AMC’s zombie thriller approaches its mid-season climax, but will we be tuning in when it return? Kieran Mathers finds out…
My word, there’s an awful lot of shouting in this episode! After several plodding instalments, this season’s incipient conflicts finally rear their ugly rotting heads. Gunfights, sex, violence… it’s all here. I won’t call it a return to form because it’s still pretty poor fare compared to much of last season, but it’s almost watchable again.
This doesn’t stop it from being frequently idiotic, however. Lori (Sarah Callies) goes nuts when she finds her son Carl (Chandler Riggs) carrying a gun, sparking the sort of debate about gun control that would be fine in a more mainstream American drama but seems pointless here. The world has ended, the dead are walking and giving everybody the means to protect themselves feels like a no-brainer. I’m hardly an advocate of gun rights, but in the case of the zombie apocalypse I’m willing to make an exception.
Things do get better though. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) continues his attempts to hold the group together, despite being unfairly characterised as a busybody. His gentle incisiveness is a welcome contrast to the melodrama taking place elsewhere in the episode, and he once again proves to be one of the few characters with his head screwed on straight.
Meanwhile, Shane (Jon Bernthal) goes full-on Drill Sergeant while teaching Andrea (Laurie Holden) to shoot. It’s a little unnerving that, while Shane becomes increasingly psychopathic, he’s also the most determined to survive. Harsh times call for harsh measures, and the script really sparkles as he talks about shutting his feelings down in order to survive (and to live with the guilt of what he did to poor old Otis a few weeks ago). However, exploiting danger for sex just ain’t cool, Shane and there are bound to be repercussions if he continues on his downward path.
This highlights one of the strengths of the show – horror is so much more powerful when it is suggested rather than shown. Take the sequence in which Shane and Andrea investigate a seemingly innocent suburban house, for example – it’s loaded with pathos and a gnawing sense of loss. Lori declaring that “she lives for her happy memories” is not the same thing at all. The loss of her past life, explored through the characters, would be much more interesting than the petty bickering we’re stuck with. And her attempted abortion is so stupid I don’t even want to go into it.
The final note goes to the interesting, if misguided, debate about whether or not killing a zombie counts as murder. We’ve become so used to the demands of the genre that we rarely stop to wonder about the ethical implications of hacking away at the undead. But Hershel (Scott Wilson) gives the impression that his moral stand is a retreat into rationality in the face of the irrational, rather than a reasoned debate. Shame. It would have beaten all the damned shouting.