The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 12 - "Better Angels"

Spoilers ahead, everyone. You have been duly warned.

"Better Angels" signals the point at which The Walking Dead has found its bearings as a series.  We'll get to the details of this week's episode in a bit, but some more general remarks at first.

First off, TWD one again makes the case that the writers are perhaps a little smarter than we give them credit for, as might be signaled in the irony of the title of this episode versus the revelations about the inner workings of the RV Gang.  Life in the World of Walkers has its own rules, and much of the soap-opera business of the first half of the season seems better understood as a sort of parody of life in the old world, articulated by good old Dale (now dead), Hershel (now deferential to Rick), and Lori (who continues to "play house," as pointed out by Andrea).  Rick'a advice to Carl last week, "Don't talk -- think!" is a useful bit of advice for watching the show.  Pay little attention to the words coming out of people's faces; all that talk doesn't mean jack when the zombies start heading your way.

Secondly, although Shane's death might on initial consideration seem to be the big development of the week, there's a larger change to the rules of TWD universe: the newly dead, those not necessarily bitten or scratched by walkers, will now become walkers in a matter of minutes once they die.  This had been hinted at previously, but Daryl, the current expert on zombies, quickly notes the peculiarities of Russell's appearance as a walker in the woods that night.  I had considered the possibility that what Dr. Jenner had whispered to Rick back in Season 1 ("TS-19") might have been about the walker virus mutating.  Rick's lingering over Shane's body could have been read as a consequence of that bit of information, but that moment was too full of ambiguity to be understood in just that way.  But Shane's popping up just moments after his death unambiguously lets us know that the rules for walkers have changed.

Finally, and the producers may have waited a little too long for this principle to sink in for viewers not familiar with the comics, but people should expect any character to die at any moment.  You can guess as to which one or two characters might make it through the entire run of the series, but the exits of Dale and Shane in the past two episodes are much more in keeping with the ethos of the comic.  Dale was too idealistic -- or rather, too distracted by his ideals -- to survive.  Shane was too impulsive -- too noisy, and, in another way, too romantic -- to survive.  Part of survival is knowing when to fight as well as knowing when to keep quiet.

Fighting and keeping quiet -- that's the way Rick takes care of business when it comes time for a final confrontation with Shane.  One of the great pleasures of "Better Angels" is watching Jon Bernthal finally lose his shit, to the point where many in the audience must have finally understood that he was truly a danger to the RV Gang, even though his reasons for his endgame are credible.  But he broke Russell's neck, then smashed his face into a tree and broke his own nose.  That's just crazy.  But Lori will do that to a person; she's not exactly helping matters with her ongoing inability to make a decision and stay with it.

The fact that Shane would take himself and three other capable zombie-killers (Daryl, Glenn, and Rick) out into the woods at night looking for an "escaped" prisoner is evidence enough of his liability.  Once the search party goes into the woods, we don't much of what happened "meanwhile, back on the ranch," aside from Carl's sneaking off.  After the search party splits up, it was great to see Daryl continue to demonstrate how awesome he is as The Redneck Superhero, and Glenn did okay in dispatching a walker with his handy machete.  Yes, folks, you should be seeing much more of Glenn as a capable survivor in the days to come.

But the scene that took everyone's breath away was the final showdown between Rick and Shane in that moonlight field with the mists gathering.  All credit to the actors for drawing us in:  Shane's strangely resigned murderousness versus Rick's nervous negotiation, right up to the moment when he slips the knife in.  The word that's been thrown around to describe the scene is 'Shakespearean,' and that's fair.  Shane got what he deserved, tragic as it was; Rick did what he had to do, much as it pained him, and, what's more, the stealthy manner in which he offed Shane makes one admire Rick even more as a leader.  That was pretty damned impressive as a test of nerve and skill.  Bravo.

All the more epic is the presence of Carl -- who, fearing for his father, has slipped out into the night and witnessed the showdown.  Of course, in the comics, it's actually Carl who guns down Shane - not Zombie Shane but Crazy Shane -- but I was just as happy with the way that Carl saved his father from Zombie Shane.  I got your back, Dad.  Carl doesn't strike me as sentimental about survival; it was Carl who showed up at the barn last week and encouraged his father to shoot Russell the prisoner.  And, as much as Shane tried to be a father to Carl, it's Rick who finally gives Carl a gun and, more to the point, recognizes the fact that his son is right: Carl can handle himself.  Although the writers could make this into an incident that drives Rick and Carl apart, I would guess that it draws them closer together.  As for Rick and Lori, who can tell?

The possibilities raised by this episode will likely make for a rousing season finale, and one that shouldn't feel too cheap.  The herd of walkers emerging from the woods after the nocturnal gunfire can't be good.  The death of Shane and Rick and Carl's part in it will certainly cause a stir among the RV Gang.  The mutated zombie virus is disturbing news.  And, let's not forget that before Russell had his neck snapped, he told Shane that the camp for his crew of 30 Armed Bad Guys wasn't more than five miles away.  As with the best shows that have an ongoing, serial plot, I would expect that much of what was built in Season Two will be burned to the ground to make way for Season Three.

Zombie Kill of the Week:  Carl, with a clean head-shot to Zombie Shane
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (major herd) - 4


The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 11 - "Judge, Jury, Executioner"

Spoilers lurking. . .

The teaser for this episode leaves no doubt as to the new morality -- amorality? moralities? -- in the world of walkers.  We open quite suddenly on Daryl and the stranger -- whose name we learn is Russell -- as Daryl works him over for information, blow by blow, picking at Russell's nasty scab with a buck knife until Russell tells what he knows about Curious Dave and Fat Tony's Gang.  There are about 30 men with artillery and automatic weapons, and that shortly after Russell joined them, they captured and raped a couple of teenage girls.  Thanks very much, shit-bird.  Whap. Boom.  Roll opening credits.  It's dirty business, and what Daryl does best.

Then we return once again to the RV Gang's attempts to maintain civilization in one way or another.  The obvious question of the day is what is to be done with Russell?  Dale, persistent as ever in his role as Defender of the Old Morality, appeals to Rick for some process in deciding Russell's fate.  Very well, Dale, Rick will give you to sundown to talk to everyone in the camp, at which point a decision must be made.  How very Aristotelian of you!  And so Dale goes about his day, having his usual Dale conversations with people -- painfully obvious and strained.  For me, Dale's become an annoyance, and I have to wonder if that's the case for other viewers as well.  As much as he might plead for mercy for Russell, we also see how Russell might just be tricky enough to be still working for The Evil Gang of 30.  To my reading, all of Dale's pleading is really a final goodbye to the Old Morality.  There's a lot of Dale in this episode, with a nice scene involving Glenn and Hershel and a pocket watch.  But the real action lies with Carl.

Carl's the new sheriff in town.  That's why he wears the hat.  He's been shot and lived.  He's seen his share of walkers.  His friend Sofia got turned into one and then was gunned down in front of him.  If a boy's going to have an appropriately grim view of the world, it's Carl.  And as much as people tell him to act his age, Carl can handle himself.  The best bit of advice his father Rick can give him is, "Don't talk, think!"  Growing up quick in the world of walkers, Carl's got a chance to see things more clearly than the others.

The best scene in the episode happens when Carl, having found a pistol along Daryl's things, sets off into the woods on his own -- everyone's arguing about Russell, you see -- and finds a walker stuck in the mud.  Rather than run away, Carl stops and studies the creature.  For a long long time.  In fact, he gets as close as he can to it.  There's a cold curiosity to Carl in these moments that is familiar -- the same uneasy fascination some might have at pulling the wings off houseflies or burning ants with sunlight and a magnifying glass.  In fact, Carl's ready to put a shell in the walker's skull when the deadhead gets his foot loose.  Carl gets away, but he drops the gun.  Remember that gun.  And remember the zombie, for that matter.

At sundown, Carl's returned, just in time to be shooed away from the talk between all the grown ups about what to do with Russell.  In the end, Dale almost makes the case for sparing his life.  If Russell is executed, the new world wins.  "It's ugly.  It's harsh," says Dale.  "It's survival of the fittest."  As he walks out, disgusted, he says to Daryl, "This group is broken."  Well, maybe.  There are some in the audience who might agree with Dale, but this is Carl's world now, not Dale's.

In the penultimate scene in the episode, Russell is escorted to the barn by Daryl, Shane, and Rick, then blindfolded.  Kneeling, he waits to have his life ended by Rick's Colt Python, but hesitates.  In that moment, Carl steps into the doorway and says, "Do it, Dad.  Do it."  And he may be right. But Rick is so horrified at Carl's certainty that he calls the whole thing off.  "We're keeping him in custody for now," he tells the group.  And Andrea goes off into the night to give Dale the good news.

While everyone was busy wrestling with the "What do we do with Russell?" question, folks forgot to ask the "Where did Carl go?" question, and the zombie that Carl stirred up earlier today is foot loose and fancy-free, and happens upon Dale whose in the midst of a Grumpy Old Man walk in the dusk.  The swamp walker finds Dale, sure enough, and rips him open before the others can get to him.  It's a terrible end for Dale, who, unable to speak, his insides open to the night, must be put out of his misery by Daryl, always the angel of death and the angel of mercy.  It's a great ambiguous ending for a valuable character who, sadly but clearly, has no real place in the new world order.

Stay tuned for more from Carl.  It's becoming his world very quickly.

Zombie Kill of the Week:  None
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (major herd): 2

The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 10 - "18 Miles Out"

Spoilers ahead. . .

Although the teaser for this episode was a bit of a cheat -- a flash forward to the heart of the action in a later sequence -- the beating heart of "18 Miles Out" was a return to the central question of this second season: Who is going to be the leader of the RV Gang -- Rick or Shane?  Rick is the lucky one: spared the initial waves of the disaster, reunited with his wife and son, a child on the way, and somehow still able to provide an image of leadership.  Shane is the cursed one: Machiavellian in his approach to most things, ruthless in his application of violence to the end of his own survival and the survival of his (now imagined) adopted family.  For Shane, the ends justify the means, whatever they may be.  For Rick, there's something to be gained from thinking it over, if only for a moment, a day, or however much time he can manage.

"18 Miles Out" starts up the plot engine in the first act as Rick and Shane are taking their prisoner from the Bar Shootout to a safe distance where, like an unwanted hound, they'll release him and hope he can fend for himself -- as long as he doesn't follow them home.  On the way, the script has the two friends/rivals stop at Symbolism Junction -- a remote crossroads somewhere in Narrative County.  There, Rick and Shane have a steely-eyed, rather obvious, but somehow satisfying grumble-and-growl which Rick wins with his, "If you're going to stay with the group this is how it's gonna be," approach.  Lori is his wife.  The baby is his.  Rick is in charge.  Now let's get back in the car.  Judging from Shane's silent contemplation of the Lone Walker in the Field, he's got his own ideas.

Once they're 18 miles out, Rick and Shane locate a school -- empty, apparently -- and leave their prisoner to his own devices.  Check that, they toss him a knife so he can get out of his bonds once Rick and Shane have driven away.  But before they're out of earshot, the stranger reveals that he knows the location of the farm, that he was a schoolmate of Maggie Green's.  The deduction:  He might lead his old posse back to the Hershel's farm -- you remember Curious Dave and Fat Tony?  Shane, of course, wants to kill him immediately, whereas Rick, you guessed it, wants to think it over.

And suddenly we're in the midst of a fight -- a really good fight, painful to watch, mostly because of how much the two mean have really meant to each other over their lives, and partly because Rick almost completely loses his shit.  Almost, but not quite.  Leave that to Shane, who picks up a giant plumber's wrench and hurls it at Rick, missing him, but smashing open a school window, releasing a whole crapload of zombies.  I mean a very large number if zombies.  Now, it's every man for himself -- Rick, Shane, and the stranger.  What follows is a series of excellent lessons in characterization-through-action.  Rick survives as much through brains as brawn, and by trusting the stranger;  Shane fends for himself but ends up trapped alone in a school bus.  In a callback to Shane's betrayal of Otis, Rick appears to leave Shane behind.  "Have fun, walker-bait!"

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Morality Play carries on, this week with a refreshing if overdone blast at Lori, who complains to Andrea's face about how the latter isn't doing her fair share of the "woman's work."  When Andrea cuts loose about Lori's playing house and her insensitivity at how lucky she's been, you sort of want to cheer.  But then again, do we need the dialogue?  Why not have Andrea simply walk out, take up her lookout post, and snipe a walker from 200 yards.  That's as nonverbal a telling-off as I would need.  Also stilted was the debate over Beth Green, who's lost the will to live, only to have Andrea leave the door to the bathroom open so that Beth can slash her wrists -- not too deep, though, so we have a sign that the child wants to live.  These developments on the farm would be fine were it not for the dialogue that continues to appear, commenting on the significance of the action.  We get it guys!

Rick, of course, has not left Shane to die, and in a rousing rescue reeking of badassery, comes back to smush a bunch of zombies and provide cover for Shane to slip out the back of the bus.  "That's how you do it, dumbass!"  And so the three men return to the farm, Shane cut down a few pegs for the time being, with Rick in possession of the reins and with another episode to think about what he's going to do.  It's a mixed bag, as it often is, but The Walking Dead seems to be finding its sea legs when its characters do less talking and more of simply surviving.

Zombie Kill of the Week:  Rick, firing through a downed walker's mouth to kill two more.
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (a major herd): 8

The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 9 - "Triggerfinger"

Spoilers ahead. . .

You can feel The Walking Dead turning slowly, ever so slowly, as new show-runner Glen Mazzara redirects the inertia of the second season toward a season finale and a third season that shows much more promise.  'Triggerfinger' continues the development of several plot lines while delivering a fair dose of zombie gore and anxiety.

When last we left Rick, Glenn, and Hershel, Rick had just gunned down curious Dave and fat Tony, two ambiguous types who had asked too many questions and been a little to eager to brandish their weapons.  Now, three of Dave and Tony's associates are now in town.  Rick and his crew are drawn into a shootout, forcing Glenn and Hershel to make their escape out the back of the bar.  Hershel handles a gun well enough, but Glenn does not.  By the time Rick can join them in the back alley, one of the others has been gunned down and is being eaten by walkers, while another has fallen off a roof an impaled his leg on a spiked fence, offering a nice moment on non-zombie gore.  How do you get yourself off a spiked fence, after all.  Rick has a solution, and it's very much like tearing off a bandage all at once.  Ouch.  The dynamics in these scenes are clear: Rick is decisive, even brutal; Herschel has some skills but is clearly following Rick's lead; Glenn has yet to find his intestinal fortitude.  But they manage to rescue the stranger and his mangled leg and get away in time.

In another thread, Lori regains consciousness in her flipped car, with a walker or two ready to make a midnight snack of her.  Lori holds her own in an especially cool sequence that shows the truly relentless nature of a zombie, as one particularly ravenous zombie almost tears off his rotting face trying to force his jaws through a hole in the windshield.  Lori takes out the walkers, but is stranded in the middle of nowhere.  It's another example of Lori's increasingly poor judgement.  Fortunately for her, Shane rides in to the rescue, tells just the right lie to convince Lori to return to the farm, and the immediate plot balls from last episode are no longer rolling.

The remaining scenes -- forgive me if I've scrambled the order in reviewing the episode -- Carl asking that Lori's baby be named Sophia, Shane and Lori disagreeing about the significance of their past relationship, Carol's attempts to talk to Daryl  -- have the effect of the Soap Opera Sledgehammer.  We already know that these characters are going to say something like this, so do they have to say it?  Why not find an image, an action, some cinematic way to convey what we really already know?  The strange romance developing between Daryl and Carol is an example of this over-writing.  At the end of the world, people would no doubt seek comfort in others -- however unlikely.  Carol's approach to Daryl, which starts out with such promise as she examines his hanging "hunting trophies," gets trampled on by clunky dialogue.  Does anything really need to be said?  She's touched by his efforts to rescue Sophia, but despite his heart of gold, Daryl fears people.  He's a man-child who needs a mommy.  Dysfunctional, perhaps -- but it makes sense.  We're getting there.  Less talk, less talk.

Zombie Kill of the Week: Lori, just because it's about time.
Zombie Quotient (from 1-none to 10-major herd): 5


The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 8 - "Nebraska"

Getting caught up.  Spoilers ahead. . .

