The Walking Dead - "Better Angels"

After last week's strangely affecting episode of AMC's The Walking Dead, we get "Better Angels" to continue the full-steam-ahead vibe that's beginning the serve the series very well. "Better Angels" is a strong episode, but in what appear to be attempts to tie up loose ends and maintain some emotional core to the show, there are moments that don't really work, or for that matter, make a lot of sense. The big news, if you don't already know please turn your head now, is that Rick stabs Shane, not in cold blood, but not in self-defense entirely either. It's a killing in lukewarm blood, but it also seemed otherwise completely unavoidable. The way that the episode closes, or nearly closes, on this brutal moment, sets a solid contrast to Rick's plea that the group come together and maintain their humanity as Dale wanted... to be un-broken and to stay together because they'd honor his memory. The problem is that Rick never loses his humanity completely. The twist, or rather the turn of the knife, isn't nearly as big because we know that Rick knows better. The problem is that Carl witnesses it. Or at least sees his father looming over Shane's body. And in that moment, the innocence is all gone for the young man.

Elsewhere and earlier, Rick's original plea to honor Dale could easily be a pact made by the writers of the show. Rick essentially tells the team not to be whining, philosophical, sad-sacks anymore. And if the writers are hinting that they'll take the show in a non-AMC hyper-dramatic direction, then I'm all for it. Of course, they don't make immediate good on this demand... although Lori inexplicably does. She turns to Shane, just episodes (but days in show time) from his outrageous claims and attempts to beat Rick to death, to tell him that she's sorry, that she (hints) loved him at least for a minute there, and that he's a good guy. She says it's because Dale died and that makes her question all her notions, but that's stupid if only because Lori and Dale never seemed to talk or have fun or anything. It's problematic to make a character like Dale, who becomes the whining tattletale and unwanted conscience to the audience and the group on screen, and then pretend that everyone's completely heartbroken at his passing. If the writers took 7 minutes from the philosophy aspect of the show and put it into showing a bond and a love among the characters, even if it's just an instant, then these deaths would mean more. And revelatory reactions would seem more reasonable.

Sure, we liked Dale. But we didn't love him. And when Lori opens up to the man she wanted dead two weeks ago. And when Glenn gets all sappy about the Winnebago, it seems trite, like an acknowledgement that they're SUPPOSED to have a bond that they never show. It would be one thing to say, "Oh shit! Another one is dead. This is out of hand. I'm scared." But to put weight on Sophia and Dale when no one talks about Otis or Amy or the countless other people who have already died is hollow. Carl blames himself, and has the most compelling side story option, but it goes nowhere, other than to show some warmth in Shane's heart so that we'll feel worse when Rick rips it out (necessarily) a few scenes later. And that's okay. Because Shane rises, and Carl shoots him. After, of course, Shane takes matters with their captive into his own hands and kills him too. The web is tangled. Shane went crazy. But like Darth Vader, there was still good left. And now he's dead, and Rick will have to try to explain it.

Oh yeah, and a group of zombies were bearing down on the farm from the forest, apparently fulfilling the "we have cows so we're sitting ducks" foreshadowing that was so deftly implanted at the beginning of the show. One more for Season Two. Will they make it good? I think they will. They're getting better. Plus, the visuals, especially the at-dusk showdown between Rick and Shane was beautifully shot. Stay tuned.

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