Our TV Roundtable on Season 3, Episode 2, "Sick"
Is it possible for The Walking Dead to get any darker? Obviously, this is not Three's Company, and I don't associate a cannibal apocalypse with levity, but this latest episode sets a new bar for horror, and not just the stab-a-zombie-in-the-eye sort of horror that is the house specialty, but a quieter, more meaningful, horror as well.
This episode represents the moment when Rick finally decides not to search for the spark of humanity lurking inside an adversary (a living adversary, that is) but instead decides to finish him off, this time in true walker-killing style. For some viewers, this linchpin killing by Rick is overdue; his morally precious, and deeply unrealistic approach, to the problems the survivors have faced had started to grate a while ago. The danger is that Rick's new moral clarity about the importance of survival, even survival through homicide, makes him a less interesting character, a Shane without certain psychopathic qualities, and better abs.
The shocking scene in which Rick commits double murder reminded me of the tension between two Jewish brothers in Ed Zwick's 2008 film Defiance (based on a book by Nehama Tec), which tells the true story of the Bielski partisans. Zus and Tuvia Bielski hid hundreds of their fellow Jews in the Belorussian woods during World War II, fighting the Nazis when they could, and running when they couldn't. Zus was the rougher fighter of the two, and in Zwick's rendering, their relationship was infused with tension because Tuvia held the group to a more refined standard of moral conduct than did his quick-tempered brother. Zwick posited the idea that it was possible, even in a blasted and heartless landscape, to abide by a humane code of conduct.