After three weeks of strong episodes, along comes the relatively dawdling "Cherokee Rose". I suppose the winning streak had to end sometime, but at least this episode wasn't bad, it just suffers in comparison to what's preceded it. Now the immediate danger of Carl (Chandler Riggs) dying has passed, this was an hour where the characters took stock of their situation. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) tried to persuade Hershel (Scott Wilson) to let his people stay on his idyllic, zombie-free farm; Shane (Jon Bernthal) attempted to unburden his guilt over killing Otis to Andrea (Laurie Holden), by justifying such callous thinking as a means to survive; and Daryl (Norman Reedus) even took some time to give Carol (Melissa McBride) a morale-boost over her missing daughter.
The biggest moment of the episode was a gleefully disgusting sequence where the gang had to retrieve a stranded zombie from the bottom of a well, before it contaminates the water supply (if it hasn't already). It was ultimately an excuse for the makeup department to have some fun creating an obese, water-bloated zombie, but it was certainly a memorable moment for the show—especially when Glenn (Steven Yeun) was dangled into the well as love bait to snare the walker, before the pitiable lump was accidentally torn asunder and spilled its guts down the well.
Speaking of Glen, he had a day of extremes: one minute he's zombie-bait, the next he's having sex with sassy Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in an abandoned pharmacy. It was a very unexpected path for the story to take, but one that makes sense because both are lonely and needed some stress relief. It's just more usual that a character like Glenn would spend half a season being tongue-tied around a character like Maggie, who would most likely let him down gently eventually. By subverting our expectations entirely, it was actually a rather amusing and sweet moment when Maggie agreed to a quickie. After the near-death horror of that well, he definitely deserved it.
The main storyline this season continues to be the search for young Sophia, which is a rather thin idea to be working with, but I suppose it's also a credible problem for these characters to solve. (I just hope Sophia has a really good explanation for why she's been lost this long.)
And anyone who thought Dr Jenner whispered to Rick about his wife's pregnancy in season 1's finale, may have to rethink their prediction. Now that Lori's used a pregnancy test kit and knows she's with child (most likely Shane's), I'm not convinced it'll make good drama to have Rick feign surprise when he's told the news. Is Lori going to keep her pregnancy a secret and seek an abortion, given her recent musings on the quality of life the world now provides children? Is a baby too much of a liability nowadays? Is she going to try and convince Shane that he's not the father, which he surely must be? And how long will this pregnancy storyline last exactly? I haven't kept meticulous track, but it can't have been more than two weeks since Rick left that zombie-infested hospital in the pilot. The Walking Dead is evidently in no rush to tell its story, so without a jump forward in time at some point, Sarah Wayne Callies may be wearing a fake-bump until season 7 at the very least.
Overall, "Cherokee Rose" was a comedown for the season, but that's something a show of this nature requires from time to time. It just needs to use these breathing spaces in efficient ways, and I thought this episode gave us some interesting character beats (like Shane and Andrea's heartfelt chat, Hershel's unexpected insistence that Rick's party move on soon, and the Glenn/Maggie hookup). Certainly compared to season 1, where you'd be tearing your hair out during similar episodes, this was a far more effective hour of respite. I just hope season 2 will now continue with a greater sense of purpose, because since the premiere the characters have effectively been wandering down some random alleys.
written by Evan Reilly / directed by Billy Gierhart / 6 November 2011 / AMC