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The Walking Dead Redux: Inside Scoop on Tonight's "Pivotal" Episode

Rick Grimes, Hershel Greene, Walking Dead Gene Page/AMC

Can the zombies get their groove back?

AMC's The Walking Dead became an instant cult sensation when it premiered in 2010, but many have criticized its sophomore season's sluggish storylines. Most frustrating for many viewers was a seven-episode arc largely devoted to the fruitless search for little girl Sophia.

After the story's shocking conclusion in the midseason finale, did tonight's episode, "Nebraska," breathe new life into The Walking Dead? Let's chew on it! Plus, get our exclusive scoop from executive producer Gale Anne Hurd

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Barn Storming: The episode begins seconds after Rick (Andrew Lincoln) shoots Sophia after her shocking emergence as a zombie from Hershel's barn. While the womenfolk wail in delayed grief, Shane (Jon Bernthal) is ready to put a bullet in Hershel's head, even though he denies the family knew Sophia was snacking on live chickens with the rest of Hershel's undead family. After bellowing again at Rick & Co. to "get off my land," the veterinarian seems to finally accept his wife's death; but while packing her possessions, he finds a flask and jumps off the wagon and heads to the local watering hole to drown his grief. Naturally, Rick goes after him—dragging Glenn (Steven Yeun) along to downtown Zombieville.

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Team Shane vs. Team Rick: Why does Rick abandon his family and risk his life (and poor Glenn's) to retrieve the hostile landowner? As producer Gale Anne Hurd acknowledged to us, "Rick is still that guy who swore an oath to protect the weakest among us, [basically saying], 'I am going to risk my life and put my family second  in order to do that.'" We swoon over Deputy Grimes' big blue eyes, but not sure we'd want to be married to him after the apocalypse. Shane, on the other hand, "has shed that oath…he's there to protect himself but he will only really risk his life for Lori and Carl."

Meanwhile, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), who is definitely not batting for Team Shane, bleats to Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) that Shane all but admitted that he sacrificed Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) to the zombies to save himself. To which we say, So? Otis shot Carl and if Shane hadn't shot Otis, neither of them would've made it back to the farm with life-saving medicine for the young boy—and three lives would've been lost. And without Shane to open the barn for target practice, who knows how long the group would have continued to risk their lives searching for Sophia?

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Finding Sophia, Part 2: Finding Hershel: After half a season devoted to the search for Carol's daughter, the pace didn't really pick up tonight until the episode's last acts. Daryl whittled, the menfolk strutted around camp like peacocks—until suddenly two menacing newcomers walked in on Hershel, Rick and Glenn like gunslingers in a saloon. The tension between the men was as taut as any zombie attack, and their deaths were as shocking as all the season's other shootings (Carl, Otis and Sophia). "I think it is a turning point when Rick takes another life," EP Hurd told us. "That is a really pivotal episode in terms of his character."

Revenge of Blair Waldorf: Any chance The Walking Dead writers are fans of Gossip Girl? Lori abandoning her son and driving into town to retrieve Rick, then crashing her car, totally reminded us of this season's Gossip Girl episode in which pregnant Blair (Leighton Meester) and Chuck's limo crashed, causing her to lose her baby. It remains to be seen whether the same fate will befall Lori, but if so at least we don't have to worry about trying to figure out whether Prince Louis Chuck Bass Shane or Rick is the father. (Speaking of other TV shows, Dexter also aired an episode this season titled "Nebraska." What is so inspiring about the Cornhusker State?)   

So did tonight's shocking developments offer enough bang for your buck? Hurd insists that "the real drama and the human stakes [are] really important…the zombies are only frightening in the context of how much danger they pose to the characters that you care about."

Valid point. So are you sticking with The Wakling Dead?

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