If Hershel's farm was making you stir crazy, last night's episode of The Walking Dead, "Triggerfinger," should've been a welcome field trip. This episode gave us that slam-bang infusion of morally fuzzy, post-apocalyptic decision-making we crave.
Also, Lori had her Lady Macbeth moment, and Hershel and Rick need a homespun webisode spin-off, Zombie Dads, in which birdhouse repair, clay pigeon shooting, and tomato canning become metaphors for humanity's dwindling scruples. Spoilers on!
After watching last week's episode — which hinted of good things while delivering some yawn — I began wondering why Season 2 of The Walking Dead still has its hooks in me, despite some aggressively mediocre characterization.
The semi-giddy feeling I get when a new episode's coming on runs parallel to how I felt about picking up new issues of The Walking Dead comic circa 2005, when the series was delving into some of its craziest stories. And then it struck me — The Walking Dead has hopped into a new medium's catbird seat.
In the mid-2000s, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead was the long-form zombie comic (the glut of Marvel Zombies miniseries, which were also popularized by Kirkman, notwithstanding). Hell, it's still the zombie-and-pony show in town these days, what with consistently burly graphic novel sales and not godawful floppy sales either. No other zombie comic has matched its success, although some have tried. (Sorry, the sort-of-not-really-zombies of Crossed.)
And now, The Walking Dead has parlayed this privileged position to basic cable — it is the only undead apocalypse program on television. Now, this all seems screamingly self-evident, but at least for me (and maybe you!) this squares some ambivalence The Walking Dead inspires.
The show's singular novelty — plus the promise of end-of-the-world brawling with zombies and lawless humans — keeps us tuning in. If there was a competitor program on FX called The Ambulating Life-Deprived, at least we'd be in a compare/contrast scenario. But as of this moment, we're left hoping that The Walking Dead zeroes in on what works.
And for the most part, "Triggerfinger" did work. The strongest moments came from the fallout from last week's bar stand-off with the sleazy duo of scavengers, Rene from True Blood and Evil Dom DeLuise. That great scene was tense enough to be stretched out over an entire episode, and it was ultimately done a disservice by the ominous orchestral blurt when they walked into the bar. Also, Dom's tinkle fit subliminally pit-patted in Morse code to the audience, "WE'RE BAD DUDES."
Fortunately, this week kept the momentum by introducing a new wrinkle — Dom and Rene's pals. We don't know A.) how many of them there are; and B.) if they're just as scumbaggy. Remember, Darryl and Shane aren't paragons of politeness. On a somewhat similar note, T-Dog could be a cannibal, or have an MFA in Indonesian shadow puppetry. Or both!
Anyway, the presence of these rival survivors complicates Rick's bloody, two-dead-jerks lesson for Hershel. There are a ton of assholes out in the wasteland, and nobody has time to sit down for a Meyers-Briggs. In the case of the poor bastard who eventually got his nose chomped off (yay, gore!) Hershel has to shoot first and live with the consequences.
There's some penance when he tries to repair the sniper's leg, but that creates a whole host of new problems. Namely, A.) they can't trust the injured teen; and B.) crazy-eyed Shane's going to challenge Rick's authority further.
Speaking of Shane, he was the most interesting part of the non-"guy getting his nose eaten" storyline. Having a big cast is fine, but let's not check in with them unless something's happening. Everyone still goes from zero to crazy too fast, Shane and Darryl in particular.
Lori's car crash was ridiculous, but her escape was entertaining. She also delivered her Lady Macbeth-style "Kill Shane!" speech to Rick. This is understandable — Rick's a rosy guy, Shane's a hair-trigger weirdo — but the script has gone out of its way to make Lori so super-horrible and prone to bad decisions that we're just like "URRRRGH LORRRRRI!" instead.
Hopefully next week will focus on the all-important "What do we do with the impaled sniper?" question instead of Glenn vocalizing his many insecurities or drawn out shots of Dale making faces like Georgia air tastes like cod liver oil.