Sunday, November 27, 2011

TV Recap: The Walking Dead S206, "Secrets"

"Everything's food for something else." From the mouths of babes. It's Carl's flippant air of survivalist nature that runs as catalyst for Lori's inevitable decision in The Walking Dead's episode 6, "Secrets". There has never been a more appropriate episode title. But, as we found out, Walking Dead writers aren't interested in stringing us painfully along with secrets that shamble on like the walkers that are so prevalently missing from the show -- they're interested in exploring what effect these secrets have on the people who must work with them. We're shown a bevy of secret-keepers, and how they deal with their pesky issues.

First up is Glenn, who couldn't lie to save his life, but at least he's honest about it -- although, really, at that point, what choice does he have. The problem with Glenn's inability to lie is that he also has an ability to look like he isn't covering something up. He's easy prey for Dale's cool intuitiveness, which we'll explore in more depth later. Glenn's progression is an interesting one, as he offers a hand to Lori, acting in both the interest of the child and of his perceived friendship with the woman. Nevermind that she asked him to go pick up some birth control pills.

Taking Maggie along on the venture with him proves troublesome when she's angry at him, then disagreeing with him, then bitching about his friends, then almost killed. But at least after she's done chucking things at Lori, she admits she has feelings for him. The most notable point comes from this last confrontation, where Maggie gives Glenn's passive character the kick in the ass he's been needing: "You're walker bait," she says, after telling him he's a better leader than he lets the team give him credit for. She also uses the term "walker", which she had, minutes ago, denounced him for saying.

Glenn's dangerously fraught journey into the town with Maggie didn't just allow her to express her feelings, but demonstrated the continued tension of one lifestyle versus the other. Directly after Maggie described the walkers as "people", she was attacked by one. In saving her, Glenn also seemed to be pointing out the flaws in her point-of-view; though he has been seen as the "weakest" member of his own group, to those with Hershel's blinders on, he is still a brutal killer, who is able to do what it takes to survive. (Although, can we take a second to wonder, again, why the shelves are so low in the pharmacy? Some things are understandable, but how many other women seriously needed to raid the pregnancy test collection before Lori.)

Off elsewhere, Rick and the menfolk are making plans. They huddle over a map, still absorbed in the task of determining where a frightened Sophia might be hiding. Based on Darryl's discovery last episode, they have a point to work from. But don't expect to hear much from Darryl on that; after a tiny apology from Andrea, he won't be showing up again.

We should be honestly surprised any of them allowed guns after what happened before, but okay. They've promised to behave so clearly things'll be different, right? Sure. At least Rick demonstrates that he's the only television character who learns from the previous episode by requiring all supposedly Hershel-approved endeavors to be run by Hershel. Revolutionary.

This leads us to Lori's protest that Carl be allowed to learn how to fire. At this point, the kid's already been shot -- as she herself says -- he might as well know how to fire. The odds are fairly high that the need will come up eventually, and a kid who's trained is better than a kid flopping around traumatized by the thought of a weapon. Learning to use one doesn't mean he has to walk around with one in his pants (sorry, Carl). We are, however, left wondering how actually comforting it is to hear that Shane used to teach younger kids how to fire. The argument makes Lori have to be the 'bad guy' again, but she folds, insisting that Carl treat this as serious as it is.

Once they get firing, Andrea proves herself to be a rather keen natural marksman, which presses all of Shane's manly buttons. Their courtship continues in the vein of Andrea seeking a bit of that danger and swagger that Shane projects, while Shane probes Andrea (not literally; yet) for a like-mind. When he gets her out alone and tests those boundaries by riling her up when she can't hit a moving target, Andrea balks. She's unable to surpass her sentimental psyche that says bringing up Amy is too sensitive in order to break into the survivalist, brutally uncaring world that Shane wants her to join him in. Also, at this point, I have to ask: at what point are they learning, and at what point are they just wasting bullets?

The courtship ritual moved on to Shane chasing Andrea down in his car -- this very familiar sight from more romantic venues was a surprising vision of the world they left behind. A man and a woman having an argument. It was as simple as that. Oh, until they journeyed into the walker-infested suburbia (social commentary?) and Andrea had to prove herself under fire. Or, that she could fire. Under fire. She proved it; and it's pretty obvious that she liked it. She even decided to show Shane just how much she liked it on the ride back. Regretfully, for some of us, that meant with sex, and not a bullet to the head.

Dale's the unexpected hero of this episode, emerging while everyone else is away having their own personal dramas or firing their guns off. Gleaning information from Glenn was perhaps not too difficult, but the cool, non-confrontational approach he takes when talking to Hershel about the walkers in the barn shows a sophistication the rest of the group sorely lacks. He even offers to contribute by making sure the area is secure, rather than jumping down Hershel's throat that they all be shot.

While everyone else blusters around, Dale is able to come at Hershel without that build-up of butting heads. Though Rick is docile and generally puppy-doggish, he's also a younger man, in his prime, and a leader who works towards the desires and benefits of his own group. This is a challenging picture to an older gentleman who just wants his own family and to do things his own way. However, no matter how calmly Dale presents his case, Hershel poses a question for both him and viewer: "Rick's a man of conscience; but are you so sure about everyone in your group?"

The magical power of Dale's intuition didn't stop there. He also smoothly approached the topic of Lori's pregnancy, expressing little actual surprise over her revelation that she'd been with Shane. Once again, he handled the passing of secrets with composure and sensitivity. He just wasn't able to reassure her that this was the best place to pop out a baby. Don't sweat that one, Dale. Instead, he moved onto the next person in need of a little intuitive wake-up call: Shane. Unfortunately, a romp in the front seat wasn't enough to mellow the cap-wearing cop once Dale approached in father-mode. Dale confronted Shane over the possibility that Otis hadn't 'died in the way Shane suggested. "I know what kind of man you are" he levels. Shane's own "a little boy lived because of what went down that night" condemned him as well as anything else -- his non-specificity pointing a giant glaring headlight at his lie of omission. And, yes: we think you're the kind of guy who threatens other guys while trying to sound insulted that it's suggested you're that kind of guy.

Last on the stop of the secret train was Lori's conflict with telling Rick that she was pregnant, and if she wanted to have the baby. Flying by the highly controversial abortion attempt, more of note was her confrontation with her husband earlier: "Were you gonna tell me?" accuses Lori, when Rick is revealed to have concealed the information that Hershel wants them gone. That one'll come back to bite her later. Testing the waters of trust isn't exactly wise when you're holding onto a big one, yourself. In fact, she had the balls to ask "Does it matter?" when Rick asked her how long she'd been keeping the secret of her pregnancy from him. Really, she of all people should have known that was an extremely stupid question.

Perhaps the single most amazing thing about "Secrets", however, (besides Dale and his magic) was that things got said. Not a lot else happened, as is theme with this current season -- but secrets were outed, and people acted responsibly about them. Rick tried to reason out why his wife slept with another man. Possibly because he is made out of empathy and eats understanding for breakfast. There is likely to be fall-out from this in the next episode, but that's what makes The Walking Dead's explorations continue to be quality writing: people learn, people evolve (except you, Shane), secrets get to be said, and then we know that we'll get to watch how that affects everyone.

Till next time: exactly how much did Glenn's vaguely foreshadowing-sounding "I always do [come back]" alarm you?

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