"The Walking Dead," now two episodes deep into its second season, is pulling very few punches. As of the season's second episode, "Bloodletting," Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) remains in critical condition following a hunting accident, poor Sophia (Madison Lintz) is still missing in action, and now one of the survivors' greatest assets — Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) — is caught in the jaws of a grave situation.
Bad news for our heroes, yes, but great news for us: so far, "The Walking Dead" is at the top of its game with this new season. Highlights from this week's episode past the jump!
» "Bloodletting" begins by rewinding the clock, supplying viewers with a scene that would have played out just minutes after the opening moments of the show's series premiere: Shane visits Lori at Carl's school, telling her about her husband Rick's nearly fatal injury. She explains the situation to Carl, the two of them fighting tears in a moment that perfectly book-ends the Grimes family's current struggle. It's not often that we get to go back to the days before the zombie apocalypse first began, so a look back is always welcome, even if this particular flashback wasn't exactly adrenaline heavy.
» When the episode kicks back to the present, enough time has passed since Carl's injury that we're already running with Rick, carrying his boy to the front steps of Hershel's farm. Finally, we get to meet some brand new characters, folks that comic book fans have been dying to see for some time now: Hershel himself, played by Scott Wilson, is a particularly welcome sight, though Pruitt Taylor Vince (who plays a heavier-set Otis than the one we meet in the comics) deserves plenty of props as well. Vince plays Otis with a great deal of regret, but an equal amount of motivation to set his actions right. We'll see if his good intentions pay off next week. More on that later…
» In other new character news, Lauren Cohan made a glorious entrance as Maggie Greene, one of Hershel's daughters and an eventual love interest for -- spoiler alert -- Glenn. Not much time spent establishing Glenn and Maggie's budding romance, but I can only imagine that the former pizza delivery boy fell head over heels after watching Maggie cleave a walker from on horseback, a move that easily earned the Zombie Kill of the Week award.
» The life-or-death drama wasn't contained to men versus zombies, of course. Carl is still battling for his life, now under the watchful eye of Hershel, who used to be a veterinarian in his previous life. Tip of the hat to Chandler Riggs who continues to bring it as Carl: not a lot to say in this episode, but a lot of pain to act out all the same. The young actor's expression of Carl's physical and emotional anguish is devastating to watch, and incredible to behold. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery, especially so we can see more of what Mr. Riggs is capable of.
» The episode ends with Shane and Otis trying to get a stash of medical supplies to help with Carl's surgery. All seems to be going well until the duo attracts the attention of a small army of walkers, leaving them trapped with their backs to the wall by episode's end. It's not looking good for Shane, who is already dead at this point in the comics, or Otis, who is still supposed to have some life in him. Could this be it for Shane? Is Otis due for early retirement? We'll find out in next week's episode, but for now, here's a tease from Jon Bernthal about Shane's murky future:
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