Carl and Rick
The first non-zombie dialogue of this midseason premiere is Rick calling for Carl -- or as Darren Franich notes in his review, "CAH-H'RULL," to slow down. Rick looks as bad as he feels — he is still battered and bruised after his rumble with the Governor. Carl is having none of it. "We're gonna be..." Rick starts to assure, but can't quite manage to finish. With a withering glare that every teenager learns to wield, Carl shoots Rick down and continues walking, still a half pace faster than Rick can handle. After all that has happened and all they've endured including the loss of Lori and Judith, even headstrong, optimistic Rick can't promise they're going to be fine.
The Grimes eventually reach what was once Joe and Joe Jr.'s BBQ Shack to raid for supplies. Inside, they're greeted by the owner himself, Joe. Unfortunately, Joe is very much a zombie. He was presumably left by his son, Joe Jr., who instructs in a note to "Please do what I couldn't." The proxy father-son relationship that serves as a metaphor and lesson for Rick and Carl is all well and good — if I wasn't so distracted by Carl's wanton wastefulness with bullets. Rick chides him, telling him that "every bullet counts." Does he listen? Ha, of course not.
Rick confers with Carl regarding their haul, in which the teen brandishes a slightly bigger bundle and retorts, "I win." Thereby, he totally establishes himself as just as man enough as Rick. (Nope.) Survival isn't a game, so much as "winning" equals not being dead.
Limping along in a fog of unresolved familial tension, Rick and Carl settle on a house in which to take shelter. Their mini-spats continue as Rick is anxious for Carl to stay safe and be mindful of his surroundings whereas Carl thinks he can handle it and do whatever he feels like he wants to do, GOSH! With the house cleared, Carl finds a teenager's dream bedroom decked out with posters, books, video games, and a giant flat-screen TV. Too bad the grid is down and all the gaming system is good for is strong cables to lock down the front door.
That night, Carl continues to throw passive aggressive barbs, even mentioning Shane. He couldn't be bothered to notice his father's wheezing and limping. Rick is in really bad shape, and dealing with a pissed off teen doesn't much help matters. At least Rick doesn't have to deal with a child like Kaitlin — although I would totally watch that show, too.
The next morning, Carl awakes to find Rick still asleep. Enjoying breakfast in his teen paradise, Carl returns his empty cereal bowl and notices Rick still out like a light. It turns out Rick's dead sleep is more like a trauma-induced coma. He pulls a Simba but only manages to attract two Walkers to their front door.
Gun and sheriff's hat in tow, Carl sneaks out the back and draws the Walkers towards the street. The Walkers follow him to a clearing, where another, stronger Walker joins them in all the fun. In a desperate game of dog pile on top of Carl, the adolescent human prevails, wasting five bullets — and his breakfast, promptly upchucked — in the process. Being the smartass kid he can be, he nevertheless triumphantly dons his hat and once again declares, "I win."
NEXT PAGE: My so-called zombiepocalyptic life