“It’s time for you to come back.” — Rick Grimes
The Glen Mazzara era of The Walking Dead has done a very good job of speeding things along after an almost glacial pace that we got from the first half of the season. While the mid-season premiere with “Nebraska” continued some of the flaws which viewers and fans complained about in regards to the first half of the season it ended with a sequence which showed that Mazzara and his writers may have turned a corner from the more cinematic storytelling-style Darabont brought to the show. With last week’s episode, “Triggerfinger”, the show continues to make strides in adding a sense of desperation to the proceedings even when zombies are not involved.
Fans of the comic book and genre fans will always be thankful for Frank Darabont and his diligence in getting the comic book adapted to the tv screen, but with these last two episodes and then tonight’s “18 Miles Out” now in the bag we’ve begun to see that Frank’s style of drawing things out may have been hampering the show this season. Whether it was his vision for how the show was to unfold or just his style of storytelling, Frank’s first half of season 2 had lost that sense of danger that the show had built with a truncated first season. Tonight’s latest episode was a prime example of why it might have been the right call to let Darabont go and put a seasoned tv veteran on the helm.
We enter “18 Miles Out” in medias res just like episode 3 (one of the best episodes of this current season) and it’s a good sign of things to come for this episode. Before continuing I must say that anyone who still complains that the show was not showing enough zombie action need to sit down and just shut up or just stop watching a show that they’ve already decided to complain about no matter how good or bad each future episodes turn out.
With the past regime the issue with the character Randall recovering after his encounter with the spiked fence and Rick in the previous episode would’ve taken the rest of the season, but instead we’ve skipped a whole week in the show’s timeline as Rick and Shane drive 18 miles out of the farm to let the recovered kid go on his merry own way. This cold opening has Rick and Shane on the run from zombies with Randall still tied up and crawling his way towards a knife that could be his only salvation. For cold openings this one was actually pretty action-packed and full of tension that the episode will just continue to build on.
The episode switches back and forth between the adventures of Rick and Shane w/ Randall and the going’s on back on the farm with the youngest Greene daughter, Beth and her sudden crisis of of faith. Whenever scenes of the farm came on the screen in the past I’m sure there were much groaning and mumbling about how things were now about to slow down. For the first time in this season the farm without zombies was just as tense as the scenes with Rick and his group avoiding a group of zombies. The first season and some of the early parts of season 2 saw Andrea also go through the same crisis as Beth Greene goes through tonight. It’s a crisis born out of hopelessness about the situation they’re now in. Hershel has had to adjust to the revelation that what he thought about the zombies were all wrong and now his youngest must go through something same thing. Beth contemplates and even pleads with her older sister, Maggie, that there’s nothing left out in the world and just trying to persevere and move on was a wasted effort with the only guarantee was to be “gutted” by the very things they first thought were people who could be cured.
This situation back at the farm brings to a head what looks like the female version of the Rick and Shane power struggle. On one side we see Lori trying to raise Beth’s spirits and trying to bring what she calls a sense of “normalcy” in their chaotic new world. On the other side is Andrea whose has gone through what Beth is going through and doesn’t disagree with it. She sees it as an option that she was denied by Dale at the end of the last season and she won’t disagree and deny Beth the same choice. The confrontation between Lori and Andrea about this very subject matter brings to mind just how much Andrea has begun to see Shane as the leader of the group. While Lori still comes off across as somewhat of a shrew she does seem to be more in agreement with her husband’s way of thinking even in this zombie apocalypse.
This encounter between the group’s leading ladies just continues to highlight how much the show has moved to warp speed in abandoning the teasing of the first half of the season and just letting all the cards on the table in terms of each character’s motivations and agendas.
While the scenes at the farm were pretty good the highlight of the episode has to be the travails that Rick, Shane and Randall encounter 18 miles out. We see Rick finally have that “talk” with Shane about everything which has occurred while he was in a coma and since. There were several moments in this half of the episode’s story that showed not just Shane in a bad light but Rick as well as decisions have to be made to see who will survive the zombies. How things finally come to a head by episode’s end shows just how different Rick and Shane are and just how much Shane has been posturing trying to convince everyone that he’s the only one who could make the tough choices and decisions.
