Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Preparedness View of the Walking Dead Episode 212: Better Angels


Rick (to Shane): "Damn you for making me do this Shane.  This is you, not me.  You did this to us!"
Synopsis:  Shane and Rick's conflict finally boils over into lethal violence, with Shane plotting to kill Rick and Rick finally seeing that he can no longer turn a blind eye on a man who was once a brother but now is a threat to him and everyone in the camp.  It's about time.

This may come across as a rant, but honestly, I spent so much time yelling "FINALLY!" at the screen Sunday night I feel like I have to address some core preparedness issues.

Better Angels finally shows that yes, this tattered group of survivors might actually deserve to survive.  The group realizes that if a walker can get into their inner sanctum near the farm to kill Dale, they are not as safe as they once thought. The group makes many prudent preparations "just in case:"  The tent dwellers are moved into the house, and cars are positioned to make a quick getaway; observations posts (OPs) are established on the windmill and in the barn loft to give early warning; the basement is stocked with siege provisions and the windows of the lower level are boarded up; and Shane leads a patrol around the property to check fences and put down a group of seven walkers feasting upon a dead cow.

Chris Rock gets a shovel to the face.
It's about bloody time.   For too long these people have been living like there was nothing out there threatening their existence.   The farm's isolation lends itself to building a false sense of security.  The problem is that this land is not that far from a highway, and from a town we know is now overrun with walkers.  All that rotting mobile flesh has to go somewhere.

That's another problem I have with the preparedness of this group.   The town is now full of walkers, and there is no way to get in to get the drugs out of the pharmacy or (gasp) find a sporting goods store to resupply with ammunition.   They have been going through an awful lot lately, and with Shane hiding mags and boxes of pistol ammo in his car in Judge, Jury, Executioner, it's bound to be getting thin.  Winter is coming, and without scavenging canned goods and other needed items from the town and surrounding farms people are going to starve to death.  This may all be moot given how the episode ended, but we'll discuss that in a second.

The episode starts with Rick's speech over Dale's grave about unity, and how the group needs to live up to its dead friend's ideals, is a good one.  Telling also is the fact that the captive Randall is still alive and Rick plans to take him further out and cut him loose ... with Daryl.  This is a huge turn in the relationship between Rick and Shane.   Shane so far has been tolerated because he is Rick's partner and has a ton of survival skills.  He gets stuff done when Rick cannot, until last week, when Daryl took Rick's gun and put Dale out of his misery.  There is a really nice beat between Rick and Daryl on the porch when they discuss the latter's actions:

Rick: "That thing you did last night ..."
Daryl:  "Ain't no reason you should do all the heavy lifting."

Sometimes less is more.  That simple exchanges spoke volumes between the two;  Rick knows he can trust Daryl, and Daryl is coming into his own as a group leader.  Daryl also subtly lets Rick know that the conflict between him and Shane is destructive to the group as a whole when discussing the trip to drop off Randall.

Rick:  "You okay with this?"
Daryl: "I don't see you and I trading haymakers on the side of the road.  Nobody'd win that fight."


Then we have Lori going up to Shane and apologizing for shafting him once Rick came back in a conversation that indicates she still has unresolved feelings for him.  Great.  Just when Shane is getting his head screwed back on straight.  She messes him up again.  At this point it is really difficult for me to believe she was not doing this somehow on purpose.  Not to sound sexist, but given that her kid slips out pretty much all the time and gets into trouble (last week he went into the swamps and freed the walker that killed Dale; this week he sneaks out of the house at night to find his dad) you'd think she's keep her focus on what's important.  Like making sure her kid is not out somewhere causing trouble.  One could say the same of Rick, but I don't think he trusts Shane to do the right thing anymore about anything, so he is going off the property more and more.

Carl and Shane:  two damaged people.
Speaking of Carl, he confides to Shane that he was responsible for Dale's death and hands Daryl's gun back.  Shane confronts Rick about it, and tells the father that he needs to attend to his son's needs before taking Randall off the property.  Once the scene between Rick and Shane ends at the porch, it's pretty obvious that this is not going to end well. Rick goes to talk to Carl about his actions, and hands him back the gun so that his son can defend himself.   Rick says that he is going to have to grow up because of the world they live in now.

One could say the same thing about the adults in the group.  This episode was supposed to be about restoring hope.   Instead it's about the end of innocence for everyone on the farm.

Shane finally decides to act on his desire to get rid of Rick.  He takes Randall into the woods and kills him, then smashes his face to act like the boy knocked him out and escaped with his gun.  He and Rick take one search area, and Daryl and Glen head off in another direction.  The search goes on into the night.   Daryl and Glen find and kill a zombified Randall, whose neck is broken but is otherwise undamaged.  He was not bitten, so how did he reanimate?

Zombie Shane approaches Rick from behind.
Shane and Rick keep plowing through the woods, with Rick growing more suspicious all the time, until finally they stop in a field.  Rick tells Shane he knows what is happening, and Shane goes on a tirade, calling Rick weak and telling him he had no idea how to keep his family safe.  Shane tells Rick that they will get over his death.  After all, they've done it before.  Rick talks in a soothing voice to Shane and slowly hands his former partner his gun.  As Shane, who is visibly calmed,  reaches down to take it, Rick draws his knife an brutally stabs him in the chest.  Shane dies in the arms of his former friend.   Later, Rick is sitting beside the body and Carl shows up.  Shane and Rick walked in a huge circle in the dark and ended up on a few hundred yards from the house.   As father and son approach each other, Shane reanimates despite not having been bitten and Carl shoots him, saving his dad.

I can't say I blame Rick.  The conflict between the two was never going to be over as long as Lori was still in the picture.   Shane had many good, practical ideas for the survival of the group, but his jealousy of his friend drove him to to obsession and violence.

I was shocked that the "good guy" managed to take Shane off guard and suck him into a trap.  There is a lot of dark stuff loose in Rick's head as well it seems.  It's also interesting to me that the hothead redneck Daryl Dixon has kept his stuff wrapped tighter than a couple of upstanding police officers. 

We're about to see if all those preparations around the farm are going to pay off, because the episode ends with a massive herd of walkers hearing Carl's shot and moving to attack the farm house.  The question is:  how did Shane and Randall reanimate?  It has been a hard and fast rule that bites kill you and infect you, so what has changed?  

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 213:
  • The time to gather resources is before the zombies (or unprepared normal people) stampede into town.
  • Have a defense plan for your bugout location.  If you are bugging in, start talking to like-minded neighbors about community security before something happens.
  • If you think you might need to bug out, stock some supplies in the vehicle.  If you don't want to keep it in the vehicle, put a couple of quickly-loaded plastic bins in a convenient location.  If you travel long distances to work, put together a bailout bag with essentials to get you home.
  • There are people out there, even in your circle of trusted associates, that are untrustworthy.  Stop talking and start listening.  They will usually reveal themselves. 
  • You might be forced to do some bad things to survive.  Know what your limits and abilities are BEFORE the crisis hits.
  • Don't be like Shane; if everyone in the group has to keep giving you the benefit of the doubt, pretty soon they are going to doubt your benefit.  
Next week:  Walkers overtake the farm like a wave breaking on the shore?  Who will survive?  Who will perish?  And will Carl sneak out again?  Season Three has been green lighted for sixteen episodes, so someone has to live. 

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