Walking Dead: Pretty Much Dead Already Review (Mania.com)

By:Joe Oesterle
Review Date: Monday, November 28, 2011


The latest offering of AMC’s The Walking Dead demonstrated why a show that features zombies can be such a critical hit even among people who don’t typically care for zombie material. Even though the network reportedly cut the show’s budget considerably, the harm hasn’t been felt significantly. This has never been a shoot-em-up program that relies solely on expensive special effects. When this story is told correctly (and more often than not it has been - comic book or cable TV) it’s always been about the human element. Can the survivors of this worldwide epidemic/curse/catastrophe prosper living by the same rules, laws and morals in which they grew up adhering?
   Lori has been wondering to herself as well as out loud if it would be fair to bring in a new child into this world, and while it’s a valid question, I’d think it’s a fair guess to say a child who manages to grow up in a world populated by Walkers won’t have the heartbreaking choice of abandoning the rules of polite, non-zombie society, because they will have never had the privilege of living in that universe. Carl is adapting to his new situation much better than his mother has, and that prospect frightens Lori, but it should also give her hope that the kid has what it takes to tough it out. It’s probably the reason why Darryl has been so successful in this new culture. Darryl, as he alluded to Carol, suddenly has a purpose, and for all his Mommy issues and insecurity, clearly he’s relishing his role as a respected member of a group from which he ordinarily would have been ostrasized.
   Speaking of Darryl, I’d be curious how many of you thought (as I did) that when you heard Norman Reedus was going to be a guest on Chris Hardwick’s Talking Dead that he’d wind up being a casualty of tonight’s mid-season finale? Kind of like the way Jimmy Kimmel trots out the latest Dancing With the Stars cast-offs. Glad my spidey sense misfired on that hunch.
   Here’s another informal poll, who do you guys think would win in a fight? Darryl or Shane? It did seem like the two of them were about to throw down, and I’m not sure what the Vegas odds would be in that donnybrook. While the jawing was going down I surveyed the potential combatants and realized Shane has the advantage in size, weight and reach on everyone’s favorite White Trash Warrior. (That would look good on the back of a boxing robe, am I right?) Shane also has years of training and he’s obviously at least as fit. If Darryl has an edge in this possible battle, it would be his heart. I don’t see him ever backing down. I could see Shane quit on a fight.
   Which brings us to the man of the hour, Mr. Shane Walsh. From the previews, there was little doubt this episode would focus on how the Barn Walkers would be dealt with, and even less surprise that Shane would be the one to rush in and do what he felt needed to be done. The strange thing is Shane, as with Otis, may have made the right choice in a tough situation. This is what is so compelling about the Shane character. He’s obviously this show’s bad guy, but he doesn’t see himself that way, and many times we don’t either.
   I believe I’ve said this before in the comment boxes below, but we’re witnessing the devolution of a good guy. This character shift from lifelong, trusted best friend to mortal enemy. The parallels of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent/Superman are evident.
   Arrrrg! Pardon me while I say “fuck.” FUUUUCK! Microsoft Word just quit on me and I didn’t save the last 6 or 7 paragraphs I wrote. Fuck again. Sorry to digress, but fuck.
   Ok, back to the review.
   Rick is still behaving by the rules of the old world. I’d like to believe Rick is fully aware his group has the advantage if it ever came down to a fight between Hershel’s group and his, but he’s trying to work through Hershel’s eviction notice with diplomacy. Shane on the other hand was probably never much the Henry Kissinger type, and is only more than happy when push comes to shove to push harder and shove tougher.
   In the grand scheme of things, Shane’s platform is probably the correct one, but he’s not a leader of men. He’s clearly better with a gun than Rick, he’s also most likely the odds on favorite in fistfight between the two men but there’s a reason Rick was Shane’s superior on the job, and that’s because Rick can lead people. Shane was probably always a bit knee jerk reactionary, which is why Shane was Rick’s second. Under the new rules established in a zombie-infested world however, Shane sees his own weakness as a strength, and misunderstands Rick’s strength as a weakness. Rick is a leader. Rick is a hero. Both attributes will be tested. Shane is neither a leader or hero, but he will make for a worthy adversary down the road.
