“What Lies Ahead” is a fantastic episode that revolves around responsibility: Rick’s responsibility towards the group; Carol’s responsibility for Sophia and what happened to her husband, Shane’s responsibility to himself, and Andrea’s responsibility for her own fate.

Last season, The Walking Dead ended with Rick and the other survivors escaping from the Center for Disease Control before it self-destructed. Before the escape, Dr. Jenner—a scientist working to find a cure for the Zombie infection—whispered a secret into Rick’s ear after cryptically warning him that one day Rick wouldn’t be grateful for the chance to survive.

“What Lies Ahead” begins to make good on that warning.

Season 2 picks up with Rick talking to Morgan about the events of the past few days. It reminds me of a certain someone Rick speaks to over the phone in the comic book.  It’s a great way to get a peak into his mind. Rick feels the strain of his responsibility; he has to be strong for the group so that they don’t fall apart.

Yet it seems that staying strong isn’t a state that anyone can stay in for long. After evading the herd that swept past them on the highway, Sophia goes missing, and Carol begins to break down. I felt for Carol last season; her husband was a scumbag who looked a little too interested in his own daughter. My heart went out to her this episode too; she doesn’t know who to blame for the loss of her daughter, so she takes it out on Rick. Yet she also feels responsible because of what she wanted: her husband out of her life. She feels as though this is some kind of divine punishment for Ed’s death, and the scene in the church where she asks God to forgive her was believable and saddening since it didn’t seem like God was listening . . .

Andrea’s talk with Dale is also poignant and asks what we would do in a situation where on the one hand, you can choose to die how you want to, but on the other hand, you can meet a fate that you don’t even want to think of. In The Walking Dead, it’s a choice between being blown away and dying instantaneously or being torn to shred by zombies; however, the discussion Andrea and Dale have is so true to life. You could imagine friends of yours having the same argument. That’s how the best stories work; they don’t just function in a vacuum. They make commentary on real life issues and make us think of our lives and the lives of others differently. Some people want to die on their own terms, and Andrea’s view is one that someone could empathize with: who are we to want to stop them from making that decision? Who is really being selfish? Does the person who keeps you from taking your life deserving of your gratitude? Andrea wants control and responsibility over her own fate, not Dale. This portion of the episode was all of 45 seconds or so, yet it was very powerful.

Even after having to kill numerous times in Season 1, the survivors keep their humanity and are still disturbed by what they have to do. Just look at Rick’s face when he smashes a zombie’s head in with a rock, or Andrea after she stabbed the zombie to re-death in the eye.  These are people who still struggle, even a bit, with what they do, which adds another layer of believability to the story.

I have to say that Daryl just keeps surprising me; I thought his character would have taken a completely different path after he found out his brother was left for dead in Season 1. Now he’s one of the most useful men in the group; he’s a survivor, and I’m glad to see him become a staple of the group. His usefulness is shown again and again from skinning to tracking to saving T-Dogs life by playing dead.

And when is Shane going to catch a break? The poor guy feels like he has no one to turn to. One moment, Lori doesn’t want him near her. The next, she’s complaining that he’s being cold and distant. She also feels that Shane is being selfish by leaving the group flat; yet he looks like he’s in agony every moment he’s on screen. Why should he stay with the group? His responsibility lies with himself, doesn’t it?

There was only one little part that felt out of place in the episode. The inspection of the Zombie’s gut was awesomely gruesome, but it was a bit emotionally . . . awkward. Rick and Daryl wanted to know if a member of their team had been eaten, a little girl, but there was no emotion in the search. It was pretty sterile: “Hey, let’s see if she was eaten by this zombie.” “Ok!” Granted, it wasn’t anyone related to them by blood, but I would have expected just a bit more concern than what was shown. It was almost a comical scene; Rick looked like he was about to throw up, and Daryl just kept slashing at the Zombie’s abdomen.

Overall, it was a great, emotional episode that has me wondering what Kirman and the writers have in store for us this season. The show deviates from the comic book in a way that’s exciting and just as good; it’s not predictable, and the themes this Season is dealing with promises depth. The ending caught me by surprise even though I’ve read every Walking Dead comic so far, and I can’t wait to see how the story develops on the show.

Score: 9.5/10

If the name of the episode is any indication, then what lies ahead is doubt, frustration, and loss. Season 2 is going to be one hell of a ride.