Original Air Date: October 30, 2011

Five Things: 

Full SPOILERS below…

1. I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you. Have you ever heard that punchline?  I guess we got a small taste of humans being the true danger last season (Merle, that street gang), but the ending of this episode was the first time we’ve seen a human kill someone to save their own skin.  And, that’s the beauty of apocalypse fiction: The characters realize there are no rules anymore and while some will try to restore “decent” society, others will take advantage.  I mean, no homicide detective is going to roll up and collect the bullet from Otis’ body and match it to Shane’s gun; Shane can make up his own story.  That makes it an interesting morality play.  It’s the ultimate “how do you behave when no one is watching?” moment.  At the same time, it keeps Shane morally ambiguous.  Sure, he was saving his own skin, but Carl and Hershel needed those supplies and he had just offered to Otis to be left behind himself.  Given Shane’s role in the comics, they can’t have him being too heroic (“Yea!  He brought back the supplies!”).  Also, for this scene, the writers didn’t treat us like idiots by making Shane mutter to himself something about how he “would have been happy to be left behind, but Carl needed those supplies, dammit!”  Subtle is better.  Overall, this was a really well done scene.  The only thing bugging me is why did Shane need to cut his hair afterwards?  The man was attacked by zombies, couldn’t he have explained away a clump of missing hair or was he removing the “stain” of his misdeed?

2. Still a little heavy handed. Andrew Lincoln is really floundering and that bodes ill for the long-term prospects of the series if the main character is being out-acted by all the other cast members (except for T-Dog).  But, he isn’t being given very good material to work with either.  All that moralizing between Rick and Lori about whether Carl would be better off dead was WAY overdone.  Seriously, that was half of the episode.  Each of the scenes where they discuss the topic should have been about 30 seconds shorter and then they use poor little Carl as a plot device when he wakes up for 5 seconds to tell his Mom about the TOTALLY AWESOME DEER they saw in the woods.  You can almost hear Rick’s thought balloon screaming, “See, Mom! That’s why we don’t just let him die you stupid idiot!”  But, just in case you didn’t catch the heavy-handed irony of Carl’s story, Rick makes sure to remind you of why it was a poignant statement.  Until the writers stop treating the audience like morons, this show will never be the “best show on TV” (or even top 5).  I like the show, but it is the worst written original show that AMC has ever produced and is also worse than anything on HBO or Showtime.  It’s very TNT-esque.

3.  Hershel hasn’t fortified his farm much, huh? I mean I get that they’re out in the country, but Night of the Walking Dead took place in the country and surely they’ve seen that movie.  If there really were a zombie apocalypse, everyone would be nailing boards over the windows and doors like Morgan did in Season 1 whether it was necessary or not.  How would a trusty old southern gentleman farmer like Hershel with women to protect fail to take any precautions?  And why hasn’t Rick or Lori or Glen or even T-Dog pointed out that the house seems… umm… unsecure? Anyhow does he have electricity?  Is he on a generator?  And even if he was on a generator, he wouldn’t be wasting power on hot water for showers.  And….where is he getting gas or LP for the thing one month into the apocalypse?

4.  Lots of good bits of acting. As mentioned above, the guy playing Rick is struggling, but lots of other actors are flexing their muscles a little bit.  Darryl is awesome.  Andrea is a million times more enjoyable now that she isn’t as whiny.  Dale is great.  Shane is great.  And Carl… Wow… Right now, the triumvirate of Rick/Lori/T-Dog is getting left in the dust.

5.  Slow paced. If you follow online message boards, you know that the comic fans are foaming at the mouth for the series to get to the prison and bring in the Governor.  First everyone hoped that this would happen at the end of Season 1, but it’s now looking like that won’t happen until the end of this Season 2.  If you’ve read the comics, there are a lot of major dramatic bits with Hershel’s family (which was teased in this episode with the pictures on the fridge) and how our main group ends up back on the road.  This season just seems paced to perfectly have the prison show up in the finale.  So, it’s a bit slow.

Conclusion: An okay episode.  Seriously…the subject matter is cool, but it’s like the creators haven’t really made TV shows before or something with some of the heavy-handed dialog, flights of logic and the choppy scene transitions.  However, if you’re going to flail around with the show, there’s no better path to redemption than the “Holy Shit!” ending and they nail that here to leave us with a good taste in our mouths.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell