First up, apologies for the lack of a review last week. Due to the freak New England storm, I lost power for a few days and didn’t even get to see last week’s episode until this past Saturday. My very brief review? Eh. I enjoyed the scenes with Dale and Otis at the school, which were quite gripping, but the storyline involving Carl’s deteriorating health was beginning to get — to be quite frank — kind of boring. But the final minutes were a doozy, I’ll say that.
This week’s episode, “Cherokee Rose,” has the show beginning to display some signs of life and the beginnings of something that it’s been lacking this season — a sense of purpose and direction. Some of the lesser characters are finally beginning to develop greater depth, and the expanded roles of some of the newer characters show some great potential. And while it had an unfortunate shortage of actual zombie-related mayhem (a frequent issue, to be sure), the pace picked up somewhat and that bodes well for the future of “The Walking Dead.”
“Cherokee Rose” was all about secrets, though. Everyone is starting to have them, to guard them, and one can already tell that these secrets are not going to have positive results for the group. Of course, no secret is more stunning than Shane’s, and his fascinating dichotomy continues to be one of the show’s stronger points. The brutal shooting and abandonment of Otis was stunning, and yet… and yet, the darker parts of us knows why he did it. It’s not OK in any way, shape or form, and yet… Shane remains an enigma, appearing to alternate between desperate loner, loyal friend… and complete and utter sociopath. My only fear with his character is, based on the final scene of his face twisted menacingly in the mirror, that they’re going to (foolishly) allow his character to simply slip away and become engulfed by his darker nature. His complicated — and at times twisted — moral compass is fascinating to watch, as if with every attempt to pull himself closer to Lori, he loses another piece of his humanity.
At the same time, Andrew Lincoln managed to resuscitate his character somewhat. Considering he’s the show’s lead, the past couple of episodes had Rick Grimes beginning to feel drab as hell, uninspired and at times insipid. We get it, you’re tortured and you love your family. Now show me another goddamn emotion, would you? Do something. And this week, he did. His steady and unflinching dialogue with Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), while at times drawn out and melodramatic, at least had him showing some new sides to his character. Speaking of, Wilson’s Hershel is an interesting character — while his religious shtick is laid on a bit thick, it’s also only natural that there would be a certain degree of desperate fundamentalism in this post-apocalyptic heartland. And there’s a hint of something more to the character, something darker flickering around the edges of his kindly demeanor. I’m intrigued.
The other characters are also growing, even if it’s in fits and starts. Andrea is becoming less shrill, Dale is becoming less of a bewildered goof (a development that frustrated me, given how strong his character was in season one), and T-Dog is… well, OK, T-Dog isn’t really going anywhere. I’m stunned he hasn’t been killed off yet. On the other hand, Norman Reedus’ Daryl was once again one of the highlights, particularly his straightforward stories of his rather grim upbringing — aided by his completely unapologetic, lackadaisical manner of describing it. Carol continues to be the least appealing character on the show, and the whole Sophia-is-missing storyline is boring me to tears. It’s odd that there seems such potential to utilize children in interesting ways given this bleak setting, but basically the tactics are let them get hurt, or make them vanish. Yawn. That said, the pregnancy creates all sorts of dramatic opportunities, and it’s going to be riveting to watch the Shane/Rick dynamic as the storyline evolves.
But best of all was that Glenn finally had the opportunity to become a part of the story. Steven Yeun has been a steady presence in the show, a solid performer who has been relegated to the sidelines for the most part, and at last his role has some meat to it. It was a bit of everything all at once — he is nearly trapped in a well with a zombie (which was a marvelously, hilariously disgusting scene), he develops a crush, he gets laid, he knows Lori’s secret — but Yeun shouldered the burdens nicely, and his character will hopefully develop into another bright spot amidst all the doom and gloom.
“Cherokee Rose” didn’t necessarily take great leaps into new territory, but it successfully set the stage for the next phase of the show’s evolution. The new characters, their (though potentially brief) new home base, and the existing cast’s development makes it feel like the show may have found its footing again. It still lacks some of the visceral punch that the first season had, and strange as this is to say — it still needs more zombie-related action. But despite Rick and his little disparate family appearing to have found a place to settle down for a bit, one can tell that the secrets simmering within the players will slowly burn through their fragile existence. I have to say, I’m looking forward to that. Plus, did you see the preview for next week? I literally fist-pumped. That’s what the show needs.