Deconstructing The Walking Dead's midseason finale, along with twists on Dexter and Homeland
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't watched these shows' Sunday night episodes.
Sunday is quickly becoming the biggest night from television in the Deggans household, thanks in part to three series: Dexter, Homeland and The Walking Dead.
Three of those series offered up some amazing twists last night, leading to lots of annoyance among my family as I kept chortling through each delicious plot turn. The only question left: Which surprise was the most amazing?
The biggest jolt came courtesy of Walking Dead, which had to give audiences a major discussion point before the show goes away on midseason break until February (I know! Even in college we only got a month off for Christmas!) Last night, we learned that missing child Sophia had been zombified and stored inside God-fearing farmer Hershel's barn, along with all the loved ones-turned-walkers from his town.
This revelation came after resident a-hole Shane broke into Hershel's barn, convinced the walkers inside were a mortal danger. It was a nice touch that, after weeks of griping about hero Rick Grimes' leadership, Shane couldn't bring himself to shoot Sophia-as-zombie, a task left to the true leader-hero, Rick. (Read producer/graphic novel creator Robert Kirkman's thoughts on midseason finale here; show returns Feb. 12, 2012)
I'm enjoying how the show is subverting what fans of the comic book know about the story while finding new, more TV friendly ways of bouncing the characters off each other. Readers of the Walking Dead graphic novels knew walkers were probably inside Herschel's barn for long weeks, but the twist featuring Sophia and Shane was new -- in the books, Shane is already dead by this point, killed by Rick's young son Carl.
What I'm not digging so far is how Shane has become the repository for all that is mean and ruthless about our zombie survivors in their new world. My pet theory about the TV Walking Dead is that the survivors are all essentially one person in terms of their reactions -- Shane is the survival instinct, aggressive and ruthless; Rick is altruistic leader, Andrea the damaged victim struggling to cope, etc.
But the graphic novels centered more on the idea that anyone could become a Shane in the right circumstances -- driven more by the evils of other surviving humans than the zombies. Because the only evil human we have met so far is Shane -- and some fans argue against that interpretation, I know -- that point is essentially sacrificed to keep the show more TV-friendly.
I also have to speak up about another serious gripe; the way in which only one character of color really gets any screen time. I don't understand why the only Dead character who essentially has no storylines is the African American character, Theodore "T-Dog" Douglas (if you believe the show's Wikipedia page, actor IronE Singleton isn't even a regular cast member).
Steven Yeun's portrayal of fleet-footed survivor Glenn has been amazing. But he is also the only other character of color among the group of survivors, despite the fact that they spent weeks in and around Atlanta, a really ethnically diverse city. Fans of the graphic novel also know there is a major African American character, a woman deadly with a blade named Michonne, who hasn't yet surfaced on TV (in the novels, she doesn't appear until after the survivors have left Hershel's farm).
Now, we get to percolate over what comes next. Will the group resent that Hershel kept Sophia's existence as a zombie secret (did he know she was in there at all?) Will the group tolerate Shane's loose cannon qualities? And even if Hershel wants the survivors to leave his farm, considering they outnumber his group and have weapons, can he make them leave?
At least we have a few more episodes of Dexter to chew on while we suss out the answers. I had a few friends gripe about the show's slow pace last week, but I assured that the series often takes time to build. Last night's revelation that milquetoast follower played by Colin Hanks really was the mastermind behind the religious killings Dexter has been tracking was a delicious twist.
And Showtime's Homeland offered a twist as well, leading us to believe hero Damian Lewis, playing a soldier found alive in the Middle East after being held captive for eight years, hadn't been turned by his captors. Turns out, he was, but was unaware a fellow American captive had been turned as well; when he learned the man was alive (Lewis' character thought he had killed him in captivity), he turned against his terrorist handlers.
Looks like we've got a few more Sundays of great TV ahead before the holiday reruns and filler series begin.