The Walking Dead: 'Better Angels' Recap and Review
About damn time.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: The second half of The Walking Dead’s second season has been a marked improvement over the slow, plodding first half. The issue, however, is that it still has to deal with that first half, paying off things that have already been planted (poorly) in the show’s weaker episodes. ‘Better Angels’ in particular feels like an episode that could have been great, if the lead-up to it had been better executed (a particularly appropriate word choice, considering the events of the episode.) Obviously, SPOILERS ensue.
I’m glad they finally pulled the trigger on the Shane plot, although it felt sort of rushed and strange to me. Rather than ramping up the tension over the last few episodes, they sort of just ignored it until this one, when it exploded out of nowhere, and I didn’t quite buy it. I did like Shane’s appropriately douchebaggy plan to frame Randall for the murder of Rick, although I am sad that we lost Randall in the process. I kind of liked that guy. Anyways, Shane suddenly lost it, he tried to kill Rick, and Rick had to put him down.
I’m gonna talk about the Walking Dead comics for a moment, so skip this paragraph if you don’t want the first few issues spoiled for you. In the comics, Shane not only dies a lot earlier, but at the hands of Carl, who takes him out when he is about to shoot Rick. In this version, Carl takes out Zombie Shane after his pops has already pulled the trigger, and I think it was less effective. They had already gone through all the trouble of setting up Carl having Daryl’s gun, so why not just give us the moment that fans of the book are waiting for? Let’s get the ball rolling on Carl’s descent into Zombie Survival Badassitude by making him shoot one of his father figures. That way we also get the great line from the books, "It’s not like shooting the dead ones, dad." Instead, we got that weird moment of false tension where Carl pointed the gun at Rick, even though we know there’s no way he’s gonna shoot him.
I will say that the scene leading up to all of this was pretty great. It was time for Shane to go, but it’s a shame, because John Bernthal is definitely the best actor on the show. He was given the most to do this season, with his slow descent into crazy, and I think he knocked it out of the park. The argument between him and Rick felt loaded with history and resentment, which is great.
Also, I really liked the opening scene of this episode, which contrasted Dale’s funeral with our cast taking out a bunch of walkers. It was moving and cool at the same time, and set a weird, unsettling tone for the episode. And while I’m talking about things I liked, I thought this episode was nicely shot, especially towards the end. We can all agree that during the big standoff, the moon looked awesome, right?
The rest of it is kind of a blur to me, but like I said, I remember thinking that it all would have worked really well if it had been set up a little better in previous episodes. I still dig the stuff with Glenn and Maggie, although I wish they would stop dragging it out and just let them be together, rather than using it as another source of drama. We already have enough.
I think it’s a good thing that the show has lost three cast members these past two weeks, as a smaller cast might help it regain a sense of clarity and precision, rather than feeling sprawling and aimless. I mean, hell, even T-Dog got like ten lines this week, and that’s unheard of. However, I was glad that everyone didn’t just spend the whole episode moping around about Dale’s death like they did Sophia’s — although I suppose there were more pressing things to deal with.
Another major development in this episode was the reveal that you don’t need to get bitten to become a zombie. Anyone who dies, as long as their brain is intact, comes back as a Walker. It seems a bit early to me to drop that bomb, but it certainly adds to the suspense of the proceedings. Now each death has an extra level of threat to it, which is going to be nice as a viewer.
I don’t have a ton more to say about this episode. I thought it was a well made, suspenseful hour that was hindered by constraints of the show itself. Regardless, I’m glad all the Shane stuff finally went down. Also, despite all the hubbub about moving everyone into the house this week, with that Horde of zombies sweeping towards them, it seems like we may finally be getting off the farm, to which I only have this to say: about damn time.