The Walking Dead: Looking back at ‘What Lies Ahead’

Looks like it's going to be along day for our crew. (The Walking Dead, AMC)
Looks like it's going to be along day for our crew. (The Walking Dead, AMC) /

“What Lies Ahead” Season 2, Episode 1 of The Walking Dead is about being quite alone in the universe, even when we’re not alone and strive for togetherness.

Season 2’s first episode of The Walking Dead starts with ex-cop Rick Grimes essentially talking to himself on a walkie-talkie.  He believes he may be talking to survivor buddy Morgan Jones, though he may as well be talking to ants on the ground.  Either way, he provides a fairly bleak narrative, and keeps the viewers up to date on events.

It turns out not much is going on, really.  The world is merely coming to an end with no clear way to stop it, other than perhaps “opting out” Ed Jenner style.  You know, pretty minor stuff.  Rick says, “Maybe we’ll see you at Fort Benning someday.”  Down below, totally unseen by us, an ant surely winks up at him.

As things progress we see Shane — the semi-rapist (not a man who rapes semi trucks, but a man who has revealed a possible tendency to be, or become, a rapist) — is revealed to still be jealous of Rick’s possession of Lori Grimes.

He is now alone, and a misfit among the herd.  Daryl Dixon has always been a misfit-type, too.  As we see him now, he rides his motorcycle in style, trying to look all cool (and basically succeeding), by himself instead of with the group.

In their own vehicle, Carol, Sophia and Carl are discussing the Grand Canyon, and how nice it would be go there some day.  This is, of course, a longing for togetherness that is lacking in their world.  They do not want to be alone, and desire life the way it was.  In Dale’s RV, Andrea — who had previously desired suicide — watches Shane clean his potential Rick-killing gun.  Though he is seen by others, it is no doubt an almost solitary activity.

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Suddenly Dale and crew must slow down, as the road is littered with abandoned cars, and various corpses within those cars.  It probably stinks, but our crew was built Ford tough with iron stomachs, so they soldier on with Daryl taking the lead.  Then, as if to create a source of drama for the episode, Dale’s radiator hose breaks down.  The group can no longer move smoothly, and things break down both literally and figuratively.

Attempting to turn a giant lemon into lemonade, the group realizes they could probably find a new radiator hose from an abandoned vehicle, and Shane announces to everyone, “Gather what you can, y’all” from any number of junked cars.  T-Dog and Daryl siphon some fuel, Carol steals some clothing, and, before very long, a gaggle of unexpected guests arrive.

Apparently a herd of walkers heard Shane’s shout, deciding they can also “gather what they can” from our group (intestines, arm meat, neck meat, etc.).  In response, Lori and Carol duck under a car,  hoping their children will do the same, and try to remain quiet and not nibbled upon.

From beneath their cars, they see many undead feet.  As with the living group, each zombie here is ultimately alone, even when with a herd.  Each individual makes a choice.  Dale lies flat on the RV roof, trying not to be seen, and Andrea ducks to the floor inside the RV.  Everyone is trying to avoid those undead goofballs, and it seems like they will succeed.

But here it comes….Panic!  T-Dog, in a genuine “oopsy daisy” moment, cuts open an artery on a broken car frame (ouch!) and attracts some curious walkers.  Also, after loudly dropping a piece of Shane’s gun on the floor, Andrea is approached in the RV by a lone, cool looking walker.  She freaks out and hides in the bathroom.

What lies ahead? probably more zombies, like this "RV-zombie" who just ants a snack. (The Walking Dead - AMC)
What lies ahead? probably more zombies, like this “RV-zombie” who just wants a snack. (The Walking Dead – AMC) /

Still, this zombie knows what’s up, and it starts seeking out her body parts.  Luckily for her, Dale is watching her from above.  He slices a hole in the roof screen and hands her a screwdriver.

Apparently it is the right kind of screwdriver, because she’s able to repeatedly jam it in the zombie’s stupid eye and eventually kill it.  She is blood drenched and hysterical, but otherwise doing okay.

Similarly, Daryl saves T-Dog by covering both of them with corpses, disguising themselves against the idiot zombies.  Both examples suggest teamwork, which undermines a strict reading of the theme stated above.

However, in The Walking Dead, everything breaks down again before long, and it’s always up to the individual to save another individual.  Even when people help each other, it must come largely from an individual’s own strength and fortitude.

Eventually, most of the zombies shamble away, which causes our group apparent relief. Then, frustratingly, one of the few remaining walkers chases little Sophia into the woods, which leaves the group fighting to regain composure.

Rick promptly finds her, instructs her to hide under a creek bed, and chases after a few antagonistic walkers with a rock.  They are dispatched accordingly.  In these few moments, Sophia somehow disappears.  This is when Sophia becomes a symbol of hope for the group — a source of meaning and a cause to rally around, or eventually turn away from.

Meanwhile, Andrea gives Dale a stern talking to about how he (and the group) are denying her access to a gun.  Their theory is that she might kill herself, which makes sense.  However, her conflicting viewpoint is that it’s ultimately her decision to make.

Dale and T-dog. The Walking Dead - AMC
Dale and T-dog Walking Dead. AMC /

She tells Dale, “I’m not your little girl. I’m not your wife. And I’m sure as hell not your problem.”  You go, girl!  It should also be noted that T-Dog — who is more often than not just a side-character — has had his arm bandaged.

At some point in the Sophia search, Rick and Daryl encounter a zombie, end it quickly, and do a splendid little zombie dissection, studying if it had any Sophia in its tummy.  It doesn’t, so the surgery ends as a successful failure.

The larger group soon makes its way to a tent in which someone offed himself (would-be Andrea-style), and they take the man’s suicide gun.  Then, before long, the search party hears church bells, and follow them.

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In the church there are zombies sitting in the pew, apparently taking a breather or listening to a sermon by no one.  They’re quickly destroyed by Rick, Shane and Daryl.

Soon after, Andrea overhears Lori and Shane arguing, and she learns of their relationship before Rick came back, and also that Shane plans to leave.  Moments later, Andrea asks Shane if she can take off with him when he leaves, urging him to think it over.  Shane probably doesn’t think it over much, because that’s not Shane’s particular style.

As Rick sits in a church alone, he asks God for a sign, and receives nothing.  Down below, unseen by the cameras, an ant probably winks up at him.

A magical moment for Rick, Carl and Shane. Given the tone of the show, we can predict nothing will go wrong. (The Walking Dead, AMC)
A magical moment for Rick, Carl and Shane. Given the tone of the show, we can predict nothing will go wrong.(The Walking Dead, AMC) /

The group then returns to Sophia-hunting in the woods.  In the process, Rick, Carl, and Shane have a magic moment.  A deer peacefully stops to look at them.

As Carl approaches the deer, it seems Rick may have his sign from God.  But then we another big “oops” moment:  A shot rings out and little Carl gets a bullet right in his chest.  So now we have a missing Sophia and a possibly dead Carl.  What a sign!

Overall, it’s safe to say that the group will never be totally unified, which is one of the problems with the world.   Practically everyone has a vision for how things ought to be, yet reality is quick to tell us a different story.

Next: Episode 2: Bloodletting

Unfortunately, even when we listen to the different story, that story ends up being only part of the puzzle as well.  In this case, an unknown bullet and freak circumstances shall determine everything that happens to our characters on The Walking Dead in the future, and will even change how they see events of the past.  A group is never just a group, and the dead are never just the dead.