The Walking Dead S2, E6: “Secrets”

Despite the disgraceful lack of adequate Daryl-age, “Secrets” kinda worked for me. Let’s be clear here, this was no miraculous turnaround where all the show’s problems were suddenly solved, but I also wasn’t boiling with irritation. There are some good character shifts in this ep. Things we really should’ve been privy to ages ago, but at least now we have some explanation for previously jarring behaviors.

Rick’s revelation that he suspected Lori and Shane got it on — and his calm acceptance of their affair — suggests he’s a better leader than we thought. He’s kept his concerns suppressed for the good of the group, and that takes an especially gifted diplomat. Andrea’s better used out in the field than doing laundry, and she proves her worth by taking down all those walkers instead of just sitting around bitching and giving everyone the dramatic chipmunk side eye. It’s little subtextual moments like that — and watching the storm cloud of emotions flicker across Otis’ widow’s face as she breaks the chicken’s legs — which prove the show is capable of so much more than it’s been offering.

Surprisingly enough, I actually sided with Lori on the Carl’s gun controversy. I probably would have had the exact same reaction — being upset at first but then reluctantly relenting. And I even agreed with her decision to have an abortion. I get why she recanted in the end, but her thought process and reasoning actually made sense. For the first time, she and Rick interacted with each other in a realistic manner that fit with their established natures rather than as ciphers. The bigger problem with the abortion debate (other than that we already got a lighter shade of this argument when Lori was deciding whether or not it was better to let Carl die) was that no one except Lori seemed to have a valid reason for their stance. She didn’t want the baby because she feared for its life and didn’t think it was fair to thrust an innocent child into such a hellish world. Everyone else? Shouting “ABORTION BAD!” isn’t helping the situation, nor is it an actual position.

More to the point, no one at all seemed concerned about Lori. She’s going to have to be preggo for several more months, a state that makes her slower, weaker, and more vulnerable. She has some very good reasons for not wanting to have a baby (the probability of squeezing it out sans anesthesia in a ditch in the woods doesn’t rank very high in my book), and the rest of the group have nothing but their high horse morals backing them up.

As many of you regular readers know, I have been less than enthusiastic about The Walking Dead season 2. None of the episodes have inspired the level of rageahol that The Killing, one of AMC’s other self-created shows, brought me, but TWD has been chockablock with crushing-turned-resigned disappointment. The show is fine enough as is, I guess, but it could easily be sooo much better. A tweak here, a restructure there, a little character sorting out, addressing the pacing issue, and bing bang boom you’ve got yourself one of the best dramas on television. But what to do about those six million viewers who apparently like the show for what it is — ZOMG ZOMBIES WHEE!!! — and vote gore over philosophical pining? If you look at the show’s regularly decreasing numbers (but, really, for ratings that high what’s the loss of a few fractional percentage points?) even some of the blood-and-guts lovers are getting a little bored.

At first I was acting reactionary, annoyed at the writers for coming up with such dross and frustrated with the actors for (mostly) putting out such lazy/stereotypical/unoriginal performances of said dross. Then, during a discussion in the comments last week, a thought popped into my head: “Maybe the issues are part of why Darabont quit/fired/forced out last summer? I know some of it had to do with the reduced budget, but the man was responsible for Shawshank Redemption for Zeus’ sake, so I can’t imagine he was too thrilled with the looming changes.” That notion has been mulling around in my brain bone the last few days and the more I think about it the more convinced I am of its veracity.

Whatever happened behind the scenes, Darabont’s departure had to come down to creative differences, most likely fueled by the drastically reduced budget. When you have twice the episodes on half the money, that gives you far less leeway in terms of location diversity and big-budget scenes/shots. Sticking close to the highway, Hershel’s farm, and the woods long after any sane person would’ve moved on is, in a way, a kind of bottle episode. They can keep reusing the same patch of trees, the same farm, the same tiny stretch of interstate while keeping their expenditures down. The writers are struggling with how to play up the drama of an inherently boring scenario and what we end up with are endlessly repetitive conversations in the woods, a mysterious barn, and Dale playing mechanic on a non-broken RV. Reminds me of Terra Nova actually. On a show full of dinosaurs, time travel, anarchist rebels, and Jason O’Mara, there is absolutely no excuse for that show being as boring as it is. On TWD we have frakking zombies, Daryl, and Glenn and yet it’s taken six episodes to build any traction. Keep your bottle set, but for crying out loud do something with it.

We’ve reached the turning point of TWD. The midseason finale marks the end of Darabont’s reign and the start of Mazzara’s. Plot-wise, the finale should knock down most of the current pins while setting up some important new locales and characters. I learned a long time ago not to hold out much hope for what this show should do, but if nothing else, I think we can count on a very tense last hour.

Final Thoughts

  • “But, hey, shoot me again, best pray I’m dead.”
  • “Rick is a man of conscience. But are you sure about everyone in your group?”
  • “I know what kind of man you are.”
  • “Shane and I…” “I know, of course I know.”
  • I really, really, really hate Andrea’s smug look of satisfaction she gets when she’s full of herself.
  • Don’t have much to say about Andrea and Shane getting busy. The writers have been projecting their hookup for a while now and it was as uninteresting as I imagined.
  • Speaking of which, can’t decide if Dale got pissed at Shane because he banged the chick he has the hots for or it was just bad script timing that pushed him to call Shane out when he did.

Alex Brown is an archivist by passion, reference librarian by profession, writer by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare.


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