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Talking the Walk: Episode 212 “Better Angels”

Welcome back, lumbering, bloodthirsty fanboys and girls to Talking the Walk! Can you believe it’s been five weeks already? It seems like it was only yesterday we were cursing the CDC, wondering where Sophie was, and still had no drop date for new Mad Men. But this is now! For weeks, The Walking Dead has floundered with episodes that had one or two major payoffs, but still tread water for 40 or 50 minutes at a time. It’s a relief to report that last night, the penultimate episode of  Season 2, Part 2 “Better Angels,” fine tuned the series’ recent recipe and baked us up some nearly-perfect, blood-gurgling goodness. HUZZAH! So grab your crossbows and over-sized sheriff hats and let’s do this thing!

Dale! We hardly knew ye! The gang says their heartfelt goodbyes to their moral-compass. Rick now wants to run the group with the warm and fuzzy sentiment Dale always approached everything with. You know, not to protect anyone or nothing, just to honor the old guy. Glenn and Anderea also share a pretty nice moment of mourning while fixing up Dale’s camper, but the oddest bit of bereavement came with the can of whoop ass Daryl, T-Dog, Shane, and Andrea open on some walkers, Office Space style.

Hell, yeah! Tell your zombie friends, zombie!

After the funeral stuff, it’s decided the group needs to get indoors, and Hershel welcomes them into the house. While the gang starts lifting boxes and swinging hammers, Rick reveals that they are indeed going to march their prisoner, Randall, way the hell out and cut him loose. Shane hems and haws, but Rick finally decided it’s the Rick Show and that’s that. Hershel warns Rick about Shane, but Rick is convinced Shane is past his wife-boinking, wrench-throwing ways and will fall in line with the group. You get the feeling Rick is trying to convince himself, though, especially when he chooses Daryl as his wing man for the Randall thing. Wasted opportunity for a torrid Bromance triangle there, Walking Dead.

But it’s impossible to neatly sweep Shane into a corner, especially when he’s embedded so deeply in the hearts of Rick’s family. Shane’s always been Carl’s “cool uncle,” so it’s no surprise when he goes to Shane to turn over the stolen gun and admit that he failed to kill the zombie that slaughtered Dale. But the real blow comes when Lori confronts Shane to apologize for pitting he and Rick against each other, saying she owes him everything for saving her and Carl when the fallout started and even confesses that she doesn’t know whose baby she’s carrying. Shane is understandably flabbergasted and the next time we see him, he’s in the dark, mouth breathing and smashing his own face into a tree because -oh yeah- he’s batshit crazy. Remember that?  Nice one, Lori.

So with Shane squarely back into rubber room territory, Rick needs his boyscout sash back. Now that he’s firmly waving the Dale flag, he gets it. After realizing Carl probably shouldn’t be going to Shane for stuff, he has a heart-to-heart with his son. It’s a sober little piece of television parenting, with Rick admitting “I’m tired, son.” So, stop being a bratty wuss, Carl. Also: What the hell? Keep the gun.

…Okay, maybe not such good parenting.

“But Ima need that hat back.”

Shit really hits the fan when, nose broken, Shane comes to group saying Randall has stolen a gun and escaped. Out goes Rick, Shane, Daryl, and Glenn to go hunt him down. Little does anyone suspect that Shane actually killed Randall is orchestrating the whole thing… except us. We know it. Because they showed it earlier in the episode. …I get the impression that Walking Dead writers aren’t sharp poker players.

But the night hunt in the woods is tense, measured, and scary. When Glenn and Daryl come across a zombie Randall, axe him, and see that he hasn’t been bit, Daryl points out that his neck is broken… and that he died of that before becoming walkified. Perhaps you missed Daryl’s recurring role as a forensic scientist on CSI: Bumblefuck.

Cut to: Shane leading Rick up a gently sloping hill under glistening moonlight, the jig just about to be up. Rick realizes the sham and that Shane means to kill him.

THIS IS IT, PEOPLE!

Shane reams Rick out: You’re not as good as man as me! Your wife’s sad and not boned enough! Your son’s a swirly waiting to happen! The gloves are OFF! Rick almost loses it, seeing the Shane really means to replace Rick in every role in the group, but holds his Ghandi stance. The funny thing is Shane is right on all counts: Lori is a broken woman. Carl is confused. And Rick has bobbled both the Sophie and Randall situations. But the funnier thing is that Shane’s a raving lunatic. He couldn’t lead, father, or husband himself out of a paper bag. He’s gone, has been for a while. And Rick knows it. While surrendering his gun to Shane, Rick shanks him and, in a bloody, tearful rage, puts down his best frenemy.

Shane, the intermittently resourceful and heartbroken asshole. Season 1 – Season 2. R.I.P.

And so Shane is dead. Rightfully, finally, satisfyingly bucket-kicked.

Props, Walking Dead. After some might close botch-jobs, you finally brought to close the driving conflict of your first two years. It was hard not to like Shane and John Bernthal’s electric performance. Shane was a villain whose motivations were fueled by desperation and heartbreak, and that’s a winning combo. Plus, his death is not frittered away, but speaks to a continuing moral dilemma of the show: Shane believed that in a hopeless world, to be ruthless was to be good, but is brought down when Rick finally embraces the realization that to remain good, you must sometimes be ruthless. We look forward to seeing how Rick will carry this. Thanks, Shane! We already miss you.

…But, wait!

Just after the murder, Rick finds Carl just strollin’ by, dead of night, gun in tow (LORI, WTF). Seemingly upset at his father’s bloody crime, raises his gun at Rick. Little does anyone know that he actually is aiming for zombie Shane as he sneaks up on Rick… except us. Because the show edited a bunch of cheesy, jarring zombie shots over a close up of Shane’s big dead face (again, the writers and the not good at poker thing). Carl’s headshot to zombie Shane echoes all over the woods, where dozens of walkers hear it and begin to descend on the farm… CUT TO BLACK.

But whoa whoa whoa, not so fast Walking Dead. What’s the deal here? Both Randall and Shane become zombies despite not getting bit… and come to think of it, Rick noticed that the two zombies security guards from two episodes ago didn’t look bit either. What– what is happening? Is the virus mutating? Shit, son! Has the zombie game done changed!? What does this mean for our farm full of survivors? We’ll find out in our final hour of season 2!

See you in seven!

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