So, to recap: They still haven’t found Sophia, they still haven’t done anything about the zombies in the barn, they’re still on the farm, Shane’s still a dick, Rick’s still a tortured anxiety case, and I’m still one frustrated sonofabitch.
When looked at with those scenarios in mind, not much happened (again) in “Secrets,” the sixth episode of season two of “The Walking Dead.” And on the surface, that’s not an untrue statement. This was yet another mixed episode, with some good parts and some bad parts, but ultimately it continued the sense of intractable stasis that’s been plaguing every episode since the season premiere. The theme was, as the title suggests, secrets, and at last some of the secrets that have been festering beneath the surface have found their way to the open air. Mainly, this was due to Glenn, who is apparently — in addition to being a sweet, earnest young man who’s fast on his feet — a giant goddamn blabbermouth (admittedly so, at least).
The problem is that while there was some dramatic resonance with the way in which these secrets were revealed, there was little or no consequence to those revelations. Rick learned about Lori’s pregnancy, and after a five minute fight, they’re done. Added to the discovery that he’s known about her and Shane all along, it’s a staggeringly subdued response from the fearless leader, and one that rang hollow. The initial dust-up between them felt like it had some emotional meat on its bones, but ultimately it simply descended into “well, I knew all along and I’m cool with it” which just didn’t generate any kind of impact.
Similarly, the revelation about the zombies in the barn — knowledge only shared by a handful, albeit — wasn’t nearly the source of shock I’d anticipated. Most people correctly assumed it was Hershel’s family in there, and his calm yet impassioned demeanor while defending his actions to Dale was actually quite nicely executed. That said, were I Dale, I can only assume that I’d head back to camp and say, “that crazy motherfucker’s got a barn fulla zombies — I think it’s time to pack our shit, kids.”
Surprisingly, the episode’s highlights were the scenes between Andrea and Shane. While the abrupt sex scene in the car seemed inauthentic and honestly, kind of stupid, the buildup to that point had a surprising amount of nuance to it. Their antagonistic training scene and the frantic shooting sequence in the street were the only real sources of tension in the episode, and it was the first episode so far this season where I began to like Andrea again. I like that she’s becoming more assertive and that her character is moving in new directions — they may not be the most palatable of directions, but at least she’s developing, something that can’t be said of the majority of the other cast members.
That does bring up an interesting discussion point, which is the handling of women in general in the show. It’s worth noting that last week, reader/commenter Artemis sharply noted this, and her comment in last week’s review is a very good read. Part of the reason that “The Walking Dead” is floundering is because its characters aren’t really developing, but instead simply making minor tonal shifts which, over an extended period that has little movement, has little effect other than to exacerbate their existing traits. Unfortunately, in the case of the women in the show, those effects are casting increasingly negative light on their characters. Lori was a sharp-eyed, strongwilled defender of her family in season one, but when stuck in the mud the way her character has been, the focus has instead been on the shriller aspects of her nature, something that was even stated outright in this episode (her being the bad guy when it came to answering Carl’s request). Carol is simply becoming a shell of a character, whose entire existence is predicated on crying about her daughter (understandably), and then shrinking into the background to softly whimper and fold laundry. Jacqui was given the shortest shrift, being the one who simply gave up and succumbed to death at the end of season one.
That’s why I viewed this episode as a success as far as Andrea and Maggie are concerned — their characters felt like they were actually showing some kind of movement, instead of continuing to be stuck in the same emotional and psychological mud that’s been paralyzing so many of the other characters. While not everyone may find Andrea’s new character arc satisfying, she’s taking action — better yet, she’s joining the action.It’s the reason that Daryl and Glenn continue to be the best parts of the show — their characters do things other than argue and complain, and which is also why watching the rockily evolving relationship between Glenn and Maggie was one of the show’s highpoints (as well as seeing Glenn go to town on the zombie in the pharmacy). That’s what the show needs to do throughout, but it’s becoming more aggravating when it comes to the female characters who are serving as little other than foils for the menfolk’s actions (and that’s not even beginning to discuss the painfully ignorant — if not irresponsible — depiction of how the morning after pill works. Sheesh).
“Secrets” was another exercise in frustration, and my patience is wearing thin. It’s bad enough that the show feels like it’s trapped in amber, but it’s actually finding new ways to work on my nerves each week. It once again didn’t have nearly enough zombie-related mayhem, made all the more annoying by the lack of character development. It’s not enough to simply expose peoples’ secrets — there has to be some real, honest sense of consequence to it and that simply didn’t happen. It was “SECRET REVEALED! DUN DUN DUNNNN!! AND NOW… we fold some more laundry or whine some more!” A bit of an oversimplification? Perhaps. But if a show’s pace is going to be as glacial as “The Walking Dead” is right now, there should at least be the sense that there are consequences for actions, and there should be a greater degree of emotional and character development. That’s happening in fits and starts, in minuscule hiccups, and I’m wondering how much more I can take.