This is a spoiler-heavy zone. You have been warned.
Magus: After last week's somewhat disappointing season opener, "Sick" picks up where "Seed" left off with Rick having chopped off a portion of Hershel's leg followed by the discovery of inmates still alive in the prison cafeteria. This pulls the show's attention back to the real threat following the walker apocalypse, human beings. Sure, the walkers are a threat to survival, but they don't plot or betray like humans can. The prisoners give Rick and the survivors their first set of truly hard decisions to make this season and unlike during the second, resolution comes quickly.
There are the naive power plays on the parts of the prisons that reflect their own ignorance to the severity of their situation. At first Rick and the group wants to kick them out but an agreement is eventually reached and the prison and its supplies are to be split. It's an arrangement that doesn't last long as the prisoner leader decides that he's going to try and take out Rick. It's a decision that doesn't end well for him or another of his fellow inmates. With their number reduced, the remaining two prisoners strike a new deal and are given a cell block of their own.
The other story of this episode could be a survival horror medical drama as the group works to save Hershel's life as no one is sure if he'll survive losing blood, his leg, and the walker bite. It's touch and go but he eventually makes it through. However, during his downtime,which thankfully is paced nowhere near as painfully as Carl's gunshot wound and recovery, the survivors are portrayed as possessing a great deal of medical knowledge, far more than I think Hershel would have been able to purvey in so short a time. Also during this downtime, the practical questions of what they would have to do without Hershel and his medical knowledge, especially with Lori and her pregnancy.
It turns out that Carol has become a sort of medic and prepares herself for the possibility of having to perform a C-Section on Lori to deliver the baby without Hershel. In a stroke of brilliance, she comes up with the idea to practice technique on the body of a female walker to get better acquainted with the anatomy. It's an interesting solution to a very practical problem. During Carol's sequence with the walker, we see that someone else is watching the survivors from the other side of the fence.
Some nice trimming to this episode is Carl proving himself to be worth more than just walker bait as he manages to find the infirmary and bring back medical supplies that ultimately save Hershel's life. Of course Lori is there to chastise him for his recklessness. Lori gets hers in the end as she and Rick have a private one on one where she says things that makes me believe she's been reading the memes about her on the internet. Rick leaves her with some confusing lines, not clarifying just where their marriage stands.
This episode moved in a much better direction than the opening and I'm happy with how they're stepping up the pace. I was worried Hershel's leg was going to become this season's Sophia, eating up time that could be better spent with the characters. Rick got some time to shine as a strong leader by proving he'll do what it takes to keep the group alive and safe. This episode was much stronger for the characters and hopefully the show will keep moving in this direction.
"Sick" was pretty action-laden episode (as Magus described above), and because of that there's only so much I'm able to delve into.
What we do need to talk about for a few moments, however, is Rick's continued slide into dictator mode. That's probably not the best term to use for it since "dictator" comes along with such negative connotations, but the forceful decisiveness is exactly what this group of survivors needs right now. And, at least for the moment, the others seem content with deferring to his judgement. After the experience on the farm where he tried to let others have a say, one can hardly blame him for wanting to take control when his decisions led to far better results than the others' had.
His ability to make a hard choice definitively finally bled into his marriage with Lori, which at this point, seems all but officially over. If something is to happen to Carl, you gotta wonder if there'd be any way to bring Rick back from the brink. It's the right mode for him to be in in order to survive while out among the walkers, but I fear it'll be a very lonely place for him to stay in.
Aside from Rick's further journeys into isolation, I also loved the little off-camera adventure Carl had to acquire some medical supplies elsewhere in the prison on his own. Last year, that jaunt of his probably would've eaten up about a third of an episode while just barely avoiding getting bitten at the end, so it's nice to see the show learning where to focus our attention on the plotlines that are actually interesting.
Since I was behind this time, I've already seen episode number three on the season at this writing and, man... ya'll are in for a treat. Be sure to hit us up later this week; it was my favorite episode of the series in a very long time, so there'll be plenty of great discussion to go around.
Previous roundtables for The Walking Dead season 3:
Week 1 - "Seed"