‘Sick,’ directed by Bill Gierhart, picks up exactly where ‘Seed’ left off, with our band of survivors devastated by Hershel’s bite and the current residents of the prison confused and pointing guns.
Rick and the gang’s immediate concern is with Hershel and they essentially walk right past the prisoners, despite the gun Tomas is pointing at them. What’s amazing is that prisoners let them do this. At any moment during the chaos of everyone trying to save Hershel, the prisoners could have tried to kill them. They didn’t. It’s true that Daryl was pointing a crossbow at them but if you’re going to kill a bunch of intruders the time to do it would be when they are fixated on their dying friend. This is important to how this episode unfolds.
Rick, rightfully so, understands that he needs to deal with the prisoners and cannot remain by Hershel’s side. More importantly, he cannot be there to kill Zombie Hershel, if it comes to that. Instead, he trusts Glenn with that task. You can see the wheels turning in Glenn’s head as Rick asks him to do this and it’s almost as if he’s going to say he can’t but then Rick says “Maggie will be there.” And that’s all Glenn needs to hear, so that he can say “I can do it.”
There is not a lot of true love and caring in this show. Everyone is so desperate and indeed, Maggie and Glenn started out as desperate lovers but their relationship has grown into something more and it’s beautiful to see.
Maggie, without even speaking, will break your heart this episode. Lauren Cohan did nothing for me on The Vampire Diaries (don’t judge, people!), but here she brings so many layers. She is captivating as Maggie. Everything about her in this episode evokes what this show is about – it’s not zombies, it’s the heart-wrenching tragedy of losing everyone you love to disease and having nowhere to turn. It’s also about knowing, in the back of your head, that you will one day be lost to the same disease.
This is echoed by Daryl, who gives the out of touch prisoners (and the audience) a recap of how the disease spreads. No matter what, they are all infected and as Daryl says “It will happen to us all.” Although that line is delivered unceremoniously, no doubt the idea that one day all of our heroes will become mindless murderous zombies weighs heavy on their minds.
It is very possible that some of our heroes have already become mindless murderers who are out only for themselves. Despite the fact that the prisoners have been there longer, Rick has no problem growling to them that they need to get out. He has adopted the belief that only he and his group are fit to inhabit the earth. He doesn’t bother to suggest a compromise, he immediately threatens and steamrolls the prisoners to find their own cell block. When Tomas rightly calls them what they are, intruders, Rick almost immediately decides the prisoners, who were there first, must die.
In the last episode it seemed that Rick’s character had grown. But all he has done is shift gears from a self-righteous ‘moral’ man to a self-righteous amoral man. Rick has never been able to understand that being self-righteous does not make you right. It just makes you an ass.
Shane understood that.
No doubt Rick’s subtext is that these are criminals and he must protect his noble band of do-gooders. What the former policeman fails to realize is that the apocalypse has equalized everyone. There are no criminals. There are no good guys. Everyone is out to protect their own and the less enemies you make along the way the better. The more people that see you and yours as ‘theirs,’ the better chance you have to survive.
Rick does struggle with this. He has not gone on complete apathetic autopilot. But he chooses the wrong person for counsel, his wife, Lori. The Lady Macbeth of our story, tells her husband, “Not for one second do I think there’s malice in your heart” That’s where she is very very wrong, Lori. Desperation breeds malice and Rick’s heart is infested with it. He may have been right to kill Shane but even remotely considering murdering people who have not threatened you is malicious. The concept that only Your People are good and all others are bad is dangerous. And it is this belief and the resulting behavior that racheted (macheted?) up the situation into something it did not need to be. After being mistreated by a group of intruders, the prisoners aren’t going to play nice. Potential allies have become clear enemies.
Rick’s new worldview that only he and his friends are the only humans worth saving and that everyone else is as expendable as a zombie is not going to do this group any favors. Imagine if Hershel held this view and killed them all when they got to the farm. At some point, will Rick’s distrust of outsiders lead to him distrusting and dehumanizing members of his own group? How long will it be before he callously throws one of them to the walkers?
Exploring Rick’s descent into darkness and the ultimate danger that descent will bring to the group is intense, harrowing and fascinating to watch.