My friends and I have a joke (it's not a good one) we often fall back on when we're trying to decide what we'd like to do. After toying around with serious ideas ("Ice fishing!" "Bottle-cap sorting!" "Mouse hunt!"), someone inevitably says, "We could talk about our feelings." Then we all have a chuckle because let's face it, that would be the most boring thing ever. Well, the first half of The Walking Dead's second season was bogged down with a lot of feelings talk, and, despite my prayers, there was still a lot of it in tonight's midseason premiere. Sigh.
Going into the second half of Season 2, my hopes were high that the series would use the closing events of "Pretty Much Dead Already"—specifically the survivors' discovery of zombie Sophia and the zombie Greene family bloodbath—as a springboard to launch itself toward fulfilling the potential we all know it has. "Nebraska" did move in that direction, but it was more of a belly flop of progress than a graceful swan dive toward greatness.
In the aftermath of the midseason finale, "change" is our survivors' new theme. Finding Sophia and shooting her in the face was a turning point for both the characters and series. That message was delivered well, especially in the opening minutes of "Nebraska," when everyone stood around stunned after the great zombie slaughter of whatever year it is. Reality hit hard: Sophia had been dead all along and their efforts were for naught. But what stung the most wasn't the death of a little girl or time spent searching when they could have been building a ramshackle, post-apocalyptic Wal-Mart. It was, as Hershel said many times, the death of hope. Now we can look forward to moving on to the next big thing, right?
Ehhh, not yet. "Nebraska" still repeated some of the problems we saw in the first half of Season 2, with multiple scenes in which characters served as billboards for their stances. How many more times do we need to see Character A tell Character B that Shane is dangerous? Rick, you have my permission to give Lori a wedgie if she tells you to "Be there for Carl" again. And it took 273 speeches about how zombie apocalypses change people, but finally I get it! Can a show be preachy about something that doesn't even exist? Because it really feels that way. Someone call a doctor! The Walking Dead still has a rare case of pilot-itis after 14 episodes!
But let's move on. This wouldn't be an analysis of The Walking Dead without mentioning how stupid Lori is. Lori is stupid! After Beth fainted or went into shock or whatever, Rick and Glenn set out to find Hershel, who was drowning in a bottle of whiskey in a bar in town. So why on Earth would Lori head out on her own to ALSO find Hershel? If she was so worried about Rick going into town with Glenn as backup, why did she think she could go solo? And why is she such a horrible driver? And how is she still alive after being such an idiot since the zombie party began? Lori's actions continue to make zero sense, and I hope she dies a slow, painful death.
There was an interesting scene near the end of the episode when two jerks from Philly happened upon Hershel, Rick, and Glenn. Things got really uncomfortable when Dave and Tony started hinting at joining their camp and Rick showed no signs of budging, and for a moment it was one of the scariest scenes in the series. Don't you hate it when some loud-mouthed East Coaster tries to insert himself in your business? We've all been there; so annoying. But the situation wrapped up quickly when, for some reason, the two yahoos thought it would be a good idea to try and shoot a cop. I liked the fact that it forced Rick into a position where he not only had to be a man but the hero we all hope he becomes; however, I didn't like that the catalyst was a couple characters acting incredibly stupid.
And that's one problem The Walking Dead doesn't seem like it will shake anytime soon. There's way too much forced drama without respect for reality, zombie show or not. Whether it's making a walker pop up out of nowhere because the survivors didn't check a room, sending Lori out on her own to get into a car accident, or creating a scenario where two guys would try to take on three guys (one being a cop well-trained in firearms), the writers seem more interested in the destination or pandering to spooks rather than the trip. You can't force something to happen through implausible character actions and hope we won't see it. Because we will. Even if the payoff is great, it's the journey we're stuck on, so make that the enjoyable part, please.
I'm not one of those fans who's upset over the slower pace of the show. I'm fully on board with focusing on the psychology of a zombie apocalypse and how it affects those who've survived it rather than on scene after scene of zombies getting their skulls crushed. What I'm not on board with is the redundancy we see in each episode of The Walking Dead and the circles we're walking in with the repetition of dragged-out debates we've already heard.
– In the opening scene, Beth went to one of her fallen zombie relatives that had just been shot. Then the zombie sprang up and was all like, "Rawwwwrrrrrr gimme yo brains please!" Do zombies now play possum? Was it just tired? Don't most zombies just keep coming after they get shot, like Hershel said? What are your zombie rules, The Walking Dead?!?!?
– Rick and Hershel's back-and-forth in the bar was way too much. Is this a tale of survivors in a world where the dead walk the land, or is this a post-apocalyptic debate club?
– Lame Brains vs. Walkers? Which term do you prefer?
– Not much zombie action: one that should have already been dead early on in the episode, and one that got hit by a car.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom