Wow. That’s the only thing that could come to mind at the end of this week’s mid-season finale, Pretty Much Dead Already Dead (PMDA). Wow. What began as a slow second season quickly led up to an epic stopping point for the show, giving us 2+ months to wait anxiously for its return.
Episodes 2-6 were slow. Excruciatingly so. We were given rehashed conversations week after week and some fairly slow character developments and plot movements to boot. The worst part (or best part) was that we were given a false sense of safety. All this worry about Sofia, Daryl’s quest for redemption, Lori’s affair, Andrea’s suicidal tendencies, and Glenn’s love life finally paid off when we realize that in the end, none of that matters. PMDA was about realizing that sometimes the real threat lies closer to home than you’d think.
The first 10 minutes or so of episode seven felt a little clunky and forced, starting with Glenn’s awkward announcement about walkers in the barn. Eventually though, the show found its footing and never stopped racing to the climactic ending. Most of PMDA‘s intense scenes surrounded the character we love to hate, Shane. Jon Bernthal has done such a spectacular job of slowly growing from a great best friend and provider into this raging maniac. He really dished out the intensity and creep-factor in these last few episodes, and did it well. Every other scene was centered around the difference between his idea of the world and Hershel’s. Both have good points — Hershel sees walkers as loved ones that he once knew and his treatment of them reflects his struggle to hold onto his humanity, while Shane sees them as just an obstacle standing in his way of living. Their ways of dealing with the walkers shows how they want to deal with the zombocalypse. PMDA shows us how strong writing and a stronger director can subtly give us depth to situations.
Even with all the intense moments throughout our mid-season finale, we are still given plenty of little character boosts for us to ponder. Dale has proven to not only have the balls to stand up to such a dominant force as Shane, but that he is wise. He knows that dealing with people like him is all about timing. What good would it have been to shoot Shane in the swamp, or risk a struggle between the two of them that he knows he would lose? Dale is proving to be quite an insightful, level-headed character that makes him an important asset to the team.
Daryl has also been growing, and we see more of that tonight in one episode than we really did in the last six episodes. While it always seemed like a personal mission of his to find Sofia, PMDA gave us that final element that we’ve known was there, but was unconfirmed. Finding Sofia was more about redemption for Daryl, proving to himself that he isn’t someone who gives up on others. He was unable to thoroughly search for his brother, but he’s giving 100% of his capabilities to Sofia’s search. We’re also shown a better side of Carol. She’s not unrealistic about her daughter’s chances of surviving, and realizes that Daryl’s efforts are probably in vain. It may seem cold-hearted to some people, but the scene between the two of them in the stable shows us that she’s able to think of others’ needs as much as her own. Without saying too much, I wonder if the end of the show will have a lasting effect on Daryl’s ability to hold on to reality.
Maggie has turned out to be the strongest female character that The Walking Dead has introduced so far. While she respects her father’s ideas about the walkers, she also knows that these things are dangerous and have to be dealt with. She’s able to remind her father about what it means to be a man of Christian faith. She even quotes a passage from John chapter 13: 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Being Christian must be shown in actions as well as words, especially in times of great tribulation. Maggie has a good head on her shoulders, and I can’t wait to see more of her in February.
Rick also shows us that he hasn’t lost his ability to see things clearly and take charge in this very different world. There for a while, he had almost convinced us that he couldn’t let go of the past and the old ways of life. He was ignoring all his instincts to coexist with Hershel, losing sight of what was happening at camp in his searches for Sofia — really losing his hold he had on the group. His authority was reestablished in this episode through various scenarios. He offered to help Hershel herd some stray zombies, showing that he was willing to make compromises for the best interests of his people. He also had a rude wake-up call as to the stability of his buddy Shane’s frame of mind, and when the tables turned on our survivors at the end of the show, he was the one who took matters into his own hands. Shane likes to talk about Rick not being a leader or having what it takes to survive in this world, but when things get tough, it isn’t Shane’s hot-headed ways that get things done. You need someone like Rick (level-headed and hasn’t lost touch with his humanity) to know just what to do.
To add to the superior plot movement and character developments, PMDA was full of unique shots and great control of the score. The most interesting shots were taken inside the house, first when Rick is trying to convince Hershel to let them stay, and then later when Maggie is pleading their case. The darkened rooms reminded us that while everything seems cozy inside with Hershel eating a leisurely lunch, the power is out to lower the use of the generator, grounding us in the realization that a zombie world IS very different from what we’re used to. The score has been great since the first episode of season one, but the master filmmakers of both horror and drama know the importance of having no score at all. Sometimes it’s the lack there of that makes a scene go from great to phenomenal.
- Will Daryl and Carol be hooking up? There are a few little hints here and there, but they are vague enough that they can be passed off as genuinely platonic. I am hoping that they don’t pair off, especially since I’ve read the comics and know where Carol’s romantic interests eventually lie. We’ve been promised that more characters from the comics are arriving soon, so why get Daryl and Carol involved?
- Dale and Andrea are slowly starting to get along. Will we see more of that in the next half of the season, and will she start listening to Dale more when she realizes how crazy Shane is?
- Hershel has some explaining to do about the barn and its surprise inhabitant. Was he hoping that they would eventually give up their search and move on? He may not feel like explaining though, after Shane’s little explosion.
- How far will Shane go to establish his position in Lori’s life? He may be psychotic, but he’s no dummy — that kid is probably his. There’s just one more knife in Rick’s heart that he’ll be able to slowly twist and grind as the episodes continue on. That said…
- How long until the group no longer tolerates Shane? He was able to rally the group into a potentially deadly situation based on a crazed but effective speech. How will they feel about him now? Will he make it through the season, and if not, what’s a fitting ending for him?
I could comfortably say that even though Shane has gone off the deep end, most viewers could easily see his point of view about the barn. In fact, most of the survivors hinted that they thought Shane was right and that Hershel just didn’t know the reality of the world’s situation, though they respected him enough not to act on it. The best part about episode seven is that viewers and survivors alike were suddenly thrown directly into Hershel’s position. “The table is on the other foot,” to quote my brother/fellow Staff Writer. Pretty Much Dead Already is the perfect example of what viewers are looking for in this series. They want some zombie action. They want lots of anxiety. They want to have characters that appeal to all walks of zombie-apocalypse life. Most of all, they want to be surprised. This show is not only about survival, but about dealing with the living in a world of the undead — and all the issues that follow. The mid-season finale gives us fresh hope for the remainder of The Walking Dead‘s second season. PMDA drives home the true essence of our favorite Sunday night show — that while the zombies are a big threat, they aren’t the ones you have to worry about the most. Human nature mixed with the daily struggle to stay alive makes every person in your survival group a potential threat. What’s more horrifying than a chomping, undead creature of gore shuffling after me in the dark? An armed, crazed, calculating survivalist hunting me in the dark.
I give Pretty Much Dead Already a 4.5 out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards