Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Better Angels"

Non Spoiler Review:
With the Randal question continuing to hover over the group, Rick and Hershel decide to get the farm battle ready just in case. Everyone is mourning the loss of Dale, and Lori decides to have the most ridiculous conversation with Shane ever, that prompts him to take some rash actions.

Continuing the trend of the last few weeks, The Walking Dead is sliding comfortably back into its earlier dark and edgy greatness. Better Angels provides some nice little moments with characters handling Dale's absence, while bringing one of the more infamous scenes to life from the graphic novels.

I'm pleased they finally got to this matter and dealt with it prior to the finale, leaving things up in the air as to what can possibly happen to the survivors next. It will undoubtedly be worse.
Spoilers Now!
A sad funeral for Dale is juxtaposed with the survivors cleaning up the roaming walkers in the area. With all the cattle on the farm, they're being drawn to the food supply (zombie apocalypse evidently even worse for domestic cows). Rick promises to honor Dale's conscience by doing it his way from now on. Hershel lets everyone move into the house for protection while Rick begins to organize for trouble. He also has returned to his plan to release Randal beyond the farm.

Shane's not all that happy with everything. Hershel wants to make it clear he has no more patience with him. Carl confides in Shane he took the gun from Daryl's motorcycle and gives it back, and also confesses about the walker that got free. He lets Carl keep the gun so he can protect himself, but Carl doesn't want to touch a gun again.

Lori goes to Shane and attempts to make some peace with him, confessing she made a mess of things and put him and Rick at odds. She doesn't know who the baby's father is and tells him she understands how hard that is on him. She thanks him for getting them out of Atlanta and being there for her. That perks up Shane (a little too much).

Rick chats with Daryl about his thoughts on the preparations while thanking him for what he did for Dale. Shane goes to Rick with what Carl told him and suggests he should talk to him. Rick would prefer Lori deal with it as he's handling Randal. Shane gives him Daryl's gun and (rightly) suggests he get his priorities straight.

Glen has to make some repairs on the RV with Andrea. He thinks he let Dale down, but she's sure he knew that they cared for him. They both share a tender moment as they get the RV going again.

Rick does his fatherly duty and has his talk with Carl in the barn, honest with him that the world's changed and they're all going to die eventually. He's not good with these types of conversations (obviously) and he's tired, so he returns the gun to Carl because he needs it to protect himself.

Shane visits Randal (who is blindfolded and tied up), and appears to show some new and interesting forms of his psychosis by silently torturing him with his presence. Later T-Dog goes to retrieve Randal from the locked barn, only to find him gone. Shane has taken him into the woods where he interrogates him again about the location of his group and learns they could be camping as little as five miles away. He asks to be taken there, suggesting he's ready to leave the group. Randal seems to go for that idea and says he'll fit in good with the other tough guys. Shane kills him. Then he bashes his own face into a tree to make it appear he had an altercation.

The rest of the group are trying to figure out where Randal is as Shane spies on them from the trees. He comes running and yelling, explaining Randal took his gun and snuck up on him. He, Rick, Daryl and Glen head off in search. But Daryl's immediately skeptical Randal got the jump on Shane.

The search continues into the night with Rick and Shane splitting off from Daryl and Glen. Daryl is finding Shane's tracks, plus blood on the tree, determining that Shane was following him longer than he said. They spy a walker and realizes it's Randal once they kill it. There's no evidence of bites. He died from the broken neck. 

Rick is also doubting Shane's story and continues to question him about details. He confronts him that Shane plans to kill him right there and concocted the whole thing. Shane says Lori and Carl will get over him, given they've done it before, and trains his gun on him. Rick thought they worked it all out. Shane accuses him of being a bad father and claims he's the better man in all respects. He's got a broken woman and weak boy and no clue how to fix it. Rick won't raise his gun, telling him there's still a way to fix this. Shane takes the gun, and as he does, Rick stabs him. Rick furiously curses him for making him do this. Shane dies (!) and Rick breaks down and wails.

As he sits with him, Carl comes over, while someone (Shane) appears to have visions of walkers ripping into flesh. Carl pulls out his gun as Rick walks over, and Shane rises behind him. Rick wants him to put the gun down, but Carl fires and shoots Shane in the head. The gunshot appears to alert a very large bunch of walkers while stunned Rick returns to investigate Shane's body.

The Verdict:
The tension was handled very well, aided by a really nicely shot final act at night with the moon in the background. Shane really pulled off some even crazier stuff. I kind of like the fact that Lori's talk drove him over the edge, given she's just that stupid to do something like that. Only in death did Shane really have some valid points—Rick isn't that great a father at all, and little Carl has been left to roam around the farm with little to do but aggravate walkers and steal weapons.

The greater story line items are finally at the forefront—Shane's death, while still full of gravitas and Rick angst, did miss the mark a bit for me—I really wanted it to be Carl to kill Shane, rather than provide the post-zombie kill shot that kind of washes his hands of the whole thing. Oh well.

What it does do (along with Randal) is further the plague mythology and get to just what Jenner told Rick at the CDC. Though I'm wondering how and why we've not seen this reanimation sooner (particularly, the huge number of dead people sitting in cars on the highway at the beginning of the season. I hope this does get addressed, even with just a line of dialogue).

If the shot has alerted a massive horde, will we leave our group trapped in the house at season's end? Or will they be on foot? I'm anxious to see how it fades out this time around and who (if any) might be introduced. Thankfully, my Sunday nights of Walking Dead have returned to their edge-of-the-seat tension, so that bodes well for season three.

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