Let me start off by saying that I enjoy The Walking Dead. It's a show unlike any other and it's a lot of fun to watch the characters struggle with life no longer as we know it, amped up by the terrors of a zombie presence.
And as much as I've liked the new direction of the show and have still found, for the most part, the episodes to be a relatively entertaining hour of television, the second half of the season needs to feed off that adrenaline kick induced in the final moments of the episode.
There has been a certain slowness and storyline dragging that's kept season two from truly thriving.
It really wasn't until Shane stormed back onto the farm with his gun bag and alpha dog attitude about killing the zombies (pretty much nearing the end of the episode) that a high level of tension and movement took place. I wasn't entirely sure what was going to happen and kept thinking the show would end with the zombies breaking free from the barn in typical cliffhanger fashion.
But that wasn't how "Pretty Much Dead Already" concluded.
Rather, Shane went into full on rabid dog teaching mode with hands-on demonstrations.
First, there was his multiple gun shots to the zombie Hershel was holding to prove they aren't alive, before walking up to it and plugging a bullet right into its head. Shane was definitely making a loud and clear statement.
Then, instead of talking about what to do with the barn full of zombies for countless more episodes, Shane took action and (couldn't he have killed them from up top instead of opening the doors?) released the walkers. Wow, the amount of bullets unloaded seemed endless in a display that felt like a game of Duck Hunter. I know we weren't supposed to feel sorry for the walkers, but man, they were like lambs to the slaughter.
Each glimpse of Hershel as he watched the killing left him more and more shaken. He's hit his breaking point and it will be interesting to see where he and his sanity are headed.
However, the final twist of the night was the reveal that Sophia was a walker and had been in the barn the whole time. While not the most shocking revelation, it was impactful. She meant something to these survivors. They knew who she was and while it was easy to kill zombies with no name or connection, a little girl with a rainbow T-shirt who used to be a part of the group obviously hit home.
Which of course meant that Rick was able to put back on his leader pants and do what no one else could: he finished her off for good. Obviously, a hard choice to make and perhaps it will be one that pushes him further toward the ideas of the survival-hungry Shane.
I have to recognize director Michelle MacLaren, who also directed the season one episode "Guts," for the largely cinematic feel of the episode. From the sweeping shots to the constant movement of the camera focused in on the characters, there were emotional and action filled moments that felt more exciting. The simple angles of Rick shooting Sophia or the camera rising to expose the entire group in front of the barn brought back a vibrancy and entertainment that I hope can continue.
The Walking Dead thrives on the ideas of fear and need to survive. The first half of season two truly lacked any real danger and that's why it dragged on and became bogged down with characters making bad choices (Glenn in the well, anyone?).
Herhsel's farm was in this bubble of protection, full of supplies and food. Everything simply worked out easily. There was no real struggle to survive, no dealing with what to eat, where to sleep, who to trust. There was a complacency that focused more on mini dramas rather than what the story should center on: dealing with the end of the world and attempting to maintain a sense of morality and humanity when the rules no longer apply.
That's what made the first season so interesting. While I enjoyed the transition to the farm, it's time to take another one. Hopefully, some goal that isn't trivial will drive the story and the characters forward and towards the tension, drama and scariness of before.
If anything, the midseason finale did manage to close a storyline - and, potentially, the stay at the farm overall - in a way that felt solid and complete. There was no real cliffhanger or teasing besides the obvious: after a zombie bloodbath on one of the safest places on earth, where does the show and the group go from here? I'll be eagerly awaiting to find out.
What did you think of the episode? What did you think of the first half of the season? Why is February so far away? Sound off below!
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.Tags: The Walking Dead, Reviews