“Pretty Much Dead Already”
In Season 2’s Michelle MacLaren–directed midseason finale, Shane goes full Punisher after learning that Hershel has quarantined the county’s walker population in his barn. Meanwhile, a not-yet-ruthless Rick, eager to be a good guest, lamely insists that the farm is still safe. Also, Glenn and Maggie make out.
What is the episode’s most iconic moment?It might be the series’s most iconic moment: As Shane and other soon-to-be-killed-off characters (this show did you dirty, T-Dog) silently contemplate the carnage in the wake of what one producer called “Barn-ageddon,” a girlish groan emerges from inside. It’s soon followed by its source, Sophia (Madison Lintz), who’d been missing since the season’s first episode. Carol’s undead daughter emerges from the barn and totters toward the group slowly enough for MacLaren to capture reaction shots from everyone. Even Punisher Shane seems paralyzed by the depressing sight, so Rick—who seconds earlier was all set to help Hershel add to the barn’s walker count—strides forward and does to Sophia what he did to the young walker he put down in the pilot. Although in retrospect the significance of the ex-lawman’s conversion to Team Post-Apocalypse is undercut by the countless resolutions Rick makes and breaks in subsequent seasons, it was powerful at the time.
What is the best behind-the-scenes anecdote about this episode?According to effects artist Greg Nicotero on AMC’s Talking Dead, MacLaren shot two endings for the episode: one in which Sophia looked like a zombie, and one in which she looked like her old self, reflecting the way that her former companions still wanted to see her. A blend of both might have worked well—maybe MacLaren could have faked the audience out by hiding Sophia’s true nature until after Rick pulled the trigger—but that approach would have detracted from the initial reveal. Not to mention that in most cases, it’s probably wise not to risk any confusion about why a protagonist is killing a kid.