Just when you think a show as dark as ‘The Walking Dead’ couldn’t possibly get any darker, an episode like this comes along. With some twists, tensions and possible burgeoning relationships, this episode keeps the momentum going as our weary heroes show all the signs of cracking under the weight of the apocalypse.

[Be warned, this recap contains spoilers]

Opening with a scene of Shane shaving his head and looking stricken with guilt, the obvious question of how he got away from the Walkers at the high school must be asked. Well, this episode is all about explaining that.

We flash back to Shane and Otis running through the infested high school. There are Walkers coming from every angle, and half the doors are chained shut. They eventually get cornered in the gym, hopping on top of a set of bleachers that the Walkers can’t climb. There is a window that they can break through, but it’s too small for Otis. He offers himself up as a diversion while Shane makes a break for it with the equipment that Herschel needs. He knows that there are bigger windows in the locker room that he can get out through, so the two of them plan to meet up outside. Unfortunately, when Shane gets out through the window, he falls badly and cripples his ankle. It can never be a clean getaway, can it?

At the farmhouse, Glenn arrives with T-Dog. They run into Maggie on the porch, and Glenn suddenly gets awkward. Glenn offers up the cache of drugs that Merl had, and Maggie invites them in. They see Rick and Lori still holding a vigil over Carl. After offering Rick any help he may need, Rick, Lori and Herschel have a serious talk about Carl. If Shane and Otis don’t get back soon, they’re going to have to take the risk and operate on him without the respirator and hope for the best.

At the freeway, Daryl, unable to sleep due to Carol’s weeping in the night, decides to take another shot at trying to find Sophia. Andrea, also unable to sleep, joins him. As the two of them wander the woods, Daryl begins to tell Andrea a story about how he was lost in the woods for nine days as a kid. He was able to survive on his own and make his way back home. He points out that he was able to do this without anybody looking for him, while Sophia has several people searching for her. To him, this gives her the advantage, and he is confident that she’ll be just fine.

After having talked to Herschel, Rick and Lori begin to talk. Lori takes a sudden dark turn by saying that Carl may be better off dead in this nightmarish world. Rick refuses to listen to what she has to say, even if she does seem to make a compelling argument. If he lives, all he has to look forward to is growing up as something that only knows how to survive and nothing else.

Back at the high school, crippled and weighed down with medical equipment, Shane looks as though he is cornered by the horde of Walkers. Otis, having survived his own ordeal, shows up and pulls Shane out of harm’s way. There is still a long way to run to get back to the truck, and the two of them are running out of ammo, but they make a run for it as best they can.

Suddenly, at the farmhouse, Carl wakes up. He talks to Rick and Lori about seeing the deer before he got shot, but the loss of blood to his brain causes him to seize up. Herschel does his best to help him from hurting himself, but he has to just ride it out. Rick gets ready for another transfusion, even though he is running so low that it poses a risk to him now too.

Sleep is something that is in pretty short supply, so Carol joins Dale on the top of the RV to keep an eye out for Daryl and Andrea. In the woods, Daryl and Andrea come across a campsite with a Walker hanging in a tree. He is “alive,” but immobile. They find a suicide note from a man who opted to hang himself rather than shoot himself in the head after getting bit. Daryl doesn’t want to waste an arrow to put him out of his misery, but Andrea convinces him to do it in exchange for an explanation of whether or not she actually wants to live. She tells him that she is unsure if she wants to live, or if she’s just staying alive out of habit. Daryl considers it a waste of both an arrow and explanation, but he takes out the Walker all the same.

At the farmhouse, T-Dog gets stitched up, and Maggie and Glenn talk about the power of prayer and if it’s even worth it in a world like this. Meanwhile, Rick and Lori talk about Carl. Rick tells Lori that the first thing Carl talked about when he woke up was the deer, and that shows that there is more to him than just being a creature of survival. At last, Lori concedes the point and agrees to let Herschel operate on Carl without the respirator. The risk is quickly made moot when Shane – and only Shane – shows up with all of the equipment. Herschel quickly gets to work while Shane babbles on about how the Walkers got Otis. It is pretty obvious, between this and the opening scene, that something more happened to him.

Daryl and Andrea return to the RV empty-handed yet again. Carol can’t bear the thought of Sophia spending another night out there on her own, and quickly shuts herself back in the RV. Dale takes Andrea aside and admits that he overstepped his bounds with her and gives her gun back. What would have been a nice moment between them is slightly ruined when he presses her to say that this was enough for her to forgive him. She doesn’t give a solid response either way, and the tension between them is left hanging.

Carl’s operation is a success, but Rick and Herschel have to tell Patricia, Otis’ wife, the bad news. As they do, Shane goes up to take a shower, and we see a patch of hair on his head is missing. He starts shaving his head to even it out, and we flash back again to what actually happened to Otis. With the two of them down to their last bullets, and Shane still hobbling along with the Walkers closing quickly, Shane uses his last bullet to shoot Otis in the leg and leave him wounded for the Walkers to feast on while he gets away. Otis doesn’t let him go without a fight, hanging onto a handful of Shane’s hair. Shane pulls himself free, but Otis leaves a bald patch. So now we know why Shane looks so guilty.

Now a number of my friends have been saying that the ending of this episode took them by surprise. I didn’t really see it that way. I felt that Shane’s selfish act was telegraphed pretty loudly through the episode. Despite that, I still enjoyed it, and I thought it was a pretty clever reveal in the end. I’ve also been hearing a lot of grumblings about how this season has been slow and uneventful so far, but I have to disagree. You could have a show that’s all zombie horror and nothing else, and it would probably be a pretty entertaining show to watch. ‘The Walking Dead,’ however, goes beyond that and deals with the hardships of survival that have to do with much more than just outrunning zombies. It really is much more of a bigger picture, and that’s what I find so engrossing about the show and the comics. I’ve been very glad to see this season take its time to let us really get to know these characters and get a look into their psychology in such an impossible situation.

I think many people watch this show expecting a weekly Romero movie, but I’m glad that it’s not like that. A show that is just about outrunning and killing zombies from week to week would get far more boring much more quickly to me. I, for one, am loving this season, and can’t wait to see more.

If you missed last week’s episode read our ‘The Walking Dead: Bloodletting’ recap to catch up.