Part of the delay in my writing about The Walking Dead again was, frankly, I wasn't sure that I was going to keep watching after all the meandering from the first half of the current season.  But as I reviewed the run-up to the Big Barn Shootout at the climax of "Pretty Much Dead Already," I could see that the producers and writers at TWD were doing the work necessary to create a different sort of television series.  Let's not forget that your typical zombie movie ends is a couple of ways, basically. 1) Everyone dies. 2) A few people escape into Plot Ambiguity.  To have an ongoing television series set during the Zombie Apocalypse means that you have to build some sort of continuity in a world where the casualty rate is high and mobility is essential.

I would agree with the assessment of many that the first half of this season's TWD has been clunky at times as the characters engage in dialogue that smacks of motivation/background notes from the producers.  In its best moments -- many of them with Daryl Dixon in his search for the doomed Sophia -- TWD was without dialogue, stripped down to simple movement and situation, expressive of the drive for survival that lies at the heart of this new world.  Really, who's got time for the soap opera stuff when you could be killed at any moment?

In the numbness after the Big Barn Shootout, as the RV Crew dispose of the downed walkers, Hershel slips off to town to renew his old drinking ways.  Rick and Glenn set off to find him, and when they (inevitably) do, Rick and Hershel have a real "let's cut the bullshit talk." And, although it drags on a bit, both of them come to an agreement that whatever high standards that either of them might have held -- Rick's sense of justice, Hershel's hope for a cure -- the deal really is about survival, plan and simple.  Kill or be killed.

Easily the best segment in the episode is the slowly building standoff between Rick, Glen, and Hershel and two men who discover them in the saloon.  Dave and Tony say they're from the northeast, and although fat Tony seems like a jerk from the start, Dave seems friendly enough, if a little nosy.  But as they all talk, Rick quickly reads the conversation for what it is -- Rick and Tony are fishing around for details, in effect, casing the area for things they might take by force.  Rick's role as leader -- and, in an Old West way, sheriff -- jumps to the foreground here, and when Dave reaches for his pistol, Rick is quick to put take down nice-guy Dave and fat Tony.  It's a refreshingly brutal moment, all the more surprising for the matter of fact way that Glenn and especially Hershel acknowledge it.  They had it coming, now they're dead.  Let's head home.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Shane is getting all crazy, one of Hershel's daughter's goes comatose, and Lori heads off in a car to retrieve Rick in town.  But wait, Lori's not paying attention, and there's a walker in the road.  Wham, bam, car wreck, and darkness is falling.  And it's time to warm your hands and hearts around a bonfire of brain-dead ghouls.  I'm not sure I'm completely turned around, but the tension of that barroom face-off suggests that everyone might just know what they were doing all along.

Zombie Kill of the Week (Honorary) - Fat Tony, killed by Rick
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (a major herd) - 1.1


The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 7 - "Pretty Much Dead Already"

Spoilers. . .

Many professional and amateur viewers of this season of The Walking Dead have pointed out the primary problem with the development of the series -- that is, in a world where zombies could attack and kill you at any moment, the rest of life's dramatics (illicit affairs, pregnancies, and the like) become more inconsequential.  Much has been written about the uneven nature of TWD's second season -- particularly the clunky nature of the Shane-Lori-Rick love triangle and Lori's pregnancy -- and how the human drama hasn't quite measured up to the zombie drama.  I've written here about the need for the show's creators to expand and deepen the cast of characters and to complicate their relationships, and for the most part, I think they've done that well enough.  There have been some dull moments in episodes 2 through 5, but what has mattered most -- Shane's ruthless pragmatism, Hershel's iron-willed faith, and Daryl's hillbilly genius -- is rolling right along.

After the airing of truths in last week's "Secrets," matters come to a head, driven mostly as Shane and Rick try to position themselves as leaders, not just of the RV Gang, but of Hershel' farm as well.  The tribal nature of survival in the post-apocalyptic world is a prominent theme in the comics and was clearly demonstrated in Season 1's "Vatos."  The truth is, if Hershel really wants to survive on his own moral terms (zombies are just sick people, not killers, and therefore properly kept in the barn), he is perfectly correct in demanding that Rick and the RV Gang leave as soon as possible.  But when Glenn lets it drop to the RC Gang about the zombies in the barn, Shane has one plan in mind, although Rick thinks he can work out an arrangement with Hershel.

