaction grows. Dale promotes the idea that Shane killed Otis to Lori. Lori uses every single action Shane has done from the start of the season to portray him as a sick-in-the-head bastard who needs to be gotten rid of. You can sense how the “RHSC”** will split into Team Rick and Team Shane, but is this the best time to split?
Unity is key to surviving the walkers and you can see how bonds deliciously devolve. Daryl, the RHSC’s toughest player, distances himself from the group, verbally abuses Carol and, step by step, restricts his efforts concerning the others. Maggie and Glenn’s relationship has hit a very tough spot, with Glenn explaining his selfish reactions out on runs in relation to his feelings for Maggie. Maggie herself feels disillusioned with her father. Now that the pregnancy is also out in the open, trust becomes a major issue all round.
Can the survivors get their act together after so many bombs have gone off on a micro level? I don’t know, but I’m very interested to see whether the members of the RHSC will find it within themselves to function as a unit, once the shit hits the fan. And the shit will hit the fan. I can’t confirm it, but given foreshadowing done in the town, zombies will be a major problem for all. I just hope “18 Miles Out” delivers.
* If you pay attention, later in the episode, Rick’s response to Lori’s traffic accident is: “An accident? Now?” The amount of disbelief in his voice skyrockets through the roof.
** The Rick and Hershel Survival Co-op, sillies!