AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 12: “Better Angels”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Glen Mazzara & Evan T. Reilly
* For a review of the previous episode, “Judge, Jury, Executioner” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “Beside the Dying Fire” – click here
This penultimate Season 2 episode begins with a speech by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). As they bury Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), he talks of honouring him. They will do things “his way” from now on. They will secure their safety and their future. Things are looking up, despite Dale’s death. Shane (Jon Bernthal) is a bit strange, as usual. T-Dog (Irone Singleton), Andrea (Laurie Holden) and the others are all pretty upset by the loss recently, as is Glenn (Steven Yeun), even Hershel (Scott Wilson) understands the sorrow.
Meanwhile, they’re planning on cutting Randall (Michael Zegen) loose, as was the earliest plan. Shane doesn’t want any of it, still causing friction between him and Rick. This only increases with every passing chapter of Season 2. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) gives Shane the evil eye on the side, hoping he’ll eventually quit pining for her. He won’t, though.
Rick: “Dale could get under your skin. He sure got under mine, because he wasn‘t afraid to say what he thought, how he felt. That kind of honesty is rare and brave. Whenever I‘d make a decision, I‘d look at Dale. He‘d be looking back at me with that look he had. We‘ve all seen it one time or another. I couldn‘t always read him, but he could read us. He saw people for who they were. He knew things about us – the truth who we really are. In the end, he was talking about losing our humanity. He said this group was broken. The best way to honor him is to unbreak it. Set aside our differences and pull together, stop feeling sorry for ourselves and take control of our lives… our safety… our future. We‘re not broken. We‘re gonna prove him wrong. From now on… we‘re gonna do it his way. That is how we honour Dale.”
Carl (Chandler Riggs) tells Shane about the walker who killed Dale. That he didn’t shoot it. This is a tender moment, if it weren’t for Shane playing would-be-dad to the young boy. He tries to assure Carl it wasn’t his fault and tries to make him hold onto the gun he took from Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) bike. He doesn’t want it anymore, afraid of his own abilities.
Over in the shed, Randall (Michael Zegen) is still being kept tied up. Everybody else is trying to go about their business. Glenn is shacking up with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), or at least she’s trying to make that happen, even if he’s still a bit leery about the situation. Best of all, Hershel is offering up his home as a home for the whole group. He’s come around to having them as a part of his life and hopefully this will continue to be good, for all of them.
On the side with Shane, we find Lori revealing she doesn’t “even know whose baby this is“. A shocking moment, which we all should’ve seen coming. She seems to flop back and forth between things. Here, she’s falling back into things with Shane. Even if it’s only a brief scene. Still, she isn’t doing any favours. Shane now has more reason to believe there is something left for him and Lori.
At the same time, Daryl and Rick come together closer, as the former says there’s “no reason you should have to do all the heavy lifting“. Then there’s more bravado and angst from Shane, who guilts Rick about talking to Carl and so on. A confrontation, a nasty one, is on the horizon. Those who’ve read the comics already know this, but when will it finally come? And how? Will it be the same as in the comics, or different?
Rick sits with Carl, strangely under the noose that was once prepared for Randall. They talk about life, “no more kid stuff” Rick says. This is a new life, a new world, an entirely new existence. He tells Carl how everyone will eventually die, they’re all going to shuffle off eventually. Best of all, the tension with Shane, I think, has prompted Rick into making sure his own son grows into a man, in this new and vicious zombie world. I love these small father son moments which come out now and then, and still do on the series. Well written and also the chemistry between Chandler Riggs and Andrew Lincoln works excellently for their relationship as characters.
The darkness in Shane further leaks out. He goes into the shed where Randall is tied. He sits on a chair in front of the young man, quiet, almost going crazy right there. Something deadly is brewing inside Shane, it’s only a matter of time before it escapes and damages everyone and everything around him. This scene is intense, brooding. You never know what might go down next.
Lo and behold – I didn’t see this coming. Shane takes Randall out in the forest. He asks the kid to take him back to his group, he wants out of the one he’s in currently. There is no future for Shane, as he sees it, among Rick and Lori and the others. But then he ends up breaking Randall’s neck. He smashes his own face into a tree, then heads back to the farm with a concocted story. He makes it seem as if Randall is now a huge threat to the farm and everyone on it.
This all leads Daryl, Glenn, T-Dog, Rick and Shane out to look for Randall. Supposedly. What’s the plan here? It’s as if Shane has something up his sleeve, some nefarious deed in mind. With everyone out looking, Rick by his side, Shane might just soon try to craft the group into one with which he wants to stay.
Sly glances pass between Rick and Shane in the dark of the woods. You can see Rick isn’t so sure what happened, but goes on following his former best friend anyways. The suspense here is unbelievable, as they move deeper and deeper into the trees. Daryl is a tracker and notices some suspicious elements to Shane’s story, finding tracks “in tandem“, blood on a tree, a scuffle of feet. Shane isn’t looking so truthful now. But everyone is at risk currently, out in the open, in the dark, with zombies shambling around all over the place. Not to mention Daryl and Glenn come across the dead body of Randall, finding out he wasn’t killed by walkers, or anything else, except a snapped neck.
Off alone together, Shane keeps Rick going further. Away from the group, separating them more by the minute. Eventually, they come to a big clearing. Rick continually questions Shane about what happened, which doesn’t get a whole lot of response. We see Shane slowly grip his gun in his pants. The look on Rick’s face spells everything out, though, he holsters his own gun. “So this is where you plan to do it,” says Rick to his once best friend. Two great actors toe to toe in this scene makes it something special. Incredibly intense. Those who read the comics know how it ends, yet still there is an air of tension you aren’t sure about. Rick walks and talks with a gun on him. “You won‘t be able to live with this,” Rick tells Shane. “I‘m a better father than you,” Shane replies not long after.
But once Rick unarms himself, all but begging Shane to give it a try, the situation changes. He talks Shane almost into his arms, giving over his gun. Then Rick stabs him deeply: “You did this to us. This was you, not me – not me!”
With Shane bleeding out in the field, Rick is left with what he’s done. Although it wasn’t wrong the act itself had to be tough. They were once the best of friends, for what seemed a lifetime. So much history. All the while, we get cuts to images in the mind of Shane; the zombie virus working its way into the folds of his brain. Then Carl shows up, seeing Rick over the dead body of Shane. He pulls a gun on his father. But not really – he puts a bullet through the undead Shane coming up behind Rick. A heavy act, one that needed doing. Only problem is the gunshots caught the attention of walkers. Lots of them.
The end of this episode is intense, knowing what’s on the verge of stumbling into the farm. Stay tuned with me while I review the Season 2 finale, “Beside the Dying Fire”.