by Samantha Rullo
The suspenseful, groundbreaking show that was the first season of “The Walking Dead” is officially back. This week’s episode brought huge developments, but also featured smaller, tender moments, and the two were integrated seamlessly to create an almost flawless penultimate episode of the season.
While the conclusion of “Better Angels” will undoubtedly be the most remembered, its opening should not be overlooked. “The Walking Dead” has had its share of intense, resonating endings, but this week’s beginning stands among the few memorable and extremely effective introductions. The moral eulogy for Dale juxtaposed with the brutal killings of walkers, all set to intense, yet soft, music, created an irony-filled, stunning sequence that spoke to many of the show’s core conflicts.
That opening set the tone for an overall excellent episode. The few calmer scenes were still interesting and relevant, such as the touching scene between Glenn and Andrea, which allowed the two characters closest to Dale to express their grief in a simple way. The only flawed scene of the episode was the one between Rick and Carl discussing the reality of death in their world. The dialogue itself was not the problem, but rather the aesthetics of the scene. The odd choice of soft music in the background of the two sitting side by side almost gave it the feel of a heart-to-heart from an old family sitcom–not very fitting to “The Walking Dead.”
But this was really the only misstep in “Better Angels,” in which Shane was truly the standout character. Jon Berenthal delivered an impressive last performance that proved to be his most turbulent. In just one episode he gave an emotional conversation with Lori filled with false hope, followed by his gradual unraveling, all leading up to a final, desperate confrontation with Rick. Shane’s pleading for Rick to protect himself showed both his contempt for Rick’s leadership and his decision that one of them had to die, for they could not coexist in this world anymore.
It was a fitting finale to the complicated, but realistic arc that Shane has gone through as a character central to many plotlines. His final scene was executed perfectly, with tense drama culminating to the twisted ending that also brought great performances from Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Chandler Riggs (Carl).
With just one episode left in the second season, there have been many issues set up that should be addressed in the finale or carry over into the next season. The most shocking of these is the concept of people becoming walkers after death without being bit. This was something that occurred in the comic series of “The Walking Dead” but had not been seen in the show until now, with Randall and Shane’s death. Then there is the question of who will provide the major conflicts now that Shane is gone. It seems that Daryl is stepping up as second-in-command, but he is not poised to be quite as problematic to the group’s proceedings as Shane was.
With such monumental changes and a brewing storm of walkers approaching, there are many directions that “The Waking Dead” can go from here. Though it will be hard to top “Better Angels,” the finale has all that it needs it to end a season on an outstanding, memorable note.
Samantha Rullo is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.