'Walking Dead' Recap: Down at the Department of Public Works - Rolling Stone
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‘Walking Dead’ Recap: Down at the Department of Public Works

Exciting new killing strategies are developed and tested

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Shane Walsh and Rick Grimes stare down a zombie on 'Walking Dead.'

Gene Page/AMC

Where we left off: Sheriff Rick brought Randall back to the farm and Shane and Andrea fear an upcoming survivor-on-survivor war. Beth is still in shock. Lori has gone totally Lady Macbeth and is about to start lurching around, crying “Out, out, damn Shane!” The word is out that Lori is preggers and let’s hope she doesn’t continue her path towards being Lady Macboo, who would smash a baby’s brains against the floor. Speaking of brains: Mmmm, brains.

Where we pick up: It’s daylight and there is a school bus and there are lots of zombies. Is this a flashback to Shane’s escapades at Zombie High when he killed Otis? But that happened at night! OH WAIT. Rick’s there too, struggling to defend himself from a nasty zombie. And there’s Randall, who looks like he’s a regular armless and legless Owen Meany scrabbling across the asphalt towards a knife. Shane barricades himself in the school bus. Zug?

Credits! Do you think Glen Mazzara likes to write poems where he rhymes his name with Ben Gazzara? That’s what I do every week.

Here we are on a lone, desolate road. Shane and his good buddy Rick are going on a road trip! With a gun! And with a tied-up Randall in the trunk. Rick stops the car and gets out but Shane wants to know why they’re stopping. The plan was to go further away – to 18 miles out (titular line alert!). Rick needs to take this moment to have a serious real-talk with Shane. He confronts Shane about what really happened with Otis (yawn, we all know what happened to Otis!) and Shane finally tells the truth. He shot Otis in the leg because only one of them was going to make it out, and Shane needed to survive to guarantee Carl the Kid’s survival. Rick finally lays it all down and tells Shane to stop being such a dangerous asshole. “That’s my wife and my son and my unborn child and I will stay alive to keep them alive. You don’t love her. You accept everything I’ve said right here right now and we move forward with that understanding.” Oh, Halleloo. Let us put all this behind us and move forward with the story! After all, Sheriff Rick tells us that it’s been a full week since the Randall incident, which is the fastest passage of time this show has ever given us.

Rick and Shane check Randall’s bindings and get back in the car. Rick muses that they need to stop shooting lone walkers because gunshots make too much noise and they’re going to run out of ammo. They should use their knives when they can. (YES! THIS IS A VERY SMART DECISION!) He continues, sharing his hopes that the winter will kill or at least slow the zombies, and that it’s time for them to think about finding fuel and dry goods to survive the cold. This is all very wise and prudent zombpocalypse planning and I could not be happier that they’re actually dealing with long-term survival issues. They drive on, and Shane spots a lone walker in a sun-dappled meadow. He doesn’t say anything and they continue in silence.

Back at the farm, Lori and Maggie prepare lunch for Beth. Maggie is upset that Glenn is being a pussy ever since he froze during the saloon shoot-out. Lori says some nonsense about how men have to do certain things and they will blame their women for whatever they do and whatever they don’t. She suggests that Maggie tell him to pull himself together – but don’t say man up! (Or balls out.) Lori brings lunch up to Beth, who doesn’t want to eat and is furious that Lori is pregnant and will bring a baby into this terrible world.

The odometer reads 18.7 miles out (almost titular line alert!) so Rick and Shane look for a place to dump poor ol’ Randall. They spot the Merit Country Department of Public Works and decide they can leave the boy there and also scavenge some supplies. There’s a lone walker in a guard uniform and Rick tells Shane not to shoot. Rick slices his hand open with his knife and the blood lures the zombie over so he can plunge his knife right into its brain. Good one! A second guard zombie lurches over and this one’s Shane’s turn. This Department of Public Works is a mess. There’s trash everywhere and an abandoned school bus (oooooh) and burnt skeletons. Rick gets fuel from a truck while Shane examines the guard zombies. Oddly enough, those corpses don’t appear to have any bite marks. Rick guesses that they must have been scratched. (Hmmmmmmmmmmm.)

The men remove Randall’s hood and he instantly starts pleading with them. He insists that he was just with the Bad Guys because he was all alone. He lost his mom! And he went to school with Maggie! Rick freaks out. “DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL WITH MAGGIE? ANSWER THE QUESTION!” Shane realizes that Randall knows where the farm is. Randall swears that he would never do anything to hurt Maggie or any of the other Still Alives. Shane pulls his weapon but Rick won’t let him shoot. Shane is incensed – Randall shot at them! He ran with men who tried to kill them! And Rick wants to bring him back to the farm where Lori and Carl live? BAD IDEA JEANS? But Rick needs a night to think this over.

Rick’s hesitancy is too much for Shane. All that tension about Lori finally explodes and Shane and Rick get into it. Shane shouts that the only right choice to make is the choice that keeps them all alive. Rick counters that there are no rules anymore. And Shane responds that he doesn’t think Rick can keep the Still Alives safe. This comment is tantamount to calling Marty McFly a chicken and Rick flies into a rage, attacking Shane. While the men pummel each other, Randall humps towards the knife like an inchworm. (Oh. He has arms and legs. They’re just tied together with duct tape. My bad.)

