The Walking Dead recap: Barbarians at the Gate

Nothing happens. And then, suddenly, a lot of things happen.
Ep. 10 | Aired Feb 17, 2013

DUCK, YOU SUCKER! I have met Andrew Lincoln. He has piercing blue eyes, perfect Don Johnson scruff, and an impossibly charming schoolboy-British accent that reminds you that his given surname is "Clutterbuck." (He introduces himself as "Andy.") I don't say this to brag, but to illustrate a point: It takes a lot of work to transform that guy into a scraggly, half-crazy, PTSD-ing apocalypse-surviving widower with a thousand-yard stare, and even more work to make you believe that that guy could bludgeon a couple zombie skulls with the blunt end of a Magnum Revolver. So here's to you, Andrew Lincoln, for turning Rick Grimes into the Great American Hobo Superhero.

AMC

Meanwhile, Carol and Axel were having a chat. They were reinforcing the chain-link bridge with metal. Carol gave Axel a gun, which got Axel got to talking about how he got into the joint. See, he robbed a gas station -- with a toy gun. When the cops found him at his brother's place, they refused to believe he had just used a water pistol: "They couldn't believe I could be so stupid and get away with it." So they turned his brother's home upside down and found a .38, bringing him in for armed robbery. He pointed at the gun: "I don't even know how to use this damn thing." Carol showed him how to turn off the safety, and how to make sure it was loaded. "You're quite a lady," said Axel. It was charming. It was flirty. It was revelatory. I figured there were three possible reasons why the show was suddenly deciding to tell us more about Axel:

1. The show was about to kill him off. (This is known in TV-fan parlance as "The Shannon Rule," after the Maggie Grace character on Lost, the only regular who didn't have a flashback episode in season 1. When her flashback episode came in season 2, she died at the end of it. Oh, i t's only a spoiler if you haven't seen Lost, so maybe you should see Lost already.)

2. The show was about to reveal that he was actually a serial killer -- and when Carol handed him the gun, there was a brief moment where I thought he was going to shoot her in the face. That's exactly the kind of bleak twist that made the Walking Dead comic book so gripping. (The Walking Dead TV show is pretty bleak, too. But when it comes to soul-despairing nihilism, the comic book makes the TV show look like Blue's Clues.)

3. The show was turning a faceless character into a three-dimensional human being, just because.

Meanwhile, the Ballad of Daryl and Merle continued. Daryl said they were coming up on Yellow Jacket Creek. Merle said he was crazy, loco, wacky, generally bad at directions. Then they thought they heard something, and the song continued:

Daryl D. and Merle D. runnin' through the forest
Thought they heard a baby cry, seein' she's okay
Brain-implodin', zombie-crushin', scarin' decent families
Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, Dixonin' all day!

Yes, there on the bridge, they found a Hispanic family holding off a row of walkers. (You might ask: How did they hear a baby cry from so far away, when the baby was inside a car, and anyhow there were other people screaming and guns going off? Answer: Duh, the Dixon boys are half-wolf on their mother's side.) Daryl managed to take down three zombies with one single arrow...because recycling is important, gang! Then he grabbed the zombie that was tormenting the child, pulled it out the back of the car, and smashed its head with the trunk door, earning yet anotherĀ Zombie Kill of the Week trophy to put on his mantle. (For those of you who are wondering, the Zombie Kill of the Week is a bronze neck without a head.)

Having saved the day yet again, Daryl had to look on while his brother tormented the family. He tried to find food. He called them hurtful racial epithets. The baby was scared, and that was too much for Daryl. He held the crossbow on his brother, and told the family to leave. He walked off the bridge...and we saw a sign that clearly marked their location as Yellow Jacket Creek. (This was a nice moment, but one quibble here: In a world where resources are impossibly limited, and where even meeting other living people is rare, does it really make sense to let a healthy fighting family in a working automobile just drive off? I get that the Dixon boys are basically Children of Grendel who can live forever in the forest, but surely asking the family for, like, a can of soup wouldn't have been out of sorts.)

NEXT: The Dixons fight it out

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