Chupacabras. Are they those mythical creatures that terrorize you and live in your peripheral vision, or are they just mangy, parasite-ridden coyotes scampering off to find a place to lie down and die? This week’s episode of The Walking Dead is aptly named for more reasons than one, giving us a mixed bag of excitement, terror, boredom, and intrigue.
Again, The Walking Dead writers have staved off the big moments and revelations the fans have been crying for since Bloodletting. Let me say again, I understand that they want to take liberties with the pace of the show in order to create opportunity for character development, but it’s become obvious that they aren’t following through with that objective. Lately our characters’ monologues have become more whiny than insightful, and very “on-the-nose”. Case in point, the scene between Rick and Shane where their conversation turns from high school conquests to Shane accusing Rick of not making “tough” decisions (a.k.a. not giving up on Sophia) was just a wash, rinse, repeat of what we’ve already seen. We’ve known for two and a half episodes what Shane’s idea of making tough decisions actually means. While the scene wasn’t a bad one, it just felt a little unnecessary. Along with Shane, our other characters haven’t moved much since the beginning of the season: Rick struggles with being a leader, Lori’s still sending mixed signals to the boys, Carol is still a push-over, Andrea has a giant chip on her shoulder, Sophia’s still lost, T-Dog is still there I guess, and Dale is…well, Dale.
One character that was allowed a little development was our poor, sweet little Glenn. It wasn’t huge progress, but we got to see his softer side shine a little. Here he is chasing the farmer’s daughter, writing love notes, and craving a little acoustic guitar. We are also starting to see all the secrets piling up around the kid, letting us wonder how long it will take before he cracks.
On the opposite spectrum, Daryl has one hell of an episode with Chupacabra. I’m sure TWD writers know that they have created a fan favorite out of him — it’s just unfortunate that they seem to be missing that magical element in their other, original characters. Daryl manages to fall off a horse, get run-through by an arrow, fall off a rock face, hallucinate, and get skimmed by a bullet — all the while kicking ass and taking names. He doesn’t give up when times get tough. That element has been a part of his character since day one, but it’s nice to see that side of him more often. What was interesting was Daryl’s ‘chupacabra moment’: his dialog with his imagined brother, Merle. This version of the red-neck big brother is toned down a bit and used as a motivational tool for Daryl. While I felt a little robbed of the big “reunion” moment that I’m sure is in our future, it was interesting to get an idea of what life was like living with Merle as a big bro, even if it was a one-sided projection. This was the first time Merle and Daryl have been on screen together, and it was a delight to see Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker interacting. They both did a great job, but as usual Reedus stole the show. There was a pretty big downside to this little plot, though. It seemed as though Daryl was taking to heart what Merle was saying about the others using him and wanting to stab him in the back. It seems a little too soon for a flip in Daryl’s character, especially after just one encounter with a vision. He hasn’t been showing huge signs of regret and remorse over his brother, at least not to the point that he would turn on his new-found friends. I believe when our stumpy villain actually returns, this visionary scene will be relived and Daryl will have to make a tough decision…but I digress. Why was it that he started going so crazy out there with the ear necklace and everything? Was it shock? Was it Merle’s words? Maybe a raw-squirrel-gut lunch and falling onto a bolt that he’s used countless times for zombie slaying was enough to make him loose it a little.
So, where did we get this week? Sophia’s still missing, Hershel is on edge, Glenn is getting it on with Maggie, and there are walkers in the barn. Daryl was the driving force this week, the one thing keeping my TV on AMC after every commercial break. Where Chupacabra was good, it was really good; where it was slow, it was really slow. What is The Walking Dead, AMC, a frighteningly fun ‘chupacabra’ or just a mangy old coyote? What we need is for them to forget about the budget cuts, forget about the change in staff, and get back to giving us those intense, white knuckle episodes that we dearly miss.
I give Chupacabra 3.5 out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards