The Walking Dead “Better Angels”

Posted on March 12, 2012

Question: Was the penultimate episode of this season an indication that the writers have figured out where they want to go and thus the episode itself was the best one since Season 1 or is this just the show’s tendency to save all the good parts for the last 5 minutes of an episode writ large?

Either way, we’ll take it.

We’ve been saying for a while now that the show needs a couple big deaths and with Shane’s rather dramatic exit from the story, that feeling we’ve been wanting to feel all season is finally back: all bets are off; no one is safe. In fact, this feeling of dread seems to have been something of a theme for the show. Rick had a heart-to-heart with Carl where he pulled no punches about what he can expect out of life: death. And lots of it. It’s a philosophy that would be (quite obviously) labeled as fatalistic in the real world, but in the world of the walkers, it’s just good common sense. “Lots of death is coming, so you better be prepared for it.” If anything, this should be the overall theme of the show. We wonder if the writers have it in them to keep things so dark for the long term.

As an aside, we’d just like to apologize to a friend or two out there because we just recently spoiled the book for them, thinking it would have no effect on the TV series. Shane died very early in the story in the books and wasn’t ever a major character. He’s stuck around so long in the TV series that we honestly thought the writers were going to disregard his death completely. They’ve been getting so much story possibility out of keeping him alive, after all. So, not only did we recently tell a friend about Shane’s death, we included the part about Carl killing him, blithely secure in our assumption that it would never come to pass in the TV series. Whoops.

To be fair, they really did wring as much story out of the nutty little sheriff for as long as they could. In retrospect, his death last night seems so obvious. This has been building since last season, and the tension in the Lori-Rick-Shane dynamic has fueled the entire story up until now. We thought Lori’s appeal to Shane put a nice coda on that story but we were pleasantly surprised that that scene had more nuance than we realized. Lori thought she was putting an end to her time with Shane but all she managed to do was get him even more fired up. She thought she was saying “We’re over,” and he thought she was saying “We still have a chance.” It was a cleverly written scene and for once, we though Jon Bernthal nailed the acting (Seriously: we’re not going to miss his collection of acting school tics). With that dynamic removed completely, it’s exciting to realize we have no idea what this group of people will do going forward. The Grimes’ marriage troubles and paternity issues simply aren’t engrossing enough, so we’re thrilled that the writers seem to have finally figured this out. We will refrain from making any demands of the writers, but if there’s still a focus on Rick and Lori and their big bag of bullshit going forward, we’re going to use our power to say very intemperate things about them on the internet. We’re warning you, writers. Were wagging our fingers and everything.

Thankfully, it seems that they’ve recently understood that there are more people in this group than the conventionally attractive triangle at the center of it. Not only did T-Dog move and speak, he actually showed a little personality! Good T-Dog! Now go curl up on the floor next to the couch. We also got a bit more of Andrea (she’s not going to like the news coming her way and we’re REALLY curious what she’ll think of Rick’s version of events) interacting with Glen and taking the time to remember Dale. Plus, Darryl’s now Rick’s Number Two and we can already tell we’re going to love that. He was immediately suspicious of Shane’s story and – because he’s clearly the smartest person in the group – took the time to examine things and figure them out. That’s going to help Rick in the long run (assuming they both survive what’s coming) because he’s going to need some form of corroboration for the group to accept that he murdered one of their own.

And we clapped our hands in glee because they FINALLY unveiled one of the most important aspects of the story: you don’t need to be bit to turn into a walker; you only need to die. Everyone alive is already infected with the virus. This realization should drastically change the dynamic, assuming it ever gets out. We suspect Rick already knew this (remember the whisper in his ear at the CDC) and may try to keep it from the rest of them, but it also looks like Darryl and Glen figured it out. That entire scene in the woods was constructed so that Rick’s story would be corroborated, we think. Otherwise, if he came back telling everyone that he killed Shane and that they’re all infected, they’d have no reason to believe him and we’d be stuck with endless conversations about whether or not to believe him. Having all this stuff instantly corroborated is going to make it easier to propel the story down the road. This, too, fills us with glee. It’s showing that the writers have a plan and that they’re aware there’s probably been a little bit too much standing around and talking.

It looks like next week’s going to be a bloodbath and it says something (something very good, for once) about the show that we honestly don’t want any more main characters to die right now. Kill off all those nameless farm people and give us a core group of characters we can get behind, we’re thinking. And the fact that we’re thinking that is a good sign that we’re back to feeling a connection for the main group. Killing off two of the bigger characters has energized the show in a way that Sophia’s death never could. We’re excited about Walking Dead again! How much does it suck that there’s only one episode left?


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