The most consistently frustrating aspect of The Walking Dead isn't the sometimes painfully slow pace or the occasionally perplexing story detour -- anyone remember the Vatos? -- but rather the tendency for characters to behave a certain way simply because that's what the plot requires. The writers need the story to move from Point A to Point C, and come hell or high water it's going to get there. If that means Point B doesn't make a lot of sense, or we have to skip it entirely, so be it.
That's how we end up with Andrea as Shane Lite, Dale as the glaring Deducer of Secrets -- can anyone explain how he figured out Shane killed Otis? -- Beth in a catatonic state, and, as "Triggerfinger" opens, Lori trapped in a flipped car with a walker breathing down her neck. At the risk of retracing ground covered last week, there was no real reason for her to set out after Rick, Glenn and Hershel. Sure, Beth had developed a fever, but she was in no danger; in the end, Doc Greene only gave her a sedative.
On the plus side, Lori's Bogus Journey did demonstrate that she's capable of more than scowling, chastising and pining for her husband (although her desire to find Rick took precedence over the need to track down Hershel): Banged up, and possibly concussed, Lori still took out two walkers on her own. As satisfying as that moment is, though, it soon becomes clear it isn't the "real" reason -- the writers' reason --- for her ill-advised road trip.
Back at the farm, everyone suddenly realizes Lori is missing. Now, I understand Hershel probably owns several hundred acres, but how is it that none of the dozen or so people (except perhaps for the increasingly distant Daryl) knew she'd taken off in a car? (Granted, members of the Greene clan disappear for entire episodes; notice that Beth's boyfriend Jimmy isn't at her bedside. Maybe he fell down a well.) Naturally, Shane springs into action, and finds Lori walking along the road, determined to get to her husband. She's bruised and shaken, so Shane does what most anyone would do: He lies and tells her Rick is safe and sound so she'll return with him to the farm. It's a white lie, as Shane later rationalizes, but it's that act -- not the near-rape at the CDC, not the slaughter at the barn, not the irrational behavior, not the stalker-like overtures, not the assertions about the baby, not the constant criticism of Rick -- that finally turns Lori against him.
And that, it appears, is the entire reason for her misadventure. The resulting lie, as minor and excusable as it is, puts the final wedge between the former lovers. Why? Because the writers need to hasten Rick and Shane along on their collision course. So Lori, who only recently defended Shane for making the tough decisions and dismissed Dale's accusations about his role in Otis' death, now recognizes him as a threat to her family and the group.
We'll get back to that, though, because "Triggerfinger" does include some good moments -- hell, great moments -- easily among the best in the series. As you might expect, Rick's showdown with Philadelphia transplants Dave and Tony has repercussions, as the gunshots not only attract the two men's friends but also a swarm of walkers. The Western undertones of "Nebraska" are amplified here (note the poster for the Wild West show in the photo above) as Rick, Glenn and Hershel are pinned down in the bar, left to shoot their way out.
As tense as the scene is, it also reveals something about the three characters. After gunning down Tony and Dave out of a primal desire to protect what's his, Rick attempts to reason with their friends, saying, "Let's just chalk this up to what it was, wrong place, wrong --" before being cut off by gunfire. The seemingly pacifistic Hershel, meanwhile, is at peace with Rick's actions, and even demonstrates that he's handy with a gun, dropping the man who shoots at Glenn as the latter makes a run for their vehicle. And Glenn, with Maggie on his mind, freezes up.
We're given further insight when one of their assailants falls from a roof, impaling his leg on a wrought-iron fence only to be left behind by his friend as walkers pour into the area. During a frantic debate that bounces between shooting the young man and amputating his leg, Rick violently yanks the limb from the spike so they can flee just ahead of the zombie horde.
Returning to the farm with the blindfolded man (his name's Randall) the next morning, they spark another round of arguments, this time about the danger they bring with them -- one that only ends when Hershel, undoubtedly to the cheers of countless viewers, tells Shane to shut his mouth.
That leaves Andrea and Shane to sulk (again) like petulant teens about how they're misunderstood outsiders and, more importantly, Rick and Lori to have some time alone. However, what begins as an endearing scene of domesticity, with the sore spouses helping each other out of their shirts, turns into something darker, as Lori begins to manipulate her husband, using Rick's reservations about shooting the two men to her advantage. Revealing that Shane believes the baby is his, Lori insists he's dangerous, delusional and responsible for Otis' death. What's more, Shane believes he and Lori are meant to be together.
Draped over the back of a sitting Rick, she becomes the figurative devil on his shoulder, the literal voice in his ear, asking, "You killed the living to protect what's yours?" It's a chilling moment that marks a turning point for Lori. While she's never been a likeable character, the writers in the course of one episode have transformed her into Lady Macbeth, goading her husband -- a good man, she's repeatedly reminded everyone within earshot -- to commit murder. It's disturbing development from which there's no return: Even if Rick doesn't kill Shane, Lori will always be the person who tried to put him in the position to do so.
Grade: B+ (but only because the showdown at the bar is so good)