On The Walking Dead, everybody walks around everywhere

After last week's chilling opening sequence with a zombie-clogged highway, The Walking Dead literally went off the beaten path for their own summer-stockalypse production of Into The Woods. Spoilers.

Rick and Carl meet Hershel the homespun veterinarian, new guy Otis and Shane cruise on over to the local high school, and everyone else looks for the little girl who had trouble following directions. Oh, and T-Dog's dying, but only Grandpa Pork Pie Hat cares about him.

Last night's episode — "Bloodletting" — didn't really offer that much by way of scares. Instead, it just moved the cast to The Place They Need To Be. And that place was Hershel's Farm, with its wide-open spaces and nice family who've managed to ride out Judgment Day by dint of being in the middle of nowhere.

The main new players are Otis (the well-meaning oaf who accidentally shot Carl while buck-hunting), Hershel (the farm's pater familias, who believes the zombie infection is on par with AIDS), and Maggie (Hershel's daughter, who has a penchant for mixing baseball bats, horses, and dramatic rescues). They're a polite enough bunch, but if we're following the comic script still, Hershel's cock-eyed optimism may come to bite everyone in the ass.

Of course, Carl's shooting — last episode's cliffhanger — leads the gang to Hershel's farm. I know that The Walking Dead is willing to play it fast and loose with its source material, but if you're familiar with the comic, the shock is dulled here. And even if you haven't read Robert Kirkman's original series, I can imagine it's a bit of a letdown to find that Carl was shot by clumsy, salt-of-the-earth people rather than wild-eyed survivalists* who probably ate Sophia.

*Speaking of wild-eyed survivalists, Daryl Dixon still owns the crown of "The Only Character You Really Give A Fig About." Even though he did maybe two things this episode — reveal his stash of crystal meth* and pose like a Backwoods Adonis with his dirt-smudged face — he is still my favorite character among this mob of hand-wringers. Norman Reedus = 21st Century Burt Reynolds.

**And speaking of crystal meth, I really want to see AMC do their own fucked-up version of Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue starring Walter White, Don Draper, and Daryl Dixon. AMC reserves alliteration for its best characters.

Anyway, it's pretty clear that they're not going to let Carl die a slow painful death over the next few episodes. His recuperation time will allow the gang to regroup at Hershel's farm, let the "find Sophia" subplot to run its course, and stave off the formation of splinter factions like Shane-and-Andrea and T-Dog-and-Dale.

At some point, someone will ask, "Should we be getting our asses in gear to Fort Benning?" But for the time being, I'm guessing everyone's willing to enjoy some bucolic Americana for a few episodes. And that's okay! At least on Lost when the survivors ran around the woods they found polar bears and a plane full of heroin. A few straggling arboreal zombies will get old soon (but I wouldn't be opposed to a plane full of zombies on heroin).

"Bloodletting" wasn't a spectacular episode — it felt like an episode you could skip if you were marathoning the DVDs — but hopefully things pick up when the gang relocates to Hershel's plot o' land.