Major spoilers and cliffhangers ahead!

Tonight’s episode starts with Glenn announcing to the camp, “The barn is full of walkers.”  This has the reaction you’d expect, which is confusion and outrage.  Shane is immediately angry and insists that they have to either leave or kill all the barn zombies.  Carol doesn’t want to leave because of Sophia, and when Shane tries to bring up the fact that she might be dead, fighting erupts, which only riles up the zombies.

Rick and Hershel have a chat

Maggie is angry at Glenn for telling the others about the barn and gives him the cold shoulder, though in truth she seems more angry that her father will likely kick out the campers when he finds out they all know his secret.  Carl tells Lori that he isn’t leaving until he finds Sophia, and maybe not even after that.  He thinks the farm could be a home.  Daryl gets angry when Carol reveals she’s unsure of whether or not they’re going to find Sophia.  He has been taking the search seriously and has been the most emphatic that they keep looking.  Dale tries to warn Andrea that Shane might not be a hero, and she pretty much tells him to mind his own business.

Rick talks to Hershel about the barn, but Hershel is stubborn and wants the group gone in a week.  Rick makes a strong case, telling Hershel that they might disagree about how they see the zombies, but he’s turning away living people who will die without help.  Hershel remains adamant, not letting even Lori’s pregancy chip away at his resolve.

Rick and Shane quarrel over what to do with the barn – Shane wants to clear it out, but Rick wants to reason with Hershel so they can stay on the farm.  Rick tells Shane that Lori’s pregnant.  Shane offers terse congratulations, and they both ignore the giant elephant in the field: that the baby could very well be Shane’s.

Later, Shane tells Lori that Rick isn’t built for this world.  Shane points out that he has saved the lives of Lori and Carl several times over, but Rick never has.  He insists that the baby is his, but Lori refuses.  On his way back into camp, Shane is stopped by Carl, who swears and demands that they stay and find Sophia.  Shane storms into Dale’s trailer, looking for the guns, but they and Dale are gone.

Hershel takes Rick to where two zombies are stuck in the silt of a creekbed.  He hands Rick a snare pole and tells him that if they stay on his property, they must follow his rules about how to treat the zombies.  This used to be Otis’ job, to get stray zombies into the barn, and now it falls to them.

Glenn and Maggie make up.  Shane finds Dale hiding the bag of weapons in the swamp.  He tells Dale he’s not worth fighting because he’s “pretty much dead already.” Dale and Shane have a showdown, and Dale points a rifle at Shane.  Shane calls his bluff and walks into the barrel.  Dale tells Shane this world is where he belongs.  He surrenders the guns to Shane.

Shane returns to the farm, where everyone has gathered.  He hands out guns, saying it’s time to fight.  Their attention is drawn to Rick and Hershel leading the captured zombies to the barn.  Shane screams at Hershel that they aren’t sick people.  He shoots one of the zombies in the lungs and heart, but it still keeps coming.  He shoots it in the head, and this is what seems to affect Hershel.

Shane goes to the barn and breaks open the locks, unleashing all the zombies inside.  As they come out, Shane and Andrea start shooting.  Glenn and T-Dog join in, as well as Daryl.  Rick screams for them to stop, but the shooting continues.  There’s one zombie left – it’s Sophia.  She staggers out and everyone is stunned, unable to shoot her.  Carol starts toward her daughter but Daryl tackles her.  Sophia stumbles around the other dead zombies, heading for the humans, but only Rick is able to walk up to her and shoot her in the head.

I am a big fan of the ‘Walking Dead’ comics, so when I read the spoilers about tonight’s episode, I was majorly upset.  I’ve heard Robert Kirkman talk about how he wants the show to be a new experience for everyone, even the people who’ve already read the books and know what’s supposed to be in the future.  I understand what he’s saying, although I already feel robbed of certain epic moments that I would really have loved to see happen with the awesome actors on the show.  This episode was a struggle for me.  I can go along with prolonging some characters’ lives, because they can still die at any moment.  But to kill off a character who lives on in the book?  That felt like crossing a line, and it felt personal.  For days I would just randomly burst out with “Well, I hope Sophia isn’t necessary in some PLOTLINE in the FUTURE!”

I’ve had some time to adjust.  To be fair, I was never a fan of Sophia, and the longer this search for her went on, the more ridiculous it became. Of course she hadn’t survived. She couldn’t stay calm enough to wait quietly under the car in the first place, so how could she maneuver alone through woods full of zombies?  Her turning undead was not only inevitable, it was necessary.  Shane may be an aggressive jerk, but he’s also right.  You can’t keep a barn full of zombies.  They’re not going to get better.  It’s a kill-or-be-killed world, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you are.  Rick is still trying to negotiate and maintain social norms, but the time for that has long since passed.  Zombie Sophia is a rude awakening for Rick, a harsh reminder of what they face, and what all of them could end up as.

Ultimately, Shane is wrong.  Rick is made for this world.  He can make the hard decisions and he knows how to fight for what he loves most.  Shooting Sophia proves that he can take charge when no one else can.  This episode no doubt will mark a change in Rick that’s sad but also crucial: the change from Peacemaker to Leader.  The question I’m curious about now is, how many people knew that Sophia was in the barn all along?  If Otis was the one who usually brought in the captured zombies, did no one else see her?  Or did Hershel know all along that they were wasting their time with the search?  We’ll have to wait until February for answers!

If you missed the previous episode, be sure to read out ‘The Walking Dead: ‘ recap to catch up.