A good title for tonight's installment of THE WALKING DEAD would have been "Shit Happens." The creators of the series chose, instead, one that warned their terminally mainstream audience of what was to come: "Sick." Though one fellow was injured in "Sick," no one was actually sick. Rather, the sickness in question had to do with the decision, by the creators, to import, into their mainstream tale, some of the nastiness routinely found in the comics they're allegedly adapting.
It was a welcome addition. The world of TWD should be a dark, brutal, unforgiving one, and the television version, chasing that middle-American-milquetoast audience, has been marked by a distinct lack of ugliness for far too long. Our hero Rick, in particular, seems to have regrown the testicular tissue arbitrarily razored away from him by the abysmal writing of season 2. Tonight, he had some steel in his spine when he dealt with the antics of a way-over-the-top-of-the-top villain briefly thrown his way. In this case, it was a prison inmate overly fond of pointing guns in people's faces at the least provocation, even when they had weapons trained on him. It's the sort of thing bad filmmakers have, in recent years, mistaken for an intimidating posture, the sort of thing that, in the real world, would pretty much guarantee a continuing lifespan of about 30 more seconds. This clown lasted more than 30 seconds, but, with Iron Rick on the job, not much more than as many minutes--Rick even fed the pistol-waving prick's sissy-boy sidekick to a crowd of zombies after the hard-charging henchman fled right into their midst.
Some good shit. Rick, it should be said, seemed a little more upset than he should have been about this, but that would be a small complaint, indeed, if it had been the only crack in the episode.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode cracked open and unleashed some shit that was significantly less than good, and significantly closer to the object of the metaphor.
Last week, "Seed" planted some little hope that TWD was about to become something like TWD, rather than wasting its time as the world's most expensive, worst written daytime soap at night. This week, the show mostly collapsed right back into the very bad habits of season 2. In the closing moments of "Seed," a zombie chomped a chunk from Hershel's leg, and Rick, in an effort to short-circuit the zombie infection, grabbed an axe and chopped off the afflicted limb. Hershel spent "Sick" in bed, hovering between life and death as a bad Lifetime soap melodrama played out around him. Lots of time spent on long faces and pointless, redundant, cliché-ridden speeches about the old boy's fate.
Very, very bad shit.
Idiot Plot Syndrome--one of the absolute worst elements of TWD season 2--was back in full force, as well. With Hershel having suffered this horrible injury, any viewer with more than a few functioning brain-cells could be forgiven for thinking the group's immediate concern would be toward locating the prison's infirmary and acquiring things like bandages, antibiotics, painkillers--the things the stricken vet needs so he doesn't die. Those were more brain-cells than the writers employed when assembling "Sick," though, because while the characters speak of the critical need to find the infirmary, they don't do anything toward that end. They've just encountered a group of men who had been incarcerated in the prison, and who would presumably know exactly where to go, but our heroes don't even ask them about it. They choose, instead, to spend their time helping clear a new cell-block, so these fellows can have a place to sleep--an adventure in zombie-killing that could just as easily have been written as necessary to get to the infirmary. It's left to young Carl to slip off on his own--off camera--and find the supplies they need. For his troubles, he's publicly shat upon by his wretched mother, whose own contribution to Hershel's health, up to that point, had amounted to hovering over him and looking Very Concerned (perhaps realizing how this looked, the writers added in, as an apparent afterthought, a moment wherein Hershel stopped breathing, and Lori resuscitated him).
And that's the shit that happened with "Sick"--after a promising start to the season, an ep that, overall, would be best sent to a waste-treatment facility.
 It would be virtually impossible to overstate the idiocy of this complete lack of concern for finding the infirmary. The group wasted half of season 2 in the search for a red-shirt non-entity of absolutely no consequence, whereas Hershel, being a medical professional who has shown wizard-like powers in both the healing of the injured and of the conjuring of ammunition, is one of their most important human assets, yet not even his own daughters make any effort to find the infirmary nor demand any action from anyone else to that end. They just stand around with long faces, reciting the clichés of the Lifetime soap melodrama they're playing out. Maggie, rather than doing anything to help her father live, tells him it's all right for him to die.
UPDATE (23 Oct., 2012) - BMF125, a poster on the IMDb's "Walking Dead" board, reminds me of a massive continuity error I meant to mention but forgot when doing my write-up. In "Seed," the group prowled through a corridor that was absolutely crawling with zombies, and had to duck into the cafeteria with a whole horde of them on their trail. It was difficult to hold the doors closed from all the creatures outside. As "Sick" begins, they open that door seconds later, story-time, and there's only one zombie there. Then, they drag Hershel out into the corridor and back to the section of the prison they'd already secured, again failing to run into the zombie horde. They leave the door between the allegedly zombie-infested section and the secured section open so the prisoners they found in the cafeteria can follow. Add a vanishing zombie horde to TWD's many, many problems.
[cross-posted to my comics blog]