Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 7 (Pretty Much Dead Already)

Spoiler Warning!

Episode 7 is the mid-season 2 finale of The Walking Dead. The series will, allegedly, continue in February. I have to say, the finale left me speechless. Not just speechless, but with tears streaming down my face, and my throat dry from hyperventilation. I want to say that it couldn't really have ended any other way, and yet it still hit me like a ton of bricks, because I really didn't want to believe it. But even aside from that, the showdown was really intense. And not because the group was in any real threat, but because of what it meant. Because of Hershel's insistence that the walkers are people, the requirement that they adopt this view if they want to stay on the farm ("my farm, my barn, my rules"), and Shane's aggressive agitation which, though undeniably destructive, seemed in the end to finally restore some sense of cohesion to the group, and shake them - especially Rick - out of their idealistic reverie.

It's remarkable looking at Hershel, how much respect he continues to have for the dead, compared to Rick, who is being forced in the other direction, despite remembering that that's how Rick himself started out. The thing about him that made him so unique is that he respected the walkers. He wasn't afraid to kill them, but he paid his respect to their living memory. And Rick, in the first season, was the guy who could make anything work out - even the most cockamamie plan. He made it work because he could make the right decisions, and was always able to pull through. And now, from Shane's perspective, his softness and indecisiveness is seen as a threat to the group. He's putting the group in unnecessary danger to cater to the whims of a man (Hershel) who is not in touch with the reality of the danger that's out there in the world.

On the other hand, it's remarkable that Hershel has managed to survive so long, if his approach to the walkers is unnecessarily dangerous. It's a wonder that the farm is such a safe place, they hardly ever seem to get any walkers roaming in, that they don't even really need to defend themselves. Undoubtedly, that's why Rick and the gang likes the place so much, but I'm curious why it's so uncharacteristically safe. What makes it different from the other farms, and all the other places the group has thus far been, that it doesn't attract walkers?

The scene between Lori and Shane after Rick told Shane that Lori's pregnant (thank god - as Glenn rightly says, enough with secrets, secrets get you killed) confirmed my suspicion that Lori isn't as sure that the baby is Rick's as she would like to pretend. There's definitely going to be some conflict, because Lori doesn't want Shane interfering with her little family with Rick. But if Shane sticks around, and the kid is his, he's bound to have some influence on him. Even if the kid's not his - he's already got some influence on Carl, and Lori is resenting that. I guess this is another case of a romantic drama situation that would be easily solved by a threesome.

It seems that what this series is about, at least from the perspective of Rick, who is more or less the main protagonist, is transformation. From the day he woke up in that hospital, he's had to come to terms, as everyone does in their own way, to the shape of the world and what it takes to survive in it. But the confrontation between Shane and Dale in the swamp is unsettling. Shane undoubtedly has the skills to survive, but is it worth the cost of his humanity? His civility? His heart and soul? Is that the path Rick must follow if he is to be able to keep his family alive? Or is there some kind of compromise? No question, hard decisions have to be made at times, and maybe the only tenable solution was to disavow Hershel of his illusions about the walkers. Yet that's the sort of thing Rick doesn't like to do - he's too nice, and accommodating, which is what makes him a sympathetic character. Shane, on the other hand, who can do the dirty work, is a live gun, who is not above threatening the lives of his own group members. If the two could only work together in a more compatible fashion, without being either too tough or too soft to threaten the group...

But by god, it stopped me dead in my tracks when Sophia shambled out of that barn. Well, I was sitting in a chair in front of the television, but it put me in no less of a shock and a stupor than it did the entire cast. Even after gunning down a whole mess of walkers, what to do? I thought this might drive home Hershel's point that these are people - people we once cared about. But the harsh truth is that they're not people anymore, they're walking corpses, and they're dangerous. I knew somebody was going to have to do her in, and I wondered who it was gonna be. And then I saw Rick take control of the situation and I knew it was down to him. The man who took responsibility on himself for having lost Sophia in the first place, and couldn't bear to give up searching for her. If anything is going to seal off his sentimental emotions this would be just the sort of thing. I can't wait to see what happens next, how Hershel will deal with this devastation, and how the group will handle the fallout...

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