The Walking Dead Post-Mortem: “Better Angels”
Greetings fellow zombie lovers! And fans of everyone who’s still alive on the show….seriously, if they keep this up there will be no one left by the middle of season three. It looks like the herd is going to be thinned out even more next week as well, given the zombie horde that is slowly approaching Herschel’s farm, (SEE YA: Carol, T-Dog, non-important members of Herschel’s family) which is fine by me. The Walking Dead needs to trim the fat and build muscle, where the characters are concerned. Everyone who survives the finale next week needs to be affected and changed by the events of this past season; they need to become harder, smarter, and far less chatty. Speaking of being less chatty, let’s bring this preamble to a close and begin exhuming this excellent episode of The Walking Dead, “Better Angels”
** I’ve written a good deal about previous showrunner Frank Darabont, current showrunner Glenn Mazzara, various actors, and writers in these behind the scenes asides. However, I haven’t talked about the creator of The Walking Dead, and current writer/executive producer on the show, Robert Kirkman, much at all. It’s a known fact that AMC moved Kirkman and his family out to California so he could work on the show, but sometimes I wonder how much power Kirkman actually has in the writer’s room. Sure, he’s done a ton of interviews for major news outlets, and even appeared on The View last year to discuss The Walking Dead…but compared to the other the writers working on the show, he is not as experienced…
***…writing for a television show, that is; he is a very experienced comic book writer. Kirkman has single handily written The Walking Dead graphic novel for 94 issues now, without a huge staff of writers to help him I might add. Kirkman, (along with artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard) came up with all the characters, storylines, and everything else that makes The Walking Dead a great comic, all on their own. He is a very talented writer who knows this story better than anyone. I sincerely hope that Mazzara and the other writers allow Kirkman to have a hand in crafting the episodes, and that his appointment to writer’s room wasn’t just damage control from AMC, who feared massive fan backlash after firing Darabont.
The expression: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, sums up tonight’s episode nicely. The old saying serves as the guiding force behind Better Angels; with the character’s own road to hell being paved as they endeavor to become the “better angels” Rick urges them all to be in his moving eulogy for Dale. Lori makes the first move that sets everything in motion. She goes to talk to Shane about everything that has happened between them. She gets all wistful and teary eyed, thanking him for everything he’s done for her and Carl. She tells him that when they were leaving Atlanta and everything was going to hell, she knew they were going to be okay because she was with him. She also, (in so many words) tells him she’s sorry for how everything went down when Rick came back, how she’s treated him since then, etc. Then she runs off like a little girl who’s just kissed a boy for the first time on the playground. In her mind, Lori thinks she’s done the right thing by making peace with Shane, but her behavior towards him is ambiguous enough that it gives Shane some renewed hope for their forbidden romance.
Carl comes up to Shane shortly after that and tells him the truth about the walker who killed Dale. Again, here is someone trying to do the right thing for the right reasons not realizing how much damage it’s going to end up causing in the long run. Carl feels guilty about what happened to Dale, but he chooses to confide this guilt in the wrong person. If Carl had gone to talk to his dad first, they would had that moving chat in the barn without Shane ever knowing what really went down with Carl and the walker. Shane goes to Rick about Carl, telling him that he needs to put off taking Randall off the farm for a while to talk to his boy about what happened. Rick tells him that he it’s his call to make, it’s his son, and that Shane needs to mind his own business (however, as I mentioned above, Rick does end up talking to Carl, and it was a fantastic scene.) Rebuffed by Rick, fearing for Carl, and lusting after Lori again something fierce, Shane decides it’s time to take matters into his own hands with Randall…and Rick. The scene where Shane sits down in front of a tied up and blind-folded Randall was a terrific display of Jon Bernthal’s acting skills. It was Mr. Hyde turning into a worse version of Mr. Hyde, and I loved how Shane’s facial expressions twisted and contorted with glee and he imagined all the terrible things he could do to Randall…in the name of love of course. He releases Randall from the barn and takes him out into the woods. He frees him, feeds him some BS about wanting to join his camp, and as soon as Randall starts leading the way, Shane snaps his neck. He then hurls himself in front of a tree; busting his nose to make the story he eventually tells Rick and the group more believable. However, it’s painfully clear to the viewers that Rick doesn’t buy Shane’s story for a second, but is playing along because he wants to know what Shane is up to.
The scenes of Glenn, Daryl Rick and Shane combing the woods at night looking for Randall are some of the most atmospheric, creepy, and suspenseful scenes the show has ever done. With Glenn and Daryl, the suspense was generated mainly by the viewer not knowing who or what the duo might encounter out in the woods. They discover zombie Randall and kill him, but make a startling discovery: He has no bite marks…yet still became a zombie after he died…. but wait, that must mean….
MAJOR REVELATION ABOUT THE SHOW’S ZOMBIE MYTHOLOGY:
You don’t have to be bitten to become a walker. Everyone is already infected by the disease that creates the walkers, and when they die (assuming their brains are still mostly intact, I suppose) they become walkers. Five gets your ten that’s what Dr. Jenner whispered into Rick’s ear at the CDC, right before it blew up. I’m sure that will be revealed next week.
Shane and Rick’s suspenseful trek through the woods played out on a deeper level thematically. There were so many different emotions at play here: suspicion, doubt, jealousy, hate, love, and we could feel it all simmering the whole time. The amazing final standoff between Rick and Shane under the moon was the high point of the entire episode, both visually and dramatically. All rationality has left Shane at this point; he is delusional, dangerous, and vindictive. He chides Rick about not being a good enough man for Lori, or a strong enough father for Carl. Yet ultimately, Shane is not the great survivor he believes himself to be, as he is easily fooled by Rick’s pleading with him to do the right and moral thing…which of course Rick was only doing to get Shane to let his guard down long enough. When Shane finally begins to lower the gun, Rick plunges his knife into Shane’s chest. It was an amazing payoff to all the tension that had built up between these men over the past two seasons. But wait, it’s not over yet: Carl finds Rick standing over Shane’s dead body, Rick comes over to Carl to explain what happened to him, and Carl points the gun at him. Rick thinks Carl is going shoot him, but he actually ends up shooting zombie Shane….and attracting a massive horde of walkers towards the farm. And to think, all of this happened because of Lori and her damn good intentions….