The Walking Dead Recap: Pretty Much Dead Already
by Marc Patterson
I’ve been reading some comments out there across the ol’ interwebs from various rock n’ rollers in the horror community regarding last night’s mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, and the whole season at large, and I must say, reactions seem to be equally split so far. Some armchair critics have been enjoying the slow-paced drama this season. Others, such as myself haven’t been as enthralled. Those who have been enjoying the show seem to brush off us so-called “naysayers” by claiming they don’t need the constant onslaught of action and gore. Well, I’m here to set the record straight on that. Neither do I. What I do need though, is good storytelling, and that’s been the primary target of my excoriating criticism this season. There’s been a severe lack of good storytelling. Lucky for those viewers who share my disdain, last night was a pleasant switch of pace.
Before I get into the breakdown, let me ask you all though – what did you think of last night’s finale? Personally? I thought it was the best episode of the season thus far.
Yes. I’ve been perturbed by the slow pacing and the underdeveloped characters. I’ve been annoyed by the cheap gimmicks and sloppy writing that has milked every minor plot point out like it was epically pivotal. Last night though? It seemed like a return to the original series. It wasn’t the action that set it off, but rather the emotional tension that ripped through the entire hour. It started off lightly enough with Glenn announcing to the group over breakfast that there were walkers in the barn. In the distance, on the porch Maggie urged him to keep silent, shaking her head “no”. On the other side, Dale encouraged Glenn to be honest with his people by nodding his head “yes”. Comedic? Slightly. But the point was made. Glenn had to tell the group. It was going to happen anyway. It might as well have been from the guy who found out.
This revelation spins the group into a mild frenzy. They agree to post a watch on the barn while Rick speaks with Hershel. But talking with Hershel is like talking to a brick wall. He’s not one to be moved. He wants Rick and his people off his land within the week. Rick begs with Hershel not to evict them, that to do so would be sentencing them all to death. Hershel’s compassion didn’t seem to extend much beyond his family on this one.
With Rick at an impasse Shane takes the bull by the horns and does something he should have done a long time ago. He draws a big ass line in the sand. This leads to a stand-off with him and Lori, him and Dale, and eventually the whole damn group. Not everyone is against Shane though. It would appear that the entire camp is moving towards a hostile mutiny if Rick can’t settle things up with Hershel, and quick.
Now let’s talk about those final moments, because really – that’s what we’ve been waiting on for about a few weeks now. Oh… those final moments – so emotionally charged. There’s been a fierce anger simmering under the surface all season and it finally exploded violently providing a dramatic score to scene that practically had me cheering out loud. But, there’s so much more going on than a simple backlash. We’re inundated with emotions; stunning sadness, vindication, and ultimately shock followed by more sadness. The rapid fire in which viewers were run through the gauntlet last night punctuated the finale like the same hammering barrage of gunfire that pronounced a total change in leadership – for everyone. Like him or loathe him Shane is the man of the hour. This whole series has really been his and last night he got his big shot in the spotlight, and by God – it was a fantastic scene to be displayed.
And I have to talk about that breaking point. It really got set off when Shane spotted Hershel and Rick emerging from the woods with the walkers in captivity and raced down there to stop Hershel at the barn. Man, the look on his face was pure anger and the obvious feeling of being betrayed by Rick. It was as if Rick made his choice and sided with the other team. No question, you knew things were going to get ugly and fast. To be honest, I thought Shane’s moment of pure anger, a near hatred that ran so deep he must have been seeing red, was going to be his demise. I thought, “Oh shit. He’s going to rip open that barn and that’s how the writers are going to off Shane”. Shockingly, that didn’t happen, but something else did. The inevitable end to the search for Sophia. As the walkers poured out and gunfire rained downed on them, shit got real. It got really real when the final walker to limp from the barn was Sophia.
Sophia’s emergence from the barn as a walker, and that tear-jerking moment when Rick finally stepped from behind the crowd and came up to pull the trigger, something only he could do, was purely devastating. It was something none of us saw coming, even though we should have. Jaded comic fans figured that Sophia would soon show up. She lives a long time in the comics, so the idea that she would be killed off, especially at this juncture, was just foreign. It was all set up beforehand though – right in our plain sight. Where’s Sophia? The barn, of course.
How is this going to play out when The Walking Dead returns to television? I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ve now hit a point in the road where the show can take some dramatic turns away from the comic book source material and start to become something free-standing, of its own creation. At this juncture there’s no need to be loyal to any sort of text, not like any of the writers or producers were trying anyway. Part of the enjoyment is being surprised.
When you start to breakdown the aftermath of last night’s crashing finale, there’s more to this massacre than just the clean-up of bodies. First, we’re set with a possible stand-off against Hershel’s family. There’s also the sense that perhaps their whole world is now shattered. Shane blatantly showed them all that these walkers weren’t humans (after pumping round after round through one’s chest). That will destroy their belief system. Hershel’s leadership hasn’t just been questioned, it’s been overthrown and he’s got to deal with that as well. Plus, he has finally has to come to grips that his wife and step-daughter are dead. That in itself could have devastating effects. He’s been living in denial for so long that this rude wake-up call could have any given effect. And one thing is for certain – the writers, having shown no loyalty to “what’s supposed to happen”, can take this plot in any direction now.
Additionally, Rick and Shane have some man issues to work through. Is Shane going to calm down and re-submit to Rick’s leadership, admitting that he went off in a less than ideal way? Or will his new sense of empowerment carry with him and fracture the camp more?
Bottom line? The Walking Dead finally redeemed itself with some of that old school drama and flair we first loved about it. We’re going to have to wait until February to see where things go, but let’s just hope that what we see is a continuation of last night’s episode where deep emotion ruled the hour, and not a series of silly gimmicks stretched thin.