As the second season of The Walking Dead comes to a chilling end, we are given yet another powerful episode that promises to make for a nail-biting finish. Using a combination of stressful situations, emotional dialog, and character eliminations, Better Angels fully prepares us for an epic finale next week.
This week, our survivors start the show by burying their good buddy, Dale. His untimely death has definitely made an impact, giving more weight to his words and his struggle to save Randall’s life to save their own humanity. As they have a touching service, the scene is interlaced cleverly with shots of Andrea, Daryl, Shane, and T-Dog hunting down Walkers that are still on the property. There was a lot more emotion attached to Dale’s passing versus Sophia’s. Obviously, Sophia hadn’t been a main character before she went missing, forcing the writers to try to make us feel sympathy for her after the fact. It just didn’t work. Even her burial scene was lacking that sense of loss, both with the characters and the viewers. This time, we see the impact his death has on the group: Glenn has a small breakdown while working on Dale’s RV, and Carl feels directly responsible for Dale’s death.
Another obstacle facing our survivors is the still lingering question of how to deal with Randall. Rick decides that they will live by Dale’s standards, and release Randall like they had originally planned. While Shane still thinks it’s the wrong choice, Rick says it was their execution that failed them the last time they tried that. Uh-huh. Or it was the choice of taking Shane with you even after you’d been warned he was getting crazy.
Better Angels focused on Carl again, showing us that however cold he may have seemed in Judge, Jury, Executioner, his character still has room to be saved from that kind of future. He has a heart to heart with Rick, where his dad tries to tell him that it wasn’t his fault Dale dies, as well as giving him a little taste of reality by informing him that ‘we’re all going to die’ sometime. Actually, Dad, he was responsible. You would think that Rick would turn that situation into a learning experience, telling Carl that he needs to make the group aware of any zombies he sees, regardless of how scared or embarrassed he may be. It’s just common sense.
Oh Shane, Shane, Shane. You finally got what was coming to you. After 13-14 episodes of holding the audience captive with the things we were shown that the survivors couldn’t see, he finally showed Rick his hand, and that hand was pure Crazy. It all starts with Lori thinking that she can help him feel better about their situation by telling him how thankful she was to have him around when the stuff hit the fan. Her intentions were good, but she lacked in the “Thanks, but I’m not interested anymore” department. What she was hoping would be closure to their past, turned around to bite her in the ass by nearly killing her husband and son. She hasn’t been a smart character so far, and you would think she had learned her lesson by now and know to keep her distance and her mouth shut around Shane. You would think. By not underlining that while grateful she was not interested, it was just the thing that Shane needed to finally jump off the deep end.
Every move that Shane makes after his chat with Lori is pure genius, from a writing, directorial, and acting standpoint. Jon Bernthal has done a great job letting the Crazy seep into Shane little by little in each episode, but in Better Angels he lets loose. Simple things like rubbing his shaved head vigorously and breathing heavily through his mouth accentuates that crazy glaze he gets in his eyes. Without a word, Bernthal clues us in on Shane’s elaborate scheme before it unfolds before us.
The last portion of the show was dedicated to both Shane’s scheme to kill Rick and Shane’s ultimate demise. His plan to make it seem like Randall escaped and got the jump on him was laughable, and thankfully Rick and Daryl both eventually see it as such. That final scene where Shane has Rick alone (in the dark on top of a hill with a huge moon illuminating their profiles) was breathtaking. The art direction and scene layout were spot-on to create a sense of urgency, tension, and the marking of an important event. I generally try not to talk too much about the comics, but this event deserves a bit of pondering. Darabont had made it clear when he created The Walking Dead TV series that his version would have similar key points, but would be different from Robert Kirkman’s comic. We’ve seen many elements that nearly mimic the comics frame for frame, and other things that have been added only for the TV show. According to the comics, Shane died before the group left their camp outside Atlanta. I agree that keeping him around a bit longer made for an interesting dynamic and plot-mover, but I was waiting every episode for him to finally bite it. It had gotten to the point where his presence felt more like they were milking that Rick-Lori-Shane triangle to fill time for a thirteen episode quota. What’s also interesting is that the way Shane was killed was reverse in the comic. As Shane settles his gun’s sights on Rick, Carl shoots and kills Shane. I think that it would have been a ballsier move to keep it that way for the show. I suppose that since this season has revolved around Rick becoming less naive and learning to balance his humanity with his fight for survival, that Rick being the one to shoot Human-Shane would help flesh out his character. C’est la vie. While fanboys and girls may have some issues with this choice, it was still an acceptable and ultimately satisfying end to that character we all love to hate.
Finally, the truth behind the very title of our show, The Walking Dead is revealed! This is something that us comic fans have been holding back and not spoiling for the rest of the audience, though we’ve been secretly jumping out of our skin to tell. The title, The Walking Dead, is not just referring to our zombie friends. Firstly, it eludes to the fact that the series revolves around the living and how they make their way through this new zombocalypse world. Secondly, the living are actually walking dead themselves – they just don’t know it yet. The series came close to giving that fact away when they came across the man who had hung himself in the woods, but had become a zombie. They were able to escape the revelation, showing that his legs had been eaten away and keeping the audience in the dark. Finally we see that for our group of survivors, death isn’t the sweet release that Andrea and Beth believe it to be. If the destruction of your brain isn’t the cause your demise, YOU WILL COME BACK. Here again I wonder if the writers are going to follow Kirkman’s rules, or of they are going to make up a few of their own for the show. If you remember, earlier in the season they see all the corpses in the cars on the highway. Why weren’t they all zombies? According to the comic rules, if they didn’t have head trauma, they should have changed into flesh eating monsters. Had they not thought that aspect through all the way at that point? Something to ponder as season 3 rears it’s head.
Keep your DVR’s set for the big finale next week, Beside the Dying Fire. I predict that with the hoard of zombies that are headed toward the farm, we will be taken for an action packed ride. Considering the deaths we’ve had so far this season, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see another survivor or two “buy the farm” next Sunday. Hopefully a few other plots will finally be resolved, but I have a feeling most of them will get tabled until next season. As any doomsday prepper will tell you, “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.” Don’t forget to check out the Sneak Peek for next week’s finale!
I give Better Angels 5 “Goodnight, sweet Prince’s” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards-Hite