While farm-o-rama drama plagues our crazy little band of survivors and pothole plotholes still seem to riddle the path to salvation, the best thing to do is just sit back, watch Rick give a kid a gun and revel in the spatter that follows.
How irate can an evil man get? Very!
Spoiler-y chat ahead for 2×11 and 2×12.
Let me make this clear – there are a lot of problems with TWD. But holy nuts. I have never quite liked The Walking Dead as much as I have now. Even with it’s multitude of continuity problems, melodramatic delivery, and a bevy of irritating characters with irritating quirks, I decided in my mind that this is a series that will give me a huge payoff in the end, one way or another. It’s worth all the problems it ever presented. At least that’s what I hope.
I’ll start with a few things that miffed me in this show that never occurred to me when I read the graphic novel (only up to #15).
The zombie apocalypse is still swimming around Hershel’s land and it’s still a mystery how has this place gotten along so far without being overrun by walkers. Sure, a zombie in a well, some zombies in the dell, hi ho the merry-o a shitload of them in the barn. But domestic zombies chowing on farm-fresh chicken doesn’t count. Imagine my relief to finally see the trickling of undead slowly creeping into Hershel’s front yard. I’m surprised that it took this long for them to be wandering into the clearing only after Dale and Shane’s deaths. What about the noise livestock generate? Their delicious, not dead smell? Gunshots fired off previously by Andrea’s crapshoot?
What perplexes me further is that it’s mentioned more than once that winter is coming (aha!), but no one is hauling ass to harvest what they can before a blizzard strikes. You have land, but you’re not doing anything with it. These are the things that sometimes remove me from the show and kill the realism of it all. The farm is getting claustrophobic and too much time went into things we don’t care about. If they’d kept it to maybe 4 episodes, I wouldn’t be picking on it as much.
Also annoying: Carl and Sophia are prime examples of why I particularly hate the presence of children in adult dramas. Nothing but trouble, serving as plot devices that only play up melodrama and nothing else.
I suppose that Sophia being in the barn was a catalyst for the crew to wake up and realise that the apocalypse isn’t a joke (no shit, guys!), but they rescinded into their old habits quickly. The only great thing that came out of it was the Daryl-centric “Chupacabra”, launching him into full badass mofo mode.
For Carl, it was the true death of Dale and Shane that he was meant to facilitate. I was indifferent about Carl’s whole “It’s my fault, I killed him,” guilt trip, and even more so during the father/son bonding scene in Better Angels. Feel sorry for this kid? No. I mean, he’s out and about being a little prick, and he conveniently appears out of nowhere in scenes, for example, at the communal meeting when the adults were deciding if Randall the Rapist Watcher should be executed. (Another thing that peeves me about that scene is that he treks mud all over the house and Lori doesn’t even ask him where he’s been the entire freaking day or why he’s such a filthy pig child at that moment.) He contributes nothing except to fuel others’ belief that he, as a child, signifies hope for humanity. So does that baby in Lori’s belly. And for some reason, the way it’s handled is making me hate it all very much. If hope for humanity is a slimy little cowboy hat-toting creep, I’d rather be dangled by the feet on a flagpole above a congregation of walkers.
He’s not the only reason why I feel sorry for Rick when I’m not hating on the sheriff’s preachy self-righteousness. Lori’s got Rick by the balls, which is a sad thing. We’re supposed to believe that he’s the Magnum Family Man, but he clearly needs to have normal conversations with the other women in the land. I’ve never seen him hold more than 30 seconds of dialogue with Andrea, and he’s only ever spoken to Carol with regard to Sophia’s death, disappearance or Carl’s attitude. He’s too busy trying to hold the community together, be the leading man, and completely failing at it.
It’s tiresome. He’s one-dimensional during these moments, and only ever getting interesting when his relationship with Shane comes into play. I’m not even sure if he’s a better parent than Shane is to Carl (which was definitely the case in Season 2). Rick somehow managed to improve the Shane character, even in all of the latter’s stupendously evil glory. He needs someone to take over, and stop thinking that he’s the quintessential leader of the pack. Take a step back. Let the world crumble around you. That’s one thing I’d really like to see – Rick really falling apart. We caught a glimpse of it when he shanked Shane, which made me a little more fond of him, not because of the exciting action it brought, but because he showcased a vulnerability like never before. It was intense, a bit Shakespearean, and something that I hope will force him to evolve into someone greater. Maybe better moments like that will come in due time.
What was up with that forest navigation anyway? It was like Shane led Rick through the densest foliage only to emerge in a field that was practically in front of the farm. Again. Is there a wormhole I’m missing? You’d think that the shelter of trees would be far more discreet as a murder location than in the wide open clearing under (I admit, a gorgeous rendering of) the moon. Very weird editing going on here.
A last thing to nitpick on – T-Dog. I feel sorry that he’s so underutilized in season 2, except to get hurt and/or be the token black dude to give a couple of grimacing facial expressions when the time calls for one. What an awful waste. One line in the last episode! Here’s to hoping that something good is coming his way.
Now that I’ve just about ranted the hell about the problems I picked up with the show, here’s what I love.
Zombies swarming a safe haven, just when the survivors are teetering on the edge of being able to settle down. The apocalypse will never seem real if it ever becomes a comfortable place, and we’ve already seen how much bickering goes on when the crowd gets complacent. It’s about time something forced them back into danger.
The portrayal of people, as irritating as they are, are as true-to-life as I would imagine a small group of wandering survivors stranded in the rural outskirts of God-knows-where could behave. Very often we find them making incredibly unsafe decisions that’s typical of horror characters; wandering alone in an open field (bye, Dale); travelling off the grid to pee on a pregnancy test; speeding in the middle of the night by your pregnant self to bring back your husband that you have no way of knowing where he is exactly in Zombie Woodstock ’12; wanting to embrace zombie daughter in the face. It’s classic moron behaviour, which although when first experienced I’m bothered by, but in retrospect, I really appreciate. People can do really stupid things. It’s not that much of a stretch if you think about it.
Jon Bernthal has the greatest advantage in the entire cast for having the opportunity to play a character like Shane. It must be fun to act like a total loon, be delightfully evil, but still be able to use the “broken person” excuse. He plays it to a tee, and Sunday’s final curtain for his character was exquisitely played out. I would gladly say that it’s now one of my favourite developments of a character, following him from life all the way to his death, to ever take place onscreen. It’s the most consistent, constant story I’ve had the pleasure of following from beginning to end.
Here you have a man, completely enamored with the idea of having the perfect family with his best friend’s wife and child (which although common, but is already kinda twisted by itself). Doesn’t matter if it’s the apocalypse. He keeps saying that he loves Rick like his own brother and is even a little ho-yay with his brotherly tenderness at times, yet he continues to keep that family ideal in his mind all the time. And with this single idea, it drove him to cross many lines, and do many despicable things. It may not be obvious, but it’s definitely hinted at points. Take Otis’ death for example. Many attribute his decision to deliberately leave him behind to the primal instinct of self-preservation, but don’t you think it’s the thought of Lori and Carl that makes him do it? He’s mentioned many times that they’re the reason that keeps him going. He still grovels in the presence of Lori even after he’s carbanged Andrea. We also see Shane’s jealousy translate into nearly successful attempts at killing Rick (having him in crosshairs, flinging a wrench at his head). The tipping point just had to be with Lori telling him “Thanks and Sorry for everything, you’ll always be second to Rick”. Down the toilet we go.
His transition into undead – as if there was much difference or separation at all between alive and undead, especially in the moments leading up to his death scene – was amazing. Bernthal’s ragged breath after the big convo with Lori was perfect. You could just hear the last sliver of mental sanity snap. And the foreshadowing was well played – Shane giving a funny look at Randall’s raspberry wrists, giving psycho eyes after the icky crack of Randall’s neck behind a tree. Is it the “virus” taking over (not that we know if it’s science or supernatural)? Or is it just officer Walsh at the end of his rope?
The transitioning montage when Shane’s eyes start to cloud over was particularly affecting. I like that these aren’t commonplace in the show so when we do get treated to them, it has David Lynch-level of disturbance that totally calls for a Nine Inch Nails hook to accompany it.
Out of everyone, Shane’s probably the most well-handled character that I’ve ever seen going through the sucky motions of apocalyptic doom. Pat on the back, show. What was meant to be the most deplorable became the best instead. So satisfying, as sad as it was.
And Daryl. What a badass. Every episode goes by and he just keeps on dishing the truth bombs, carrying out the toughest tasks at hand where everyone chickens out of. He goes on a solo mission to bring back Sophie. He’s the one to put Dale out of his misery while Rick and Shane are dilly dallying even after waxing lyrical about needing to do what needs to be done. “I’m sorry, brother.” BLAM. Everyone is stunned and Daryl is still cool in his sleevelessness.
I love how Daryl starts off as the cynic, the stubborn redneck looking to avenge his even-more-crazy brother (sort of), the biggest jerkoff sibling to ever have graced the earth. And now he’s killing walkers left and right with his crossbow, flexing his hunting prowess, being the dirty jobs guy. He’s doing the stuff that nobody wants to do. A pity that he doesn’t pass down his skills to anyone else so they’d be a little more useful, but I could speculate that he’s just making himself irreplaceable in the group so nobody else can tell him what to do. This guy’s just getting better and better.
I liked Glenn’s memory of Dale. Although I do not particularly like Andrea, it was sweet, happy and quite a relief from the heavy-handed delivery of negative tension and action accumulated in the previous episodes. I’m also glad that scenes of this nature are rare, and not wasted as psych out moments where two scenes later Glenn’s leg is amputated (or something to that extent).
The resolution of Randall’s story being used as a segue to the revelation that you only need to be dead to be a walker was also an impressive stroke of smarts. That’s really alarming. Every dead body ever put in the ground can literally crawl out of their graves. Yeesh. I don’t expect to get a proper explanation to it, but what we know for sure is that the writers are basically saying, “They’re all f88ked.” I hope they don’t dangle the possibility of getting a complete and detailed answer and cop out with some “it’s about the characters” nonsense. One Lost is enough.
I am so stoked to see what’s in store for the few that remain. The encroaching zombie swarm definitely means that they need to evacuate immediately, but who’s gonna die next in the process? Will Rick be really morbid and drag Shane’s zombie meatsuit back to the farm to show everyone? Is Lori going to facepalm and lip tremble?
We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, enjoy a video of Norman Reedus being cool, because we just don’t get enough Daryl.