“18 Miles Out” goes to great lengths to make this second half of the show’s season 2 make up for the slow pacing of the first half and it succeeds. There’s still some little nitpicks and flaws here and there in terms of dialogue and how some of the characters come off, but it looks as if Mazzara and his writers have finally realized that subtlety might not be this show’s forte and, when handled accordingly, the show can succeed with being blunt. This show looks to be finally getting it’s focus down and we get one of the series’ best episodes since the pilot and I would say it’s best episode since.
- Some great zombie make-up work by Nicotero and his gang over at KNB EFX for tonight’s episode. With the whole episode set in the daytime they don’t have the luxury of darkness and little light to hide imperfections in the make-up work. Every zombie chasing after Rick, Shane and Randall looked to have been given the “hero” treatment.
- Some very good zombie kills tonight with the best one coming courtesy of Rick and using another zombie he’s already put down to help aim his third kill in a row.
- Randall, played by Michael Zegen, comes off both as a scared kid who knows that his past associations may just be the death of him, but also as someone with a mean and sadistic streak in him as shown when he plays with the one zombie before he takes it out.
- For may be the first time in this show’s short life, so far, the show doesn’t use the full cast in the episode. In the past we may have two or three cast members not making an appearance, but tonight we almost get a whole group. Not showing up tonight: Glenn, T-Dog, Carol, Daryl, Patricia, Jimmy, Dale. It made the episode feel so much more leaner.
- We get some bit of fallout about Glenn freezing up because of what Maggie had told him before he went to town. I don’t know if Maggie should be going to Lori for advice but what she got was the right advice despite what people may think of Lori as a character.
- While Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene has been the more vocal and active of the Greene girls this season it was nice to see Emily Kinney get more than just a couple lines. Her predicament and how she played the role of the little girl who has lost all hope was quite good. Her message about how things were hopeless and that there really was nothing left to live for came off better than when Andrea did the same last season and earlier this season.
- Tonight we get to see someone come off even worse than Lori. Andrea as the show has portrayed the character was already not a fan favorite, but her channeling of her inner-Shane in regards to Beth’s situation won’t be making her any new fans. It’s ironic considering how she lectured Shane about how his presentation about the right decisions left much to be desired. Her own presentation about her viewpoints was very Shane-like.
- It’s a small step, but Sarah Wayne Callies’ performance as Lori continues to improve. We get some reasoning why she’s acted the way she has since we met her back in the pilot, but she still retains some of the shrewness that has made her hated by fans. It’ll be interesting how Mazzara and his writers balance this two sides to Lori’s character.
- Rick and Shane finally have it out and it was quite the throwdown. One would think that Shane would have the upper-hand in this dust-up between the two friends, but Rick showed different. He may not be as cold and calculating as Shane likes to show he is, but Rick definitely showed he could handle himself not just against Shane but zombies who get the drop on him.
- For a moment the writers almost made it so that Rick was about to pull a Shane on Shane in the end, but we see why Rick is different than his erstwhile deputy by episode’s end.
- Shane has been one-upped by the very person he has been hounding as weak and pathetic all season and the look of impotence on Jon Bernthal’s face when this epiphany finally hits him was a great moment for this series.
- The show has finally shown some clues as to how quickly the zombie apocalypse turned the world upside down. Two or weeks if we’re to believe what Shane told Rick in the beginning of the episode. Also, noticing how the zombie guards they put down earlier had no bites on them which goes a long way in putting The Walking Dead into Romero-style zombies.
- Rick telling Shane to deal with how things between everyone in the group are as of now or leave. Telling him in the end to come back shows how much Rick still sees Shane as a friend who has lost his way and to come back to them instead of continuing the darker path he has set on since everything went to hell and especially since Otis.
- Last week’s episode didn’t have a song to end the episode but tonight we have Wye Oak’s “Civilian” which went well with Shane looking at the grassy field with it’s lone zombie walking towards nowhere in particular. It was a very strong scene.