THE WALKING DEAD Recap: “Secrets”

     November 20, 2011

AMC’s The Walking Dead is coming up on its “mid-season finale” (after next Sunday, the show’ll likely be off the air until the end of December/beginning of January; we’ll give you specific dates in next week’s recap), which means that we’re just about a week away from being able to provide a mid-season diagnosis of the show.  If you’ve been following along with our recaps, you know that I’ve gone back and forth between really, really enjoying The Walking Dead’s second season…and being really, really disappointed by it.

Some weeks, the show seems to be spinning its wheels, offering up one or two somewhat interesting developments in between tedious stretches where the survivors whine about everyone’s favorite missing child, Sofia.  Other weeks, we get an installment like tonight’s episode, “Secrets”.  On episodes like tonight’s, things of genuine importance happen, characters grow or change in interesting ways, and, sometimes unforeseen developments take place.  On those weeks, I’m all too happy to be a fan of this series.  Come to think of it, “Secrets” might’ve been my favorite episode of the season.  A word of warning, though:  there was a ton of content packed into this week’s show (no wonder it’s my current favorite), so this week’s writeup’s gonna be extra-long.  Bring a bookmark, folks.

Let’s start things off this way:  consider the difference between an episode like “Secrets” and an episode like last week’s, “Chupacabra”. A number of things set the two episodes apart, but the most important difference is this:  the story actually advanced (that the story advanced in ways that aren’t consistent with the world we’ve seen in Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic series is—for me, anyway– a huge bonus).  At the beginning of the episode, the survivors were at point A.  By the end of the episode, they were at point B.  At the risk of stating the obvious, this is how things should unfold every week:  A to B, not A to A.2.

But why harp on old shit?  “Secrets” was packed with developments, a number of which will probably have major repercussions in the weeks ahead (be wary of spoilers from here on out, DVR enthusiasts).  Yeah, tonight’s episode was a little light on zombie action, but when you’ve got this much intrigue unfolding between this many combinations of characters, you don’t need a headshot every ten minutes. Giving credit where credit’s due, though: the episode’s one zombie attack was pretty friggin’ awesome.

I’m getting ahold of myself, though.  The episode opened with Glenn confronting Maggie about the barn full o’ zombies that we glimpsed at the end of last week’s show.  After attempting to meet up with the farmer’s daughter for a late night roll in the hay, Glenn discovered that Herschel Greene and his kin were keeping a number of “walkers” in their barn.  Reader of the Walking Dead comic series were way ahead of the show on this front, but for any non-readers who might’ve been wondering why Herschel might even consider doing such a thing, it was all laid out later in the episode:  Herschel’s convinced that a “cure” is on the way, that the living dead can be brought back to life (again).  Upon being confronted about it by Glenn, however, Maggie just begs him to keep his mouth shut about the whole thing.

From there, Glenn paid a visit to Lori, expressing outrage—for the second straight week—that Lori hadn’t already told Rick about her pregnancy.  Again, a character begs Glenn to keep his mouth shut for the sake of someone else’s feelings.  Everyone at home knows that Glenn’s mouth won’t stay shut for long, of course– as Dale so succinctly puts it a few scenes later, “the boy is without guile”—but he does manage to keep all these secrets to himself for a whopping twenty minutes or so.  Progress?

Meanwhile, the newly-healed Carl seeks out Shane and asks him for gun-shooting lessons, something that Shane doesn’t quite reject outright (side note:  Daryl was largely absent this week, but I would really like to see him be the one to train Carl).  Instead, he tells Carl to ask his parents for approval.  Just as Carl’s heading off to seek said permission, Shane spots something in Carl’s belt:  a revolver.  This leads to a scene where Lori lectures Carl about gun safety, which in turn leads to an argument between Shane, Lori, and Rick (but mostly just Lori and Rick) about whether or not training their 10 year-old to use a gun is a bad idea.  While the idea of a child being taught to use a firearm does seem a little troubling, Rick makes a good point in defense of the idea:  the survivors are living in a different world, one where knowing how to use a firearm might do Carl a lot more good than harm.  Besides, Rick points out, Shane has trained “kids a lot younger than Carl” how to use guns in the past.  There was more to this scene, but I didn’t catch it:  I was too busy trying to think up reasons why Shane might have taught a six year old how to use a gun.

While this meeting of the minds is taking place, Glenn spills his guts to Dale (this was a funny character note, by the way, with Glenn blurting “the barn’s full of walkers and Lori’s pregnant” all in one breath), which leads Dale to seek out Herschel for a little man-to-man chat regarding the appropriate uses for a barn.  Whereas Dale might use a barn to store, say, hay and tractors, Herschel feels that a barn is more suited for the storage of zombies.  The characters reach an impasse in this discussion, and it becomes clear that Herschel doesn’t really give a flying f— what the survivors think about his barn-o-zombies:  they’re gonna be gone soon, anyway.  At least, that’s what he’s banking on.

While the rest of the characters are out learning how to shoot (upon seeing Herschel’s son holding his gun sideways, a character tells him “Don’t gimme none a that gangsta shit”;  the irony that the character telling him this is a man who calls himself “T-Dawg” was probably not lost upon you), Shane and Andrea head out into the woods for a little private lesson.  After riling Andrea up by mentioning her dead sister during target practice (note to self:  never do this), the two patched things up long enough to go on yet another “Find The Missing Girl” mission.  When that was a success, they patched things up even further by boning in Shane’s mom-car.

