I was one of the naysayers. I admit it.
When AMC fired Frank Darabont, I thought it was a huge mistake. When I heard they were cutting the budget I thought it was an insane move. When I heard that the suits demanded more stationary settings and fewer zombies I thought the show was doomed.
I figured the ratings would be there regardless, but I was sure the quality would nosedive and I’d be over this series by now.
I’m not so proud that I can’t admit when I was wrong, and boy was I wrong.
After a hit-or-miss First Season that I loved regardless of the dips in quality, I can honestly say that Season Two is consistently better in every regard. The creative teams have been top-notch. Big budget scenes have been used sparingly but effectively. And spending all this time on Hershel’s farm has been a godsend for the cast.
Sure, T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), and Carol (Melissa McBride) have been short-changed so far, but the rest of the characters have been allowed to really develop during the downtime.
This episode focuses on Glenn (Steven Yeun) and his developing relationship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), as well as making some forward movement with both Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Andrea (Laurie Holden). We get a big moment for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), too.
Seriously. I can’t understand how someone could call this show boring.
As we move into this week’s Mid-Season Finale, things are coming to a head. Glenn can’t keep either of the secrets he’s been tasked with and lets Dale in on both that Lori is pregnant and that there are Walkers in the barn. And Dale promptly sticks in nose into both situations, to good effect with Lori, but with a far less promising outcome with Hershel.
But those scenes are fleeting, with Dale trying to be a good guy. At the end of the episode, Dale’s motivations take a slightly darker turn as he realizes that Shane and Andrea are getting closer. And by closer, yes, I mean having sex in Shane’s car after killing a bunch of zombies.
See? Not boring.
Bernthal continues to play the most conflicted and complex character on the show, especially in the confrontation with Dale. And with Lori coming clean with Rick in the closing moments, next week looks to have all sorts of drama. Throw the inevitable scene where the zombies get out of the barn and it looks like there are going to be a lot of bridges being burnt Sunday night.
On the plus side, Maggie did drive home to Glenn just how the others take him for granted, so with any luck that means we’ll get Glenn growing up some. I mean, hell, even Carl (Chandler Riggs) is manning up and taking responsibility for defending the camp.
Which brings us to the most satisfying and longed-for piece of character development this season. Andrea has finally gotten a gun in her hand and we learn that she’s a natural. If you don’t want to be the one who keeps getting the dish and clothes washing detail, you’ve got to find some other way to contribute and with her newfound confidence, hopefully Laurie Holden will get to start playing something other than irritating bitch.
Actually, she’s started that this week.
I like her and Shane together. It works. It makes sense. And as I mentioned above, it puts Dale in an interesting place, conflict-wise, where he doesn’t just get to be the cool old guy all the time. Who would want to play that every week?
The real heart of this episode, though, was the Lori and Rick conflict, which avoids all small talk and jumps right into the should I abort this baby or not argument. That’s how you do an apocalypse, people. For one of the first times in the series, Lori isn’t being a bitch for no discernible reason (remember in the flashback where she copped to just bitching to bitch?) and instead starts getting real.
She has actual motivations and emotional reactions this week and you can even see it in her eyes when she’s feeding the chickens with Carl in the opening. Yes, the pregnancy issue itself is something of a cliché, but it’s not the idea, it’s how you use it. And it is being used well here.
Lori has every right to want to just abort the baby. She’s in hell. She can’t see any good on the horizon. And no one can find any argument to counter her feelings. But at the same time, it’s clear that aborting the baby is giving up on everything.
I don’t know that she could really go on if she did go through with it.
I’m reminded of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, in that aspect.
It’s a bleak place to be psychologically as well as narratively, and something’s gotta happen to pull Lori back from the brink. I doubt if it will, but I’m hoping Shane and Andrea hooking up will become a good thing. But theyare in hell. There’s no good on the horizon. And I don’t have a lot of hope that there’s any happiness on the way.
There’s never been anything like this show. And that is what I call excellent TV.