Hershel calls Rick away on a zombie-wrangling mission.  A couple of walkers have gotten stuck in the swamp, and, apparently, the usual routine on the Greene farm is to round them up and stick them in the barn with the rest of the herd.  While Rick is stumbling around in the mud trying to capture zombie, Shane has to track down Dale -- who's attempting to hide the RV Gang's guns -- and get the weapons back.  Dale makes a nice principled speech about keeping his nice principles, but Shane simply is the more aggressive man.  The momentum of the episode carries quickly to the final ten minutes, with Shane headed for the barn locked and loaded and Rick going the same way with two rescued walkers on snare poles.  The entire cast converges on the barn for the final scene in which Shane -- not Rick -- take charge of the situation.  Hershel is too idealistic even to see the walkers as a threat, and Rick is too concerned with protecting the group to take decisive action, but Shane knows exactly what he wants to do.  He gives out guns to the RV Gang and opens up the barn.

What follows is a clear demonstration of just how ready the group is to defend itself.  A score of walkers emerge from the barn and are dispatched with ease and not a little gore.  Shane kills efficiently, Andrea shows her new cool, and the rest of the group -- even Glenn -- mow down the undead in a matter of a few minutes.  Daryl blasts away at the zombie that used to be Hershel's wife.  While the killfest probably won't satisfy the hardcore action fans, it does make up for the lack of zombies seen in the middle episodes of the first half of the season.  One wonders if there are budgetary or time constraints in terms of the presentation of zombies on TWD.  The most powerful moment of all -- and one that was indeed spoiled over the weekend for those who cared to look for it online -- came when Sophia, now a walker, emerges as the last of the barn-zombies.   Her mother, Carol, runs toward her, only to be restrained by Daryl.  Of all people, Rick steps up and, with his own pistol, puts a bullet into walker-Sofia's skull.  End of episode.

What has the gang learned?  If you get separated from the group, you're as good as dead; for Rick, this means that you don't run off so easily on errands of mercy.  Walkers are not people; for Hershel, this still may not be something he can accept, whereas for Carol, it may be.  The best walker is a dead walker; for Shane, this is the argument he's been making all along, and Rick, it seems, comes to agree with him.

While the time on Hershel's farm has been useful in giving the writers time and space to develop the characters, it hasn't been without risks in terms of holding audience attention.  Although TWD isn't quite up to the epic scale of a big-budget, serialized show like Lost, it's worth remembering that Lost did a little wandering in Seasons Two or Three (Mr. Eko? Ana Lucia Cortez? Nikki and Paulo?), but found its way back once an end point to the story was reached (no more than six seasons).  It seems to me that, based on "Pretty Much Dead Already," TWD writers have a general sense of how to get to these big payoffs, but that the details of the more mundane human drama are tricky.  One hopes that the second half of the season will show more improvement in the scene-to-scene situations and dialogue.

To take a few cues from the comics, TWD might work more effectively if the following were kept in mind:

1. Anyone can die at any moment. Many of the most shocking moments in the Kirkman's comics are simply the deaths -- accidental or intentional -- or major characters.  Although it certainly shouldn't be overused, and it would probably be a nightmare to keep secret until airtime, the death of a featured cast member in the middle of the season would strongly establish the danger of the world of walkers.

2. The problem is people.  A clear theme in the comics lies in the exploration of how humans, as social animals, reconfigure their relationships, morals, and behaviors to suit new circumstances.  While Hershel's farm is a good starting point for exploring this theme, there are far more effective settings and social arrangements that can be borrowed from the comics -- and who knows what the show's writers might come up with.

3. Carl is potentially the most interesting character.  In the comics, Carl is seven, whereas on the TV show, I believe  he's 12.  It's a widely held opinion that Carl is one of the strongest and most compelling character in the comics.  Now, maybe it's me, but most 7th graders I know are relatively sophisticated and capable pretty much of taking care of themselves.  As played by Chandler Riggs, Carl rings most true to me when he's demanding to be treated like an adult -- wanting to learn to shoot, for instance -- and sneaking around a bit as he tries to be a grown up.  A fertile ground for the writers might be a short arc where Carl is separated from the group and has to fend for himself -- like those very strong moments from Daryl Dixon this season.  As a kid in a world where death lurks around every corner, you've got to learn to kill walkers, and kill them well.  It might be shocking to see at first, but what an opportunity for some real innovative television.