As soon as Shane and Andrea got back to camp, Dale knew something was amiss.  Someone had been all up in his Kool-Aid, and Dale was not amused.  Though he’s kept his mouth shut about the whole “Banging your supposedly-dead friend’s wife” secret that Shane’s been keeping from Rick, the attraction between Shane and Lori finally annoyed him into action:  he tells Shane that he needs to pull up stakes and leave the survivors behind.  Shane took this about as well as you’d expect Shane to, with Shane getting all up in Dale’s judgmental face and telling him—in essence—to STFU.

Once again, this was a scene designed to show us Shane’s “dark side”, but—as is generally the case– I found myself rooting for Shane rather against him.  The Walking Dead’s writers are going to have to try better than that if they want me to sign up for “Team Rick”.  There’s also the matter of Dale to consider:  in the comics, Dale’s more of an easygoing, wise, less-judgmental character than the Dale that’s appeared in the TV version of The Walking Dead.  I didn’t like him getting childishly jealous and getting up in my boy Shane’s grill, just as I didn’t like him trying to make decisions for Andrea…and just as I didn’t appreciate him getting all up in Lori’s pregnancy-business on tonight’s episode.  Dale’s starting to come off as a bit of a Nosy Nellie, and—believe you me—that’s not a term I throw around loosely.  I hope they dial down his meddling in the weeks ahead, mainly because I really like Jeffrey DeMunn (who plays Dale) and don’t wanna have any reason to root against the dude.

Anyway, Glenn and Maggie take a trip into town to get (more) supplies for Lori, during which Maggie confronts Glenn about spilling his guts to Dale.  Glenn apologizes, but only to a point:  he’s still not thrilled about the barn-o-zombies on the Greene property, and you can tell he’s struggling with how to reach Maggie.  On the one hand, he knows that what the Greene family’s doing is wrong.  On the other hand, post-apocalyptic boning.  So, yeah, you can see his dilemma.

Upon entering the very same drugstore where they first consummated their love, Maggie’s attacked by a zombie (this was the episode’s lone zombie attack, and it was a doozy:  the walker’s head was hanging on by a string, still coming at Maggie, when Glenn went to town on him with a machete—it was awesome).  Upon returning to the farm, Maggie gets in Lori’s face and tells her in no uncertain terms that she and Glenn won’t be running any more errands for her, and that’s when we found out what Lori had sent the two to retrieve:  a box of morning-after pills.

So, of course Lori takes the pills, and of course she gags ‘em back up as soon as she swallows them.  While jamming her fingers down her throat, Rick enters he and Lori’s tent, discovers the pill box, and goes looking for her, which led to the episode’s final, somewhat shocking scene:  Rick confronts Lori about the pregnancy, and Lori confesses to having slept with Shane.

Now, if you knew that those two secrets were going to come out during this confrontation, you’d probably have a reasonable guess as to which secret would trouble Rick more (hint:  it’s the one where Shane bangs his wife).  But—amazingly, at least to me and the people I caught this week’s episode with—Rick was far more upset about Lori’s impromptu abortion-attempt than he was with the “Shane situation”:  after Lori admitted the former, he ranted and raved;  after she admitted the latter, he kind of nodded and said, “Yeah, of course you did.”  Call  me crazy, but this wasn’t how I saw that secret coming out, nor was it how I expected Rick to react upon finding out.

Surely this is by design.  Surely the show’s writers knew we expected a big, ugly blow-up about Lori’s cheating, and surely they were subverting expectations by letting the scene play out in such a subdued way…right?  I wasn’t the only one expecting a lot of yelling following that revelation, was I?  It’ll be interesting to see how Rick handles Shane next week—the “Next Week On…” promo didn’t have much in the way of hints about that situation—but if Rick’s initial reaction is any indication, I don’t think we oughtta expect anything outlandish.

And this is yet another reason why I find myself rooting for Shane over Rick.  Guy finds out his best friend nailed his wife, and his immediate reaction is a quiet nod and a “yeah, I kinda figured that’d happen”?  Rick’s supposed to be the leader, the figurehead of the show, the ultimate badass who will lead these survivors to…well, if not salvation, at the very least to safety.  I don’t wanna see Rick get all “Oh no he di’nt” on Shane, but I definitely would’ve liked to have seen something a little more outraged than the reaction we got at the end of this episode.  I want to root for Rick, and I want to get onboard the “Team Rick” train (if for no other reason than knowing that Shane won’t be around forever), but he seems like such a weak-ass, it’s hard for me to even consider doing as much.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  this show’s writers need to find a way for us to leave Shane’s side and align ourselves with Rick.  Tonight’s episode—and the various secrets revealed therein—didn’t do anything to harm my opinion of Rick, but it certainly didn’t help.

Whew.  This was a long one, eh?  Lots of stuffed packed into tonight’s episode, and thank God for that.  I don’t know what we should expect from next week’s “mid-season finale”, but I’m going to be keeping my fingers crossed for an end to the “Where in The World is Sofia San Diego?” storyline (I like the idea that she might already be turned and in Herschel’s barn, but I wouldn’t bet on it).  That wheelspinning MacGuffin is currently this season’s biggest weakness, and I’d really like to see it resolved before the show goes on break for the holidays.  But what about you guys?  What are you hoping to see on the show before the end of next week’s episode?  Let us hear about it in the comments section, and stay tuned for next week’s recap/mid-season diagnosis—same dead-time, same  dead-channel.