Take 5 minutes to look on just about any social network or forum and you can learn a lot about the recent fan reactions to season 2 of “The Walking Dead”. You will see that this once solid series is starting to see it’s first real community backlash. The horror based season 1 did a very good job giving us some very basic characters that adapted the role of neutral avatars for developing the plot and action. From the start of season 2, it’s clear that the writers have been attempting to steadily correct the lack of development from the first 6 episodes by re introducing us to the cast.
Their intentions, however good, have garnished some fairly negative results. You can’t look at a discussion of “The Walking Dead” without at least one (usually multiple) fan professing their undying hate for this cast. A once fairly neutral band of survivors has now been met with scorn; and as much as i’d like to say otherwise, there is validity in it. All characters have flaws, but a big chunk of “The Walking Dead”‘s cast is swimming in them, leaving virtually no room for positivity. As the series becomes less about zombie survival and more about the self righteous pissing contest going on at the Hershel farmstead, “The Walking Dead”‘s watchability is coming under a lot of question.
Maybe that is the goal all along. Maybe they are dragging these characters through the mud in every way possible in an attempt to allow them to grow as people. With only two episodes before the winter hiatus, it is more important than ever for the writers to give us a reason to care about what happens to these people. 2X6 is the beginning in what is hopefully a long line in redemption episodes for at least some of the show’s least appreciated characters. That means that we start with Andrea, who takes her mistake with Daryl as an opportunity to grow as a person. She begins to take Shane’s classes extremely seriously, and their emotionally unstable personalities begin to clash heavily as the training gets more intense. In some ways, their interaction is probably best for the both of them. Shane needs crash course in empathy, and Andrea needs a healthy dose of common sense. They are both flawed equally and in opposite ways.
After practice, they head to the suburbs, where they go house to house looking for Sophia. Initially, the suburban town appears quiet, and it seems like a majority of the walkers were either dead or had moved on. As the pair explore the area, they are attacked by a large group of walkers, and Shane turns the dangerous situation into a training course. Andrea was initially turned off by Shane’s methods of provocation, but the experience teaches her a lesson in shooting under pressure. She starts to see the value in Shane’s aggressive methods, as well as ahem…sexually.
Then there is Glenn, who was somehow saddled with the entire camp’s secrets, as well as his own about his relationship with Maggie. Glenn is sort of the show’s innocence. He is the one guy who hasn’t come out of the apocalypse a more damaged person. Heck, even Carl is becoming a jaded kid, but not Glenn. With all of this drama surrounding him, it was only a matter of time before he cracked.
Glenn’s many burdens (Lori’s pregnancy and the walkers in the barn) get lifted when he finally spills them all to Dale, which prompts a not so coy investigation into both problems. He first approaches Hershel about the walker situation, leading to a very uncomfortable discussion about the sanctity of “human life”. Hershel explains to Dale that he believes that walkers are simply sick people, revealing just how isolated and ignorant he is about what is going on in the world. The men come from very opposite schools of thought. Hershel keeps his walker-fied son and wife in the barn, unable to let go, while Dale was forced to move on from the people he loves.
Despite his concerns, Dale is able to respectfully accept Hershel’s philosophies and assures him that his secret is safe.
Next up is talking to Lori, which Dale instigates by cooking meat and commenting on her reaction to the smell. Lori confides in Dale about her love triangle with Shane and Rick, as well as her fears that the child will grow up in a broken and joyless world. In the end, he is unable to convince Lori that things will be okay for her child, but that’s really the reality of the world they are living in now.
Lori manages to stay consistently uptight through out the entire episode, starting with her son’s desire to learn how to shoot a gun and defend himself. She eventually consents to allowing him to take up Shane’s training, but does so kicking and screaming. She spends the rest of the episode wrestling a lot internally, both with her secret pregnancy that she refuses to let anybody help her with, and the knowledge that Hershel wants them to leave the farm. Though Rick assures her that Hershel needs his space, Lori is determined to plead her case to him. As the show goes on, you can’t help but notice that Lori has a bad habit of blaming everybody but herself for her problems, and then taking every opportunity she can to justify her own selfish actions to herself. Thankfully, after her talk with Dale, she accepts Glenn’s support. She sends Glenn off with a new list, forcing Maggie and Glenn to take an incredibly awkward trip to the pharmacy to retrieve some morning after pills.
Maggie isn’t quite as forgiving of Glenn as Lori was, as she maintains her father’s belief that walkers are people. She is upset with his breech of trust, but their feud is short lived when Glenn saves her from a stray walker that nearly kills her. Her brush with death leads Maggie to shift her anger to passion. She kisses Glenn, and expresses her true feelings for him.
The romantic subplots don’t stop there. When Shane and Andrea return, Dale knows instantly that something happened between them. He and Shane have a very heated conversation about Shane leaving the group. Dale is fairly convinced at this point (though it may stem from jealously) that Shane is a danger to the group, and that he has homicidal tendencies. Dale is right, but I am not completely convinced yet that he is as spot on about Shane as he claims. There is a lot of ambiguity in Shane’s character. The farther he spins down this self destructive path, the more he gives off the impression of reacting to things in a very privative way. There is a lot of potential for viscousness, but the dogmatic evil that Dale sees him as is probably more of a foreshadowing of future events than a testament to his entire personality.
Putting Glenn in the line of fire opens Lori up to finally having a mature conversation with him, and he recommends that whatever choice she makes, she shouldn’t make it alone. Lori initially ignores his advice and takes the pills, but she instantly regrets her decision and pukes them up. Rick finds the pills that she left behind in her hurry and chases her down. Finally, the two wrestle with the reality of their situation. Lori is pregnant and they live in a post apocalyptic zombie infested universe. Pretty heavy stuff. Next comes the bigger bomb, which actually results in a much lighter reaction. Lori finally tells Rick about Shane, and it turns out he already knows, and seems to totally understand. Their conversation is cut short by the classic “TWD ends at the most inappropriate times” credit role midway through his reaction, but things are actually looking pretty good for the Grimes family now that Lori has come clean about everything.
The episode is called “Secrets” and it lives up to it’s promise. Secrets are revealed and long stretched story arcs come to their end. Other secrets were formed and poorly kept. So why didn’t it feel like several big bombs were dropped? There was something very underwhelming about these big reveals, which have been built up into major ordeals. Lori’s relationship with Shane in particular was turning into a drama mountain since the beginning of the show, and fizzled out into little more than a brief nod from Rick. Hopefully next week, Shane and Rick will duke it out and bring a little more substance to an otherwise weak reveal.
Here’s an episode 7 sneak peak: