Well, last night, we got something a bit different, which hopefully will lead to a compelling season two finale next week.
For the first time all season, the characters of the Walking Dead allowed humanity to sink its teeth into their collective personality so that it, too, could rise from the dead. Instead of taking their cues from B horror movies (or Hallmark cards), we were treated to an honest conversation between Shane and Lori, and some well earned tears while Andrea and Glenn reminisced about Dale fixing the Winnebago (even though it hasn't moved in what seems like 65 years). Hey, even T-Dogg, who I'm convinced is afflicted with the same curse Eddie Murphy's character has in "A Thousand Words," warbled a few syllables to help advance the plot. But the show's chief relationship reached a fever pitch in a hauntingly beautiful duel between Rick and Shane, after weeks of clunky build-up, unnatural fights, strange threats, and obvious observations. The creators effectively unraveled Shane to the point where it was easy to believe he'd carelessly snap Randall's neck after slamming his own head into a tree, which inspired some kind of wild goose chase in the woods to isolate both he and Rick so they could, once and for all, settle their differences in the most primal fashion. The scenes leading up to the Walking Dead's now famous fight were taut, tense, nuanced, and just...shockingly well done. It would have been easy for the creators to prolong their fury towards eachother for another season, but to their credit, they realized they reached a point of no return and "resolved" their situation with a brutal death scene, thus shifting the show into overdrive. This, hopefully, will produce more interesting conflicts than searching for a missing girl in the woods, and deciding whether or not to kill a prisoner that really never seemed like that much of a threat in the first place.
But it's not all good...and for those who know my Walking Dead rants well, you know where this is headed.
|Oh, Carl, you ruin everything|
I'm willing to forgive the strange mutation of the virus (which apparently now brings any dead back to life, regardless of whether he/she is bitten), I'm even willing to forgive the fact that Shane led Rick miles into the woods to some secluded place that was actually within shouting distance of.... Herschel's farm (odd)! Hell, I'm even willing to forget that Daryl, a character oozing with potential, has been relegated to no more than a human bloodhound. But the show's fatal flaw is it's insistence to use Carl, or more broadly "childhood innocence," as it's foundation. Though none of the characters are superbly thought out, over these past few weeks, we've seen a well developed downward spiral from Rick and Shane that plants seeds of doubt within the audience's inclination to trust them. It's a compelling character study to see two hardened men used to making the right decisions crack under the pressure of an evolving society that they cannot comprehend, even if it's staring them straight in the eyes. This boiling point has had a trickle down effect on the other characters who take their lead from these two men. Their vitriol and indecision has permeated the rest of the group like a silent virus, and has warped their decisions to the point where insanity has become the new normal. Because of this, the supporting characters have brief glimpses of lucidity that are often overwhelmed by the realization that they will never be the people they once were, and are now paranoid monsters who have lost the capability to truly value human life. That is complex. That has the potential for something interesting. But each time the show is caught in the middle of this creaky rope bridge that straddles an endless chasm, they ground it in Carl's plotline/character arc and simplify it to the point of complete boredom. I get that Carl's young, I get that the Carl represents the future generation of this lost world, but there's only so much complexity and emotion you can draw from a twelve year old, because so much of his world is black and white. Children don't make decisions, children don't fall in love, children generally don't have dark sides that aren't of the unnatural, horror-movie creepy type. Not to mention, generally children are shitty actors and don't have the capacity to adequately pull off inner struggle. Carl's strange arc in this episode (and season) was a consistent grinding halt to the faced paced nature of the quickly transforming relationships between the adults. And with the small zombie army descending on Hershel's ranch for the season two finale, let's hope Carl's emergency brake doesn't get in the way of what potentially can bring some high-octane intensity.