After several pokey episodes of the gang squabbling with each other, The Walking Dead regained some focus by swinging the narrative to everyone's favorite grizzled survivalist, Darryl Dixon.

And while a lot of the action centered on the Crossbow Kid's very bad day, TWD also roiled up a leadership struggle between the show's fellows. Who's going to wear the Daddy Pants once civilization crumbles? Spoilers!


The episode ("Chupacabra") opened with a flashback to the survivor's caravan before Rick pulled an East Hastings. I liked this cold opening because it gave a glimmer of how everyone operated before Rick Grimes, cowboy messiah hit the scene. The napalming of Atlanta is a metaphor for Shane's modus — he's a timber wolf, more than willing to sacrifice an Otis or a Merle for the good of the pack. And just like this viewer, Shane is getting tremendously bored with the dangerous search for Sophia.

When the audience is agreeing with the creepiest dude around, that either means either A.) the protagonists are tremendously complex; or B.) the good guys are Dullsville. Things are swinging to the latter...hard.

"Chupacabra" kept Rick nice and dumb. All our hero really did was yell about finding that little girl who can't follow directions and make pollyannaish statements that caused us to wonder if his rods and cones are tattooed with Lisa Frank binder art.


Remember how I said Rick makes Shane look like the paragon of sensibility? Don't even get me started on Hershel. This episode sees Hershel's good will shrivel up, so he goes full-blown grumpy coot. And barring his thumbs-down disapproval that his Maggie's canoodling with an Asian fellow, who can blame him? Rick's gang hasn't done anything right since that big-hearted oaf Otis pulled the trigger.

To wit: Otis is dead, the well's poisoned, Andrea's aggravating, Glenn's playing hide the Vlasic dill with his daughter, Dale's a consummate meddler, T-Dog and Carol are mostly off-screen, Lori yells a lot, Carl's comatose, and Rick's unbuttoning his Berenstain Bear overalls while our crotchety pater familias' back is turned. Why the hell would Hershel want these people around? They're like a really annoying soap opera or something.

So yes, Hershel adds some spice to the Shane-Rick dichotomy. But what about Darryl? After all, "Chupacabra" was mostly his episode. The episode's best drama focused on the rather ordinary task of hiking up a hill while the psilocybin-induced specter of Michael Rooker cracked wise.


(I missed Michael Rooker. If it's wrong to wish for a meteor to fall on Hershel's farm and Merle to magically show up with two monster trucks and a garbage bag full of crystal meth, then I don't want to ever be right again.)

Anyway, Darryl has fever dreams that make him insecure about his own place among the survivors, which, honestly, are feelings he damn well should be having. His totally random beliefs in the chupacabra notwithstanding, Darryl's the king of the wasteland. He's competent, tender, makes zombie-ear necklaces, is the Peach State Snake Eyes, looks for Sophia instead of gabbing about it, and trips balls just to prove that he, Darryl Dixon, has relinquished zero fucks now that society's disintegrated into mush. And what thanks does he get? Andrea shoots him in the head. Nobody talks to him except Carol, and all she does is cry. I'd do shrooms too in his situation.

So yeah, let Shane and Rick play "Guess the Impregnator." Hershel can run his cliffhangery zombie petting zoo in his barn (I guess he really buys that zombies = AIDS analogy, that's the Hippocratic oath gone overboard). Darryl Dixon's the winner, the fourth way. This guy cuts through the tedium, and he reminds me of a Seal song.


Today's Hot-Button Issue: Glenn — endearing and/or lamentably desperate? The guitar is a good touch, but you can't woo a lady with prophylactics, even when humanity faces extinction. Discuss.