When you timeshift series, you run the chance of certain surprises being ruined. That’s the case with this week’s installment of The Walking Dead,where thanks to the Internet, I knew a major character was going to shuffle off this mortal coil by episode’s end.
Based on some SPOILER material I’ve seen floating around on-line, I assumed it would be a certain character who died early in the graphic novel’s run.
So, imagine my surprise when the show pulled a fast one of me and killed a character I didn’t expect to see die–even though I knew someone was going to die at episode’s end.
Put it another way–holy cow, they killed Dale!
I know a lot of people have been critical of the pacing of season two, wanting more zombie attacks and less conversation between characters. But last week’s episode and this one showed that Walking Dead is more than just a show about surviving the zombie apocalypse. It’s about how humanity could and should survive in the wake of the world changing in a radical way.
Last week’s fight between Rick and Shane was interesting in how animal and zombie-like it got. The two stop exchanging words, ideas and exchange blows, grunting like zombies the longer it went on. In the end, Rick refuses to leave Shane behind to die as Shane did to Otis earlier this year.* But Rick is still willing to consider the idea that he’s going to have to kill Jimmy in ordrer to protect the farm from, for lack of a better term, the Others.
*Anyone else get a feeling that the setting up of the noose in the barn is going to have a payoff before the season’s end? Maybe not Jimmy, but could it be Shane?
This week, Dale argues in favor of keeping Jimmy alive and that by executing him, Rick and company are no better than the zombies they’re fighting against. It parallels this with Carl’s storyline in which his moral fabric is slowly being worn done by the new world order and, possibly, exposure to Shane. His willingness to torture a zombie in the swamp showed this and it was a nice touch that the zombie Carl helped free from the mud was the one who came back to kill Dale. Again, this is one of those moments that I think will come back in the next two episodes and may help Rick see just how dangerous an influence Shane is on his son.**
**Of course, we can still argue over whether or not Shane is “right” here in the new world order. But he is kind of a bully and I don’t believe he wasn’t attracted to Lori on some level before Rick’s “death” as he said last week. Shane seems to see the world as he wants to see it and may have re-edited events to ease his own conscience.
And then, there’s the death of Dale, who served as the conscience of the group and persuaded Rick and the others that killing Jimmy wasn’t the right call. Without Dale around, will we continue to see the group fracture? Or will his death bring them back together?