There aren’t many things more dismal than being eaten alive by a swarm of ravenously hungry corpses. The latest episode of “The Walking Dead” invites the audience to contemplate a fate worse than death by zombie when a gravely sick boy has a violent seizure in front of his stricken parents. CLICK HERE TO WATCH

It’s an awful scene, but in the moments before Carl Grimes’s little body begins shaking he regains consciousness and speaks the words that help settle an existential debate ricocheting around the episode: Is it even worth living in world overrun by zombies?

The boy had been unconscious ever since an episode-ending encounter with a deer during the season premiere, in which he was shot accidentally by hunter Otis. When Carl wakes to find his parents at his bedside, he excitedly describes the beauty of the deer in a short moment of lucidity. That’s enough to settle the existential question for Lori and Rick Grimes, who engage in a wrenching conversation about whether they even want their child to live in world under unending mortal threat. (For those who have forgotten minor characters from Season One, Jenner was the CDC scientist who killed himself when the facility self-destructed; Jacqui was the survivor who chose to stay there and die too.) Elsewhere in the episode, we see Andrea and Daryl continue the fruitless search for Sophia, the 12-year-old survivor who went missing in the season debut. Andrea has been consumed with existential doubt ever since her sister Amy succumbed to a zombie bite. Her nighttime walk with Daryl turns up a particularly tragic victim: a man who decided to hang himself after being bit, thus dooming himself to become a zombie suspended by his neck from a tree. “Didn’t know enough to shoot himself in the head,” a compassionless Daryl muses. Andrea reveals her skepticism about life in exchange for Daryl using his crossbow to put the hanging zombie out his misery.

Outside of these morose interludes about the dreadfulness of post-apocalyptic life, the episode revolves around the resolution of the Carl-in-jeopardy plotline. Shane and Otis are trapped in a sea of zombies at the high school/FEMA medical center where they went looting the necessary surgical equipment. The duo orchestrate a desperate split maneuver to escape the high school, only to meet up again outside with dwindling ammo and a horde in shambling pursuit.

Here – finally — we see a total, unconflicted commitment to personal survival. Down to his last bullet, Shane shoots Otis in the leg and hobbles off alone. The zombies stop to feed on a screaming Otis, allowing Shane to flee unharmed (and bring the surgical gear back just in time to save Carl). Lest we forget just how dreadful it is to die as meal for the undead, we are treated to several closeups of body parts being torn off tooth and claw by the hungry undead mob.

When he gets back to Hershel Greene’s farmhouse, Shane concocts a fiction of self-sacrifice to explain the death of Otis. There’s no sign yet that any of the farmhouse residents doubt Shane’s story, but they seem to barely conceal their anger at the outcome. Since keeping everyone cooped up on the farm would make for a boring show, it is looks likely that bad feelings over Otis’s demise will be the factor that forces Rick and company to hit the road again and get the story moving. Truth be told, after three episodes very little has happened so far this season.

Of the other survivors, this episode shows T-Dog and Glen arrive at the farmhouse so that the former can have his grisly arm wound treated. Back at the RV, we see Dale return Andrea’s gun to her after deciding that her past poor judgment with the weapon isn’t enough to permanently prohibit her from carrying it.

Zombies killed: At least 14 by hunting rifle, shotgun and pistol in the escape from the high school; one ironic post-suicide zombie dispatched with crossbow.


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