I’ve been patient with “The Walking Dead,” suffering through frustration, unnecessary drama, stolid, seemingly aimless plot devices, and a frustrating series of unfocused storylines. Through all of that, I’ve been patient.
That patience paid off in episode 10, “Triggerfinger.” It was, quite plainly, exactly what I’ve been looking for in “The Walking Dead,” and was reminiscent of what made the first season far superior. Ppicking up immediately after the abrupt and gripping conclusion of “Nebraska,” we saw how a fully realized world gone mad begins to truly manifest itself. It’s not just the walkers — it’s never been just the walkers. It’s the rest of the world, it’s the other survivors who are willing to do just as much — if not more — than you think you’re willing to do in order to live. The taut, fearsome battle that Rick, Glenn and Hershel were swept up in was a nightmare of tension and dread. Strangers with guns threatening to surround them, walkers swarming like ravenous, mindless ants, it propelled them into action and created a whole new threat in one fell swoop.
Yet at the same time, it wasn’t just a gunfight, it was a window into each character opening up. It showed us that Hershel is more than a piously sanctimonious dogooder, that Glenn is more (or perhaps less?) than a sweet young boy who is sent on fetch missions, and that Rick, when his hand is forced, will make the hard decisions, even when doing someone a kindness. Do you question the decision to rescue their attacker? Of course you do, and you should — but what made the whole event so riveting is that they questioned that decision as well, in the midst of the chaos of gunfire and undead madness.
That scene left me exhausted.
As for Lori, I still think the writers’ decision to make her frantic running out was a terrible one, but if it was done for no reason other than to a) expose more of the darkness in Shane, and b) to give us that utterly fantastic scene where the zombies are converging on the car, then well, perhaps I can forgive them. Because first of all, the zombies laying siege to her overturned car was one of the hands-down most intense and horrifying scenes that the show has had. Secondly, it created a series of events that flowed smoothly and organically, scenes that lead us to see the crazy dancing behind Shane’s eyes, and that will inevitably lead to some sort of reckoning.
This was one of the rare episodes where everyone acquitted themselves well. Glenn and Maggie’s heartbreaking conversation, Maggie’s short and controlled fury with Hershel, Andrea’s confusion about how to deal with Shane — and her surprisingly sharp assessment of not his ideas, but his execution — all of these were handled skillfully and in completely believable ways. And the saga of Daryl and Carol was finally fulfilling on both sides. Daryl, like Shane, is dancing with madness, but that of a different sort. He’s on the edge of either regaining his status as one of the group’s steadfast defenders, or going completely off the reservation and ending up in Heart Of Darkness territory. But what was the most refreshing was seeing Carol finally begin to act like a human being, and not a sad sack of patheticness. She took on Daryl, and maybe she faltered a bit, but she held his gaze and she didn’t back down. She thinks Daryl was right — she should have taken care of her loved ones, and maybe that’s what she’s doing now.
The series has finally gained some much needed momentum, and there are a series of long-festering issues that are threatening to rupture, spilling turmoil and quite possibly blood in their wake. The long-held secrets are out now — about Shane and Otis, about Rick and Lori and the baby, about everyone, and what’s left is to deal with the bitter truths about these companions. Of course, in the meantime, the walkers seem to be massing. And there are others out there, who will inevitably come to seek shelter and supplies, but also to avenge their dead. I can only hope the show can maintain this level of intensity as it flies towards these conclusions.