Whilst admiring a deer, little Carl is shot and left in critical condition. This being the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a good doctor is hard to come by. Thankfully, Rick Grimes and his family are in luck for once. Enter series stalwart Hershel Greene.
The man who shot Carl (farmhand Otis, played by Pruitt Taylor Vince) takes Rick, Shane and poor gutshot Carl back to Hershel's farm, where the kindly rancher (beardless and decidedly more kindly than his miserable persona in the comic books) attempts to fix the boy up. After the show's recent rambling off into territories of its own, its nice to see the story once more look to the comics for inspiration. Still, it's very much doing things its own way, and it looks like it'll be awhile before Carl is back on his feet – if it all. Shane and Otis raid a nearby school for medical supplies for Hershel to work with. Cue much wrought wringing of hands as Rick desperately hopes his son will pull through. Be it from emotion or the perpetual heat, the man has the drippiest nose in TV history.
Meanwhile, the fractured group is pulling in different directions. Sophia is still missing and Lori, Glenn (who still seems to have nothing to do), Carol, Andrea and Daryl Dixon remain bickering in the woods. Back at the RV, T-Dog's arm is looking the worse for wear since he banged it against a bit of rusty metal last week. It might be of no use against zombie bites, but in a world of abandoned vehicles and rusty metal, the man protected against tetanus is King. Looks like poor Hershel is in for a whole backlog of patients once the gang gets to his farm. Now would be a good time to tell them all that your usual patients are decidedly more furry. “I'm a vet,” Hershel intones. “A veteran?” says Lori, optimistically. “A veterinarian.” Beggars can't be choosers Lori, particularly given the Grimes men and their peculiar talent for getting shot in the guts.
It's a shorter episode than last week's opener, sparing with the zombie action and giving Rick more time to blame himself for everything and loudly doubt his own leadership abilities. Andrew Lincoln is good in these scenes, although his foil, Jon Bernthal (as Shane) is even better. After Series One, it had looked as though The Walking Dead was shaping Shane up as its villain, particularly after his actions in the bunker. Bloodletting reveals him to be a more complex character than we've seen before, either in this series or comic books. Bernthal shows us a conflicted and haunted man; and his man-love for Rick despite how he betrayed him in the past. Daryl is still the most entertaining and likeable of the characters (his casual “shut up” to a zombie is priceless) but it's Shane's story which remains the most compelling.
Just as it looks like the walking dead are taking a week off they shamble into the episode's final quarter. Not just the odd rambler either - there's a whole pack of them for Shane and Otis to deal with. It's nice to see Shane get to go off on his own for a bit, reminding us that he can be just as resourceful and fast on his feet as Rick. Even more so, in fact. He makes a far better leader than Grimes, with his ability to make difficult decisions and a physicality that Rick really lacks. Sure it's the zombie apocalypse, but Rick looks like he can barely stand up most of the time – let alone after donating all the blood he does this week. Never mind one biscuit (what you're supposed to eat following a blood transfusion, apparently) Rick looks as though he could do with the whole packet. Shane meanwhile, punches a zombie.
Another week, another cliffhanger. How will Shane and Otis get out of this one? Will Hershel get the medical supplies in time? Will Glenn do something? And please, Dale, why don't you just marry that RV and be done with it.