Zombie Quotient - 1 (none) to 10 (major herd) - 7
Zombie Kill of the Week - Shane, a pistol, point blank against the skull of a snare-poled walker.


The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 6 - "Secrets"

The snowclone for today's blog entry is "When X learns that Y."  All set?  Here we go. Spoilers. . .

1. When Andrea learns that Daryl has no hard feelings about her shooting him, it's another sign that Daryl is more complicated and principled than we give him credit for.  That's about it in this episode for Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl.  Both the character and the actor probably need a rest.

2. When Dale learns that Hershel has been keeping zombies in the barn, kindly Dale attempts to reason with the increasingly cranky Hershel, only to be rebuffed.  We're not murderers, says Hershel, and those are people in the barn.  Yeah, right.

3. Glenn learns that Maggie thinks he's totally awesome -- courageous leadership material, dammit! -- after he risks his life again on yet another supply run.  Glenn has a fine zombie-kill, using a drugstore shelf to take out a particularly nasty walker that attacks Maggie.

4.  When Carl learns that his parents will let him learn to shoot, he shoots the shit out of a bunch of stuff.

5. When Andrea learns that she can shoot a gun pretty well, Shane decides to increase the difficulty of her training, and when she starts to lose her composure in trying to hit a moving target, Shane yells at her.  Not cool.

6. When Lori learns that Hershel expects the RV Gang to hit the road once Carl and Daryl are fully healed, she's not happy that Rick's been keeping that little logistical detail from her.

7. When Shane learns that Andrea wants to have sex, they have sex.  In the car.  Parked in the middle of the road.  Very cool.

8.  When Rick learns Lori that is pregnant, he's worried that she's going to get rid of the baby.

9. When Lori learns that Rick has known about her affair with Shane, she's more confused than apologetic.

10. When Dale learns that Andrea likes hanging around Shane, he confronts Shane about it, only to have Shane threaten to kill old man Dale if he presses the matter.

While "Secrets" is not the kind of mid-season cliffhanger we might expect from a series with zombies, the plot threads that have been playing out from the start of the season are nicely tangled halfway along here.  Shane, who's role in the comics had been extinguished by this point in the Hershel's farm storyline, now becomes as essential to the plot as Rick.  Shane loves Rick's family, and would do anything to help the people he cares about, and how he's developed a meaningful bond with Andrea.  Dale, whose passive-aggressive, cards-close-to-the-chest approach has worked until now, is quickly being pushed aside by the younger, more aggressive characters.  Andrea has made a play to become a survivor.  Lori's general avoidance of hard choices has caught up with her.  Glenn and Maggie are clearly going to be asserting themselves more in the general mix of things, as Maggie' confidence will bolster Glenn's developing skills as a leader.  Rick's got plenty to deal with in terms of Lori, and Shane -- and there's a looming conflict with Hershel's folks that still has to begin playing out in the second half of the season.

So, while there wasn't much zombie-killing this week, there was a real sense of movement in the characters, particularly internally.  If characters best reveal themselves by the decisions they made when faced with challenging situations, "Secrets" laid bare the thinking of most of the RV Gang.  As others have said, for the show to succeed in the long term, The Walking Dead needs to be about more than Rick.  And, in a way that avoids gimmicks like "Last Week on The Walking Dead" and, for the most part, Lost-style flashbacks, the creative team have found a way to move the show from being about one character to being about a dozen -- in the space of six episodes.

With a closing shot of Lori and Rick standing in the middle of the road, at an impasse in their conversation, it seems that TWD is primed for a great many reactions from the cast of characters, probably in the additional context of Hershel's barn causing more and more problems.  Next week, we'll reach a stopping point of sorts with the episode "Pretty Much Dead Already," as the series goes on a two month hiatus.  Hold on to your hats and pass the ammo.  After that, no new episodes until February 12 of next year.

Zombie Kill of the Week: Glenn, with shelving.
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (major herd): 4