The best episodes of The Walking Dead have been the ones that focus not on the zombies but rather on the people. This is because its greatest strength as a television show is making it about the people who are still living instead of their undead counterparts. There are feelings to be hurt, alliances to be formed and backs to be stabbed, all of this, of course being possible because drama is manufactured between living beings. This is why it is funny that the latest episode of the show focuses on these aspects but for the first time really falters in its execution.
Instead of picking up where the season premier left off, the show kicks off with a flashback to before the zombie apocalypse, where Lori finds out that Rick has been shot. Before Lori finds out viewers get a glimpse into her frame of mind and the state of Lori and Rick’s marriage, but instead of offering an insight into their relationship it further clouds the already tense waters between Lori, Rick, and Shane. It also fails to have an emotional resonance between what is happening in the present, as Rick carries his son to a nearby farmhouse seeking medical aid.
With the group split in two, the episode bounces between both factions. In the past this has been done with relative ease, with both sides getting some solid development time. This episode tries to play off the fact that both groups are worrying about children but only Rick’s side carries any weight because viewers know the gravity of Carl’s situation. Every moment spent on the other group, felt like a moment wasted to actually develop Rick into a multifaceted character. Lost in all the issues surrounding the children are Dale and T-Dog; neither character is given much screen time and what screen time they have is wasted on trying to lay the ground work for some racial tension later.
Not all was off with this episode though as the show finally introduces some new characters into the mix and fans of the comic series must have been smiling at a certain line dropped by newly met Herchel (Scott Wilson) foreshadowing future events that are soon to come. There is also one very fun zombie kill, by Daryl and some tense zombie moments at the end of the episode involving Shane.
Character driven episodes like this generally have two purposes, the first obviously being to further develop the characters and the second to set up some future action. This episode faltered on its first purpose but maybe the eventual payoffs will be well worth it. Being as this episode was called Bloodletting maybe this was just a therapeutic expunging of some bad blood and not an indication of things to come.
3* out of 5