Shane and Rick are beating other to death, or at least to the pain. Randall continues to inchworm his way towards the knife. Shane snags a gun from the truck and Rick tackles him to the ground. It sounds like Rick breaks Shane’s face. They keep on beating the shit out of each other and Shane uses a wrench as a weapon. Finally, Shane throws a piece of metal into a window of the department of public works. Shane stumbles backward, covered in blood. His reflection in the broken glass looks exactly like a zombie. Except, holy shit, there is an actual zombie in there. Rick uses his knife skills to take that one out. But now there are SO MANY ZOMBIES. They smell blood and they’re incensed. And so, so very hungry for braaaaaaains.

Let’s take a break for some human drama! Lori checks in on Beth to make sure she’s eating, but Beth is whimpering and snuffling and doesn’t want to go on living. Lori brings her plate to the kitchen and realizes the knife is missing. She runs back upstairs and demands that Beth hand it over. Lori runs for Andrea to go find Maggie.  Maggie storms into Beth’s room and tells her that she can’t kill herself. Beth and Maggie scream and yell at each other while Lori and Andrea eavesdrop in the kitchen.

Andrea, suddenly the voice of reason, notes that they could have handled this suicide situation better. Lori is pissed that Andrea is always on guard duty, working on her tan, while Lori and Carol cook and clean and do a woman’s work. Andrea is furious because she is defending their camp and Lori just wants her to wash dishes and fold laundry. Andrea yells that Lori takes everything for granted. Lori is like, what? My husband is out there and my son got shot! And Andrea responds that Rick came back and Carl recovered and now Lori is pregnant and being all high and mighty and laying down rules for everybody except for herself. Finally, Andrea lets loose on Lori. “Go talk to her, Lori,” she snaps. “Go tell her she’ll get a husband, and a son, and a baby, and a BOYFRIEND, she just has to look at the bright side.” Andrea says BOYFRIEND in such a deliberate way that it suddenly becomes clear that Andrea’s anger is because she wants a BOYFRIEND. Andrea is so sexually frustrated! I don’t care for either one of these women, but suddenly I feel the slightest tinge of almost caring for Andrea.

Upstairs, Maggie tries to shame Beth into staying alive because her ma would have been ashamed to raise such a coward. But Beth is distraught. And we finally find out that she was dating Jimmy for only three months before the zombpocalypse and now it’s like they’re married. (Oh, so she does have a BOYFRIEND.) Beth wails that they can’t avoid death and they should just kill themselves now, at the same time, because eventually they’ll be all alone and the zombies will come and gut them. Beth wants to die, tonight, in this bed, with Maggie beside her. (WHOA.) Beth begs for Maggie to join her suicide pact. She even says please. (Please is what convinced the Dread Pirate Roberts to spare Wesley’s life. It is a powerful word.)

Over yonder at 18.7 miles out, there is a giant throng of zombies attacking the humans. Randall manages to cut his legs free but his hands are still bound so he stomps a hungry lady zombie in the head. Shane manages to barricade himself in the school bus, where he slices open his hand and wipes the blood on the door. As a zombie licks the blood like a deer at a salt lick, he stabs it with his knife. Rick catches up with Randall, who begs to be let go. Randall says they should just go and leave Shane in the bus because, after all, Shane just tried to bash in Rick’s head with a wrench. Rich insists they’re going to save Shane. So Randall asks for a gun so he can help and prove himself worthy. Rick drags Randall away. And then he LEAVES SHANE IN THE SCHOOLBUS.

Let’s go back to the farmhouse. Andrea convinces Maggie to go get some air and says she’ll look after Beth. But Andrea opens the door and starts to leave. She tells Beth that the pain doesn’t go away, but you just make room for it. After all, Andrea had her own suicide crisis and Dale took her gun away, stealing her choice. Andrea wants to give Beth that choice so that Beth can make her own decisions.

When Maggie returns to check on Beth, she finds her locked in the bathroom. Oh fuck! Lori takes a poker and uses it as crowbar to break into the bathroom. Beth is covered in blood and she sliced her wrist but now she is sorry. Beth has made her choice! She wants to live! Maggie is furious that Andrea left Beth alone but Andrea is elated that Beth made the right choice. Andrea’s smugface says “I tough loved her and it worked! SHE CHOSE LIFE.” But Maggie is enraged and tells Andrea never to set foot in this house again.

And now let’s go back to the zombies. (Yay, zombies!) Rick tells Randall to stay put as he stares at the bus and the horde of zombies. Shane is screwed. He wipes more blood on the door and stabs another zombie in the head. Shane is distraught and knows this is the end – until Rick and Randall pull a total bad-ass move, speeding by the zombies and shooting them so Shane can escape out of the back door and jump into the moving car. Randall is all HELL YEAH DID YOU SEE THAT WE WERE AWESOME? Admittedly, it is really really awesome.

On the road, Rick puts the hood over Randall’s head. Rick confronts Shane: “If you want to kill me, you’re gonna have to do better than a wrench.” He explains that, yeah, okay fine, they’re probably going to have to kill the kid, but they get to think about it for a night because it can’t just be that easy to kill a human being. “If you’re gonna be with us, you gotta follow my lead and you gotta trust me,” he tells Shane. He hands a gun to Shane and says it’s time for him to come back. Come back, Shane!

They drive back to the farm. It’s magic hour and there is a still a lone zombie in the field. Shane thinks and thinks and thinks.

This episode was truly good and well-written and perfectly paced and balanced zombie action with human drama and I hope this is a wonderful sign of things to come! MORE ZOMBIES, PLEASE.


Humans: all accounted for, and Beth’s self-induced injury was not very serious.

Zombies: 2 dead guard zombies, one stomped-in woman zombie, two more stabbed-in-head zombies and possibly ten school bus zombies shot to death-death.

LAST EPISODE: Shootout at Ye Olde Towne Bar

In This Article: television, The Walking Dead


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