The Walking Dead finally becomes the apocalyptic series fans knew it should be
I may have been the only fan sitting at home cheering when the big death finally happened on Sunday's episode of the Walking Dead.
WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS BELOW.
It's not because Jon Bernthal's Shane Walsh had it coming since he killed good guy Otis to escape a swarm of zombies. Though he did.
It's because this series is finally becoming what it always should have been; a tense story about humans fighting like mad to survive a world past the edge of apocalypse.
Regular readers of this space know that's been my biggest gripe with Walking Dead, especially in its second season.
These people have a disturbing habit of forgetting they are in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, firing off weapons whenever they feel like it, using food like they can run to the grocery store anytime they choose and hunkering down at a bucolic farm with no preparations if a swarm of "walkers" comes upon them or humans with less than noble intentions arrive.
Those of us who devoured the graphic novels which inspired the series know those characters got the memo much sooner.
After reading those novels, it seems almost quaint that Rick Grimes and his hardy band of survivors would spend so much screen time debating whether to kill a guy they captured while he was trying to shoot several of them. The hard-bitten folks in the written version would have shot him in the head when they first came across him -- their version of mercy when flesh-eating corpses are closing in.
(It's odd too, that they never use the word "zombies" in the world of the Walking Dead; apparently, this is a world where Night of the Living Dead never existed.)
But the TV version of Walking Dead is savoring the slow loss of its characters' pre-apocalypse sensibilities, fretting over every death, necessary or not, and indulging old habits which lead to ridiculous chance-taking.
Producers of the TV show seem to enjoy tweaking events for those of us who know the books. In the graphic novel, Rick's son Carl actually kills Shane early on, saving his dad from a murder attempt. On the TV show, Carl shot Shane when he transformed into a "walker," after Rick killed him while fending off a murder attempt.
Shane's immediate transformation also hints at the notion that everyone may now be infected with whatever turns people into walkers, explaining why they once found zombie corpses with no bites on them.
The survivors are slouching toward their new reality, where they must be wary of living strangers and make brutal choices. The death last week of Dale, the guy who wandered around their camp reminding everyone of how they used to think before zombies took over the Earth, was more than symbolic. It was a severing of their old sensibilities and a move toward a new morality, much tougher and expedient than before.
If I have one quibble left, it's that producers don't seem to know what to do with Rick's wife Lori or T-Dog, the brother who hasn't had more than three lines in a scene since the first set of episodes in fall 2011. Lori set off the Rick/Shane showdown by revealing she once had feelings for Shane and wasn't sure if her new baby was his -- selfishly unburdening her guilt while unknowingly pushing him to take out her husband.
Check out a preview of next week's season finale below, along with a behind the scenes look at this week's episode.