   Kudos to Jon Bernthal once again for delivering yet another stellar performance as the flawed lawman. His reaction to the news that Lori was pregnant was realistically subdued, and you could almost hear the actor thinking for the character “like father like son” when Carl informed him they were staying until they find Sophia. I’m curious how the events of Sophia’s fate will affect Carl’s state of mind. I can envision a scenario where Carl moves closer to Shane because of this. (I wrote about that at length before my stupid Word program crashed, and cannot bring myself to revisit that theory again.) We’ll see how that shakes out.
   I’d like to take this time to speak about Dale. I know many of you disagreed with my grade of “C” for last week’s episode, and I have not changed my mind on that matter. Here’s why. Last week’s Dale (as I stated in my review, and multiple times in the comment boxes below) just didn’t ring true to me. Dale plays his information close to his vest. He isn’t the reactionary type, that’s Shane. Dale was handled much better this week.
   Dale had every reason and opportunity to tell Andrea the kind of man Shane really is, but he was smart enough to know he’s only going to come off as a jealous old man in her eyes. Dale even played Glenn by asking him to grab him a cup of water, and Glenn had no idea the old man was about to embark on an effort to keep the guns away from Shane.
   No dummy himself, Shane quickly realized the crafty codger’s plan and effortlessly caught up with the sneaky senior citizen, making for perhaps the most tension-filled scene in a show with no shortage of conflict. It was impossible not to feel pity for the old guy as Shane reigned a menacing mixture of bravado, arrogance and strength that comes with youth on the past his prime Winnebago owner. Dale seemed to resign the fact that he is now no match for Shane in the game of wits either, and his line, “if you had put as much time tracking Sophia as you did tracking me, maybe the little girl would be here now” should have hit Shane hard. It didn’t. Shane was too busy making sure he completely intimidated the weaker man to fully digest the insult.
   Again, it’s easy to see how and why Shane does and says the things he does, it’s just hard to see him go down that path. Apparently Shane wasn’t the only person in the group who didn’t feel comfortable living so close to a barn full of Walkers. The rest of the group armed themselves before Shane made his mission clear, but most of them if not all had to know the object was to rid the area of threat. Seeing Rick coax another flesh-eater into the barn was more than enough for Shane. The others were probably philosophically torn, but Shane’s decision to release the danger compelled the group to use deadly force to protect themselves.
   In the best twist of the entire series, we finally learned of Sophia’s fate. I for one didn’t see that coming, and it’s possible that is because the writers kept Sophia out of sight for such a long time. Many of us have stated our annoyance at the seeming mishandling of the Sophia plotline, but I am happy to admit the reveal was well worth the wait.
   Seeing the zombified little girl in her rainbow tee shirt emerge from the barn hit everyone hard. Suddenly each bullet-blasting member of the bunch had a better understanding of Hershel’s dilemma.
   Rick had been figuratively cuckholded by Shane’s shoot first, ask questions never policy in front of the group, but now as Carol lay weeping in Darryl’s arms, Hershel knelt in horrified shock and even Shane froze at the prospect of the preteen Walker approaching, Rick did what any hero would do. He pulled out his gun, stepped confidently up to the young unarmed girl and shot her, point blank, in the brain.
   Clearly the rules of polite, non-zombie society no longer apply.
If you like real-life blood and gore, please check out the unedited version of the Black Dahlia story from Joe Oesterle’s latest book, “Weird Hollywood.”

Mania Grade: A
TV Series: The Walking Dead
Episode: Pretty Much Dead Already (Mid Season Finale)
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn
Written By: Scott M. Gimple
Directed By: Michelle MacLaren
Network: AMC
Series: Walking Dead