This review contains spoilers.
2.7 Pretty Much Dead Already
It’s the end of an era on The Walking Dead. While the gang appears to still be on Hershel’s farm for the foreseeable future, we finally get an end to the Sophia storyline.
Of course, this is also the official end of Frank Darabont’s reign as show runner and the beginning of Glen Mazzara’s term as the zombie master of TWD. No matter what you might say about the show thus far, the first season was riveting. The second season had a great debut, but since then, the fire has gone out of the show in a sense. It’s still been good to great television, depending on the episode, but it hasn’t felt epic.
Part of that is budget, and part of that is subject. There’s more now, so it loses that breathless anticipation it had in the first season and the earlier episodes of the second. The budget got cut, so they’re shooting indoors more and cutting back on the big effects scenes. The Sophia thing has just been a dragging anchor, and everyone knows it. This week’s episode of The Walking Dead has many of the flaws of the second season so far, but the ending was so great that it made up for everything. The half-season goes out with a bang.
The secrets are being brought to light. Hershel’s secret barn of zombies? Everyone knows. Lori’s pregnancy? Shane knows. Hershel’s plan to usher the group off of his land by the end of the week? Rick knows, thus everyone finds out in some way. Even Dale’s started putting together the truth about what happened to Otis, and he’s willing to take action to preserve the group’s safe haven, even if that means butting bald head to shaved head with Shane.
An interesting touch to the show this week was Hershel and Rick’s trip into the swamps to pluck some zombies out of the muck and mire. If you’ve been wondering why the farm’s been zombie-free, this might be your answer. When you’re surrounded by swampland, that makes walking to places a bit more treacherous. Of course, the zombies could use the road, but zombies aren’t that smart and this – combined with the fact that the town is tiny – explains why they’re not fully overrun with walkers. In any zombie apocalypse, they tend to gravitate to where there’s food. That would be Atlanta in this case, not Doogal County. There’d be no zombies there because once all the easily-accessible people were dead, they’d wander off towards snack city. The few malingerers would get snared in the swamp and end up in Hershel’s barn.
Jon Bernthal and writer Scott Gimple have done wonders with Shane’s slow-burning turn towards the dark side. If nothing else, Shane has become a great semi-villain. When Shane learns of Lori’s pregnancy, he responds rationally, but emotionally. He’s hurting, but he doesn’t lash out when Carl gives him a chance. Instead, he responds to Carl like a father would, and the look of pain on his face when he looks back at Lori and Carl was just hurting.
Yes, Shane is cruel and sleazy and evil, but he’s not a one-note cackling villain. He’s still a person, albeit a damaged person. If Bernthal doesn’t get an Emmy nod for his work – if only for this episode – then TV critics have about as much respect for horror as film critics do.
Shane could easily become a straight villain, but so far, they’ve resisted that temptation and given him character. Shane’s rash, but he’s not a monster. Yet, Shane’s simply the anti-Rick. Shane’s cunning enough to know when he has to make Rick do something, yet not quite cunning enough to know when not to rush into a situation with guns blazing.
As for the other characters, there’s some good moments this week for the rest.
Dale’s confrontation with Shane was very well done, as was Glenn’s interaction with Maggie after their initial squabble. Even Dale and Andrea address the elephant in the room in their relationship (an elephant named Shane Almost Killed His Best Friend In The Woods). T-Dog, who gets the least amount of screen time, has become the go-to character for a great one-liner. If you want one line delivered with the maximum amount of hilarious impact, it usually ends up in IronE Singleton’s mouth. That may just be because I’m always shocked to see him speak, I’m not sure. Either way, for good chunks of season two he’s been Mr One-Liner.
I’d like to see this continue, honestly; T-Dog may not get to say anything for hours at a time, but at least he says something to look forward to. That’s more than you can say for a lot of the group.
Director Michelle MacLaren worked some great shots into this episode. Sure, it was a lot of the usual walking and talking, but she had some good crane shots, used a lot of the countryside well, and worked some great reaction shots, too. There was a killer zombie face-off in the beginning of the episode that everyone knew was coming (but was still great). There was a wonderful dolly shot of Rick’s horrified face when he went to the barn to discover the truth for himself.
Most impressively, there was the entire final five minutes of the episode.
It was incredibly well crafted. There was a great mix of reaction shots with the violence, and the violence itself was handled with ballet-like beauty. Plus the use of sound (or lack) was spot-on. That one scene and that one gutsy decision has pretty much saved the first half of season two. It was stellar and gave me flash-backs to Bonnie and Clyde’s final car trip in a way. That haunting last scene of the episode was perfect, both in tone and execution.
The Walking Dead is now officially off the air until February 12, 2012. They’ve given us a reason to come back for episode eight and beyond, and in the process they displayed more bravery with their writing than I would have expected. If they’ll cross the lines they did in this single episode, who knows what’ll go down in the final six of the second season?
Read our review of the last episode, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see some forward momentum on the second season of The Walking Dead. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.