At this point in the game I’ve given up hope that The Walking Dead is ever going to be anything more than a way to kill an hour on Sunday night when nothing else is on, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want that time killer to be enjoyable. Sometimes fun pops by and kicks some undead butt. More often than not it gets drowned in favor of the Rick and Shane Glower-Off Variety Hour.
But the midseason eps have thus far managed to pair hefty doses of horror movie thrills with the never ending soliloquies on life, liberty, and the pursuit of shooting things in the face. And they’ve done it pretty well. Could it be that Frank Darabont simply wasn’t up to the challenge of running a weekly zombie television show? Maybe Glen Mazzara made all those boring, chatty Cathy eps last year as a way of saving money to go big on the back half of the season. Or maybe it’s just dumb luck. Whatever the reason, “Triggerfinger” was a fine ep that didn’t leave me feeling drunk on rageahol.
Like the final sequences in the bar at the end of “Nebraska” last week, “Triggerfinger” ratcheted up the fear with the arrival of Tony and Dave’s heavily armed backup. Hershel, Glenn, and Rick spent a good chunk of episode 9 trying to get out of Hershel’s old drink joint alive while the Yankee gang sought revenge against the deaths of their friends. Can you honestly blame them? If the situation was reversed and Rick was the one outside looking for his friends, he would have shot up the bar just the same. Do I care that Glenn hid like a coward behind a dumpster instead of playing Robocop and mowing down everyone in sight? Not really, even if his reasoning was a little on the kittens and unicorns side. Yet it was a nice touch to balance out Rick and Hershel’s love of firearms.
It’s amazing what a little change in lighting can do. Looking back, having all those episodes focusing on the daylight hours is a good part of what sucked out a lot of the suspense (the shoddy dialogue didn’t exactly help, either). And sure, doing night shoots (or day-for-night) are überexpensive, but it’s a great shortcut for establishing tension very quickly. You do this same ep at 2 in the afternoon and it becomes as flat and unnecessary as “Bloodletting.” Or as monotonous as the latter 15 minutes of tonight’s ep. It’s one thing to have a bunch of characters stand around talking without moving the plot forward, but it’s a whole different can of worms when it’s pitch black and you’re trapped in an abandoned redneck bar.
Now, I’m no fan of Shane. At all. I think the show would’ve been better off if he died in season 1. But twisting him into this love-crazed broken heart is almost as pathetic as turning Lori into Lady MacBeth. What the scene in the tent at the end was probably intended to do was show that Rick and Lori care so deeply for each other they’re willing to do horrible things in order to protect their family. (Not sure why she didn’t let it slip that Shane tried to rape her. That would be the easiest way to get Rick to go after him.) But because we don’t really know anything about these characters beyond vague outlines, we don’t care about the emotional dynamics of a wife asking her husband to kill her lover in order to protect her unborn child. And because we don’t care about Lori and Rick as people, she comes off as a meddling, conniving, exploitative shrew who would rather Rick off Shane so she doesn’t have to deal with his incessant puppy dog/serial rapist eyes.
In fact, we don’t really know anything about any of the characters. Yes, we have some basic facts—Glenn is a nerdy pizza delivery boy, Dale is old, Hershel likes to drink and is also old, Carol breathes and occasionally blinks, Daryl likes long walks on the beach and collecting zombie ears—but beyond that there’s nothing. I don’t have any real grasp on any of them as people. It’s a bad sign when you’re over halfway through your second season and all of your characters aren’t much more than faces and names, and I still can’t remember who is who of Hershel’s crew.
Giving us a reason to care what happens to the Grimes Gang is going to be key in sustaining the show through the years. As cool as seeing a zombie get KO’d by a screwdriver to the eye socket is, eventually you want to get to a point where your audience isn’t actively rooting for the big bads to eat your merry band of survivors. To do that we have to be invested in and empathize with them. And that means figuring out how to make the non-zombie scenes at least remotely interesting.
- “It was real…it was the one good thing. You know it’s true.”
- “I’m sure we’ve all lost enough people, done things we wish we didn’t have to, but it’s like that now. You know that!”
- The zombie trying to chew his way through the car glass brings up an interesting wrinkle in the science behind the undead. The more we see of them the more it becomes clear that there are two very distinct breeds: the lamebrains are the shuffling corpses that can’t do much more than moan and get stuck in wells, and the walkers who actively hunt their prey. I’m very curious as to what causes these distinctions, is it how much humanity they have left or how they died/contracted the zombie curse, or what?
- Hands up, how many people were disappointed when Lori wasn’t eaten alive?
- No one notices Lori’s missing? Really? Hours go by without someone wondering where her stupid ass is?
- Well, lookie here. Carol’s got a backbone. And Hershel, too? Go team second tier characters.
- Daryl, I know you’re pissed about Sophia being dead, but calm down, dude. You said all of two words to her the entire time you knew her and now you’re so distraught you almost hit her mom? Take a chill pill.
- That’s cold, Maggie, seriously cold, passing over your dad for your boyfriend.
- Andrea, Dale is incapable of insinuating anything. The man is a megaphone in a dopey hat. If you propped him up next to a neon sign saying “I HATE SHANE” he’d still be more obvious.
- T-Dog had a line again tonight! Wow, I’m sure glad the writers kept him around. He’s so vital to the plot. I mean, who else would be able to dispense the crucial information that they also hadn’t seen Lori in a while?
- Quoth my friend Adelle and seconded by me: “Glenn’s ‘I don’t like what your love does to me!’ speech made me want to punch him in the neck.”
Alex Brown is a research librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. One of these days she will go out and have a life, but right now she’s too busy re-watching Roar. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare.