Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
Well, the inevitable finally happened on AMC’s The Walking Dead: Yes, the zombies found Hershel Greene’s (Scott Wilson) farm. What, you thought we were referring to something else?
That's coming, don't worry. With all the gunshots, yelling, and philosophizing that’s gone down on the old man’s property, all it took for the walkers to locate a hotbed of live, fresh meat was a loud, fatal squabble between a pair of old friends, which itself is another inevitability that transpired by the end of last night’s episode, “Better Angels.” The second season’s penultimate hour, “Better Angels” continued the show’s hot streak post its midseason return, ratcheting up the tension and darkness several more ticks and further proving that new showrunner Glen Mazzara isn’t about to let any narrative beats drag along for any more episodes than ultimately is necessary.
Most likely due to the fact that it’s been something we’ve all—at least in-tune Walking Dead viewers and fans of Robert Kirkman’s original comic books—been anticipating, but the final seconds of one major character didn’t hit with the devastating wallop we’d been expecting; it was a taut, and largely satisfying moment, no question, yet, still, the pivotal death scene wasn’t a sheer knockdown. What it wrought, however, was; the stage is now set for an all-about-action season finale, and we couldn’t be more excited. But, first…
“No more kids’ stuff.”
The year’s first shocking demise on The Walking Dead, that of morality representative Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) at the end of the preceding episode, “Judge, Jury, Executioner”, is having lasting effects on the group, which we see as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) leads them all with some final thoughts about the man, spoken near his backyard gravesite. Rick’s none too content with Dale’s last pre-death statement about the group being “broken,” and in his estimation, “The best way to honor [Dale] is to un-break it.”
Try telling that to Shane (Jon Bernthal), though, who’s first seen on a kill-all-zombies mission with the equally irate Andrea (Laurie Holden), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and the ever-useful T-Dog (IronE Singleton). With his trusty crossbow in hand, Daryl fires a few arrows through living dead skulls; Andrea, meanwhile, grabs a rusty pitchfork and drives through a ghoul’s jaw, and Shane, wielding a mighty shovel, rams the tool down on a zombie’s head, crushing it into bits like it was a melon placed on top of one of those carnival strong-man games. You’ve heard of “hate sex,” right? This is The Walking Dead’s version of “hate mourning.” And we like it.
Doing what he should’ve done a long time ago, Hershel invites Rick’s gang to stay inside his house, rather than camp out along the property’s perimeter any longer and run the risk of offering zombies buffets, now that the farmland has seen its first on-site walker (i.e., the one that murked Dale). But there’s still the matter of their prisoner, Randall (Michael Zegen), the captive who’s become a terrible nuisance without ever doing anything but sit around tied up and gagged inside a barn. Rick decides to revisit the old plan of driving him miles out and leaving him to fend for himself, and, this time, he asks Daryl to join him for the ride, not Shane—a move that leaves Shane visibly hurt. Raging hotheads have feelings too, after all.
Young Carl (Chandler Riggs), however, has no problem with confiding in Shane. Given a little one-on-one time with his honorary uncle, Carl admits to Shane that the Dale’s killer walker was one that he’d pissed off and provoked shortly before, and that he had the chance to shoot it in the head but clammed up, thus, in Carl’s mind, causing Dale’s swan song. Shane rebukes the kid’s thoughts, going so far as to advise him to keep the gun for his own protection; Carl, unsurprisingly, wants nothing to do with the gun. Similar to how Rick seemingly wants nothing to do with his troubled son in light of the whole Randall situation—or, as Shane puts it, “Freeing that prisoner is more important to you than Carl.” Which leads to a father/son heart-to-heart, one that results in the touching sight of daddy Rick giving Carl the handgun back—not exactly a Teddy bear, but, in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, it’ll do.
So, on one side of Shane’s already fractured psyche, you’ve not got the knowledge that Rick, his longtime best friend and “brother” from another mother, wants nothing to do with him, having basically replaced him with Daryl for second-in-command duties. But add on to that Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) sudden lamentation and confessions, apologizing to Shane for putting him and Rick “at odds,” and pointing out that she can’t imagine how bad it must be for Shane to not know whether her unborn child is his or Rick’s. Ending the tender exchange with a simple yet effective, “I’m sorry, Shane,” Lori, whether she realizes it or not, has driven the dagger even further into Shane’s emotions. The man is officially ready to snap.
“So this is where you’re gonna do it, huh?”
And, boy does he. In a rather overdone sequence, Shane creeps into the barn to sit by Randall, and we’re treated to some erratic cuts and jarring edits that aim to dictate Shane’s descent into pure madness, only the final product looks more forced than disturbing. The guy’s next moves, on the other hand, aren’t as beaten-over-the-head.
Abducting Randall, Shane walks the blindfolded teen into the woods and asks about his sordid group, and informs Randall that he wants to leave Rick and the other behind and join the other side, so to speak. Randall, understandably happy about having a longer lease on life, says, “It’s a tough bunch of guys—you’ll fit in good.” But would any of the so-called deviants residing five miles away sneak up behind a guy after pretending to let him live, snap his neck, and then ram his face into a tree to make it look like the “prisoner” got in a few solid punches before fleeing? We now know that Shane would, being that he does just that to Randall, then stashing his gun underneath a pile of leaves and heading back to the group to shout a lie about Randall clocking him, taking his weapon, and running for his life.
A search-and-kill mission kicks off, with Daryl and Glenn (Steven Yuen) heading off in one direction and Rick and Shane going in another; to his credit, Daryl says what everyone else should be thinking: “The kid weights a buck-twenty-five soaking wet—you’re tellin’ me he got the jump on you?” Almost like the zombie version of Randall gets the jump on Glenn moments later, though Mr. Walker Bait busts through dead-Randall’s head with a knife. The just-undead body lying on the ground, Daryl notices that he “got his neck broke,” and that “he’s got no bites.”
And Daryl isn’t the only one who’s suspicions of Shane. Rick begins showing his disbelief in the whole Randall-got-away tale, and once he holsters his gun, Shane draws his; not to mention, he even has a second bullshit explanation on standby, this one designed for after Shane kills Rick—he’d blame it on Randall again. A Mexican standoff ensues, and Shane, in pure frothing madman mode, shouts, “I’m a better father than you, Rick!” Followed by, “You’ve got a broken woman, you’ve got a weak boy, and you ain’t got the first good one on how to fix it!”
Clearly furious, Rick pulls the old okie-doke on Shane, making it seem like he’s about to relinquish his gun and then, once Shane’s close enough to hug, stabbing him in the chest, and yelling, in heartbroken agony, “This was you, not me!” Also in uncontrollable tears is Carl, who’s stumbled into the murder location and has his pistol aimed at Rick, thinking he’s the bad guy for killing Uncle Shane. Like the un-bitten Randall, however, Shane isn’t totally lifeless—he’s now a zombie, indicating that The Walking Dead’s world is one where, like the universe of zombie movie titan George A. Romero, anyone who dies, no matter the cause, comes back as a flesh-craving monster. Unless you stop their proverbial clocks with a bullet to the head, which Carl gives Zombie Shane.
Unfortunately, Carl’s wee gun doesn’t have enough slugs to handle the swarm of alert walkers that’s rapidly approaching he and daddy. And it looks like the season finale is about to remake Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead set-up: people trapped inside a farmhouse, fending off dozens of zombies.
Still bitching and moaning about the show’s lack of action and gory violence now, haters?
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)