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'The Walking Dead' midseason premiere shows the characters finding their focus

'The Walking Dead' moved slowly at the beginning of season 2, but the action seems to be heating up

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Showing how easily he slips into the role, Rick deals with Glenn’s confession concerning knowledge of Lori’s pregnancy and her attempt to terminate it by simply saying, “You did what you thought was right. It just so happens it wasn’t.”

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With that, the episode slowly turns its attention to Rick, who has to deal with the burden of his inability to save Sophia and the a growing concern that his inefficacy as a leader has resulted in the unpleasant situation at hand. Perhaps Rick’s feelings are rooted in his conflict with Shane, or the loss of Sophia, but most likely, Rick’s doubt may come from the fact that whatever course of action he takes (alone or otherwise) is immediately followed up with someone telling him he’s made the wrong decision.

Case in point: after learning that Hershel has left the farm to get plowed at the local bar, Rick’s first instinct is to retrieve him. Unfortunately, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) sees this as another opportunity for Rick to die, and immediately calls his decision making skills into question – citing Carl’s acceptance of Rick’s judgment to shoot Sophia as evidence. Apparently, a young boy being realistic is cause for more concern than recovering the only person with medical experience, but that seems to be Lori’s role, as of late; hopefully it will change now that she’s found herself in a potentially deadly situation.

It seems like yet another unnecessary spousal spat, but it actually works to give more weight to Rick’s split-second decision at the end of the episode; mainly providing evidence that, more often than not, Rick’s instincts are right on the money.

Speaking of which, after Hershel finally turns his back on a nasty case of cirrhosis, he, Rick and Glenn are introduced to a couple of strangers. These men, Dave (Michael Raymond-James, Terriers, True Blood) and his associate Tony, bring with them the requisite sense of foreboding and menace often associated with strangers in such post-apocalyptic settings. Naturally, as Dave’s seemingly casual talk shifts to requests that he and his publicly urinating friend join the trio at wherever it is they call home, the menace suddenly comes from both sides of the discussion, and begins to feel rather pressing.

Although they make no attempt at overt aggression, Rick sniffs them out immediately; he knows there is something off about these two. The scene plays out as one of the most tense to ever be shown by The Walking Dead, as the threat comes from a source other than the titular zombies, and because the writing in everyone’s dialogue – especially that of Rick and Dave – comes with an implication of pending violence. Once it does erupt, the violence is quick and brutal, and shows that Rick (and the show as a whole) is ready to spring into action.

This encounter becomes a portent of conflict to come, and may finally put The Walking Dead where it needs to be: in a world that is rife with danger, which doesn’t necessarily come from the threat of the undead.

Largely because of the ending, ‘Nebraska’ comes off as a positive sign for the remaining episodes of season 2. More importantly, the episode is certainly suggesting that the waiting game is over, and the time for action is now.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

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