In February 2011, AMC announced that Glen Mazzara would serve as the new writer/executive producer, replacing Frank Darebont for the television series The Walking Dead. Fortunately, Mazzara has a style much in keeping with that of Darabont, one that showcases the zombies and focuses on action.
It is no surprise that season two’s second episode, titled “Bloodletting,” gets the series back into the thick of things, ramping up the action and getting the characters back into confronting plenty of zombies. Written by Mazzara and directed by Ernest Dickerson, “Bloodletting” is a nail-biting thrill ride from its opening seconds to its closing moments.
The story opens with a flashback, where Shane (Jon Bernthal) must tell Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) that her husband Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has been wounded as a result of a highway shootout. Lori in turn must tell their son, Carl. Flashing forward to the present, the situation is reversed, as now it is Carl who has been shot. Desperate, Rick picks up his son and runs toward a farmhouse, followed by Shane and the man responsible for the shooting, a hunter named Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince).
Confronted by the house’s patriarch, a veterinarian by the name of Herschel Green, Rick quickly explains that Carl has not been bitten but rather shot by Otis. Greene quickly begins to work on the boy, but he soon realized that he will need a respirator to operate, as some of the bullet fragments are much to deep. It falls on Otis and Shane to get the supplies from a FEMA aid station set up next to a school. The problem with getting the supplies is simple: the place is infested with the living dead, who soon spot Otis and Shane and send them running into the school’s entrance, where they use a fence to barricade themselves from an onslaught of ravenous walkers.
The tension in “Bloodletting” is relentless, with only fragmentary moments of character development that serve more to give the viewer some respite from the action and horror. The zombie sequences, and their relentless pursuit of Shane and Otis, are what zombie films are all about.
And interestingly, the shooting of Carl works much better as a MacGuffin that does the “Sophie missing” storyline, as there is much more care taken in developing the storyline. For example, juxtaposing the shooting of father and son in a flashback works really well. There is also the desperation of Shane, who feels that he is Carl’s surrogate father, even in the presence of Rick. This subtle tension will come to a head in the episode that follows, titled “Save the Last one,” where Shan must make a life-changing decision
“Bloodletting” is the type of episode that makes The Walking Dead such a must-see show. It does not let down the horror fans, and it also ensures that fans of action and drama are also hooked from the start.