How The Walking Dead Righted the Ship in Season 2

walking header 560x280A little over a month ago, I suggested a few ways The Walking Dead could improve in the second half of season 2. After watching last night’s totally awesome finale, I’m convinced the writers read my brilliant critique and took heed, because damn if this series didn’t do a complete 180 in the right direction. How did the creative brain trust accomplish the feat of vastly rectifying what was a disjointed, plodding narrative? Let’s take a look.

Raised the threat level

Were there more zombies in the last six episodes? Yes, and that's a good thing. The flesh-hungry hordes had to reemerge as a constant, inescapable menace. But the one thing that got lost in the wash since leaving Atlanta was the additional threat posed by fellow survivors. In a literally lawless land, it's everyone for themselves. Shane understood this implicitly. Rick is coming around, but until he accepts this one simple truth, he and his group will continue to be easy prey for those with evil intent. Like for instance, The Governor.

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Eliminated dissenting voices

I asked for a major character to get iced and low and behold, two received their walking papers. Shane's exit was inevitable ever since he killed Otis. The guy's people skills left something to be desired and quite honestly, he just freaked everybody the fu*k out -- what with his incessant paranoia and frequent fits of rage. In Shane's ideal world, everyone except him, Lori and Carl are dead. Despite his spot-on risk assessment skills, he was a hindrance to the group dynamic. As for Dale, well, he was the crotchety old man bitching about a moral code, so he had to go. However, he should be praised for pegging Shane as a loose cannon lunatic long before all the other dopes (most notably Rick).

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Transformed Daryl into a lethal enforcer

The death of Sophia disintegrated whatever remaining soul existed inside Daryl. The part of him that saw hope and beauty in a budding flower is gone, possibly forever. What remains is a machine-like enforcer who tortures and kills without remorse. More importantly, he has become Rick's most trusted soldier, filling the rank once occupied by Shane. But unlike Shane, Daryl's loyalty is unquestioned (thus far) and his acts of violence are born out of necessity rather than jealousy. Being that the character lacks a comic book origin, the writers can mold him however they see fit. His matter of fact "Sorry brother" farewell to Dale was both chilling and admirable.

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Clarified the “infection”

Although relatively clear since the "exploding CDC" season 1 finale, in which Dr. Jenner whispered a secret in Rick's ear, the so-called infection plaguing the planet is revealed to be all-encompassing, meaning everyone who's still kicking does the dance of the undead after they die, regardless of whether of not they have been bitten by a walker. This disturbing little turn of events makes life that much more pointless and tragic, and could cause some characters to suffer a full-scale mental meltdown. Fingers crossed.

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Adrenalized the plot

It's unfair to point the finger of blame solely at Frank Darabont for the meandering, vapid first-half of season 2, but let's get real, folks. The episodes without his fingerprints have been the best in the series. No more long-winded dialogue exchanges that go nowhere. No more Andrea/Dale bickering sessions. No more Shane obsessing over Lori. This show needed a high voltage jolt of intensity and based on the last three installments in particular, mission accomplished. Forward momentum is crucial in successful drama. Until recently, The Walking Dead had been stuck in place, kinda like a zombie in a mud bog.

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No more Mr. Nice Guy

Rick's evolution has been subtle, but nonetheless fascinating to watch. Despite being a bit too whiny for my liking, methinks the post-killing-Shane Rick will be a force to be reckoned with. I'm totally on board with the anti-democracy vitriol he spewed at the group. And Lori can go take a flying leap. She's the one who pushed Rick to "do something about" Shane, then she gives him the stink eye after he does? No wonder she's so unlikable. How about keeping track of your kid for once, mom. Anyway, Rick's surly attitude and 'I'm finished eating shit' rant was refreshing and also essential. He needed some of Shane's crazy to rub off in order to keep himself and everyone else alive.

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I can’t wait for Season 3. Michonne, yo! Until then…