Review: The Walking Dead S2E5 “Chupacabra”


“If I knew the world was ending I would’ve brought better books.” – Dale

[spoilers within]

There’s been a growing complaint from fans of the show that this second season of The Walking Dead has been meandering and walking in place instead of dynamically moving forward and killing lots and lots of zombies along the way. I will admit that the show has lingered on too much on the”Sophia is missing angle” for far too long. The writers seems to be using the search for her as the reasoning for Rick and his group to continue on staying on the Greene Farm. I will however disagree that the show hasn’t had enough zombie action to justify the show’s premise of a world experiencing the zombie apocalypse.

The Walking Dead the tv series was always going to be a show which focused on the characters and how they’re managing to adapt or not adapt to the new world around them. If there was ever a reason why fans of the books became fans it was that very thing. I try not to compare the show to the books, but if there was ever a similarity between the two it’s how the zombies remain on the background as a looming threat which would actively make their presence known not every issue but when readers least suspect them. The show has done a good job in trying to convey this aspect of the books and at the same time taken more effort to make the characters on the show more fully-realized.

This season has done more in expanding the characters than the truncated first season, but it also meant it had to sacrifice some of the more gruesome and zombie action some fans have been clamoring for. The previous episode, “Cherokee Rose”, typified the complaints some fans have been having with this season. It went too heavy on dialogue some of which were pretty good and some which didn’t seem to do anything but just expound on the main themes for the season.

“Chupacabra” makes the fifth episode into the second season and it manages to balance the zombie action and the character interaction. First off, we still haven’t found Sophia in one shape or another. Even one of the characters on the show second-guesses the need to continue searching for the missing girl if it meant constantly putting the group in danger. While the search for Sophia only amounts to finding a discarded doll by the creek during the search it does mark one of the stronger part of this episode. An episode which continues to make a character created for the show and not in the books one of the highlights of the series in it’s 11-episode history to date.

But before we move onto why Daryl Dixon remains the badass and fan favorite of the series I must point out that the series does another great cold opening. This time it’s a flashback to the chaotic days of Shane, Lori and Carl trying to make it to the refugee center in Atlanta. We see them stuck in the very same type of highway gridlock which began this new season. This scene shows Sophia still safe and playing with Carl as we see a bit more of the abusive relationship between Carol and her husband. The highlight of this scene is seeing the event of Atlanta being napalmed and dashing the hopes of Shane and Lori that a safe haven could be found there. Like the cold opening from season 1 where we see Shane back in the hospital with a comatose Rick, this episode’s opening does a great job of showing how things just fell apart while Rick was under.

This opening would be followed up with Daryl going off on his own to continue looking for Sophia and getting into more trouble than he anticipated. If anyone ever doubted how much of a badass Daryl Dixon has turned out to be then this episode should erase such doubts. Not only did he survive falling off a horse, down a steep incline into the river and get an arrow stuck to his side for his troubles, but he survives even worst things as the day wore on. We even see the return of Daryl’s brother, Merle Dixon, in this episode but in such a way that fans of the show probably didn’t expect.

When the episode wasn’t focusing on Daryl’s troubles it brought it back into the Greene Farm where we continue to see a growing rift between Hershel and Rick. Hershel is starting to turn from the kindly, country doctor and into a patriarchal autocrat who expects his orders to be obeyed or else. In the case of Rick and his group the or else would be them being told to leave the safety of the farm for the outside world. It doesn’t help that Shane’s growing pragmatism and survival at all cost mentality has turned to questioning Rick’s judgement as the group’s leader. Even their good-natured conversation about their respective love life during their high school days shows that the two really are quite polar opposites when it comes to their personalities and how they view things around them.

It’s these type of scenes which some fans have considered as too soap opera-ish and boring. How it detracts from the horror of a show about the zombie apocalypse. It’s these scenes which actually makes a point in showing just how much horror awaits those who have survived, so far. All the reminiscing of their past lives just reinforces the fact to these people that their lives have irrevocably changed and not for the better. It also shows how much the new world they live in now have begun to change all of them and not for the better. For some these changes have been easier to accept while some still try to cling to the ways of the old world in an attempt to not just survive but live.

Even the title of the episode just reinforces the premise of the show and how everyone in it must learn on the go to live and survive. In a world where the dead have come back to life to devour those still left alive then everything and anything is possible. Whether those still left will find a way to stay human in order to survive is the ultimate focus of this show. The zombies will always be waiting to greet these characters which makes these “peaceful” moments that much more bittersweet for everyone involved.

Notes

  • As a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction the cold opening of the highway gridlock was well-staged. From everyone seeming to have packed haphazardly to Carol’s husband acting like their quest for a refuge was a military operation.
  • The scene of Atlanta being napalmed as the horrified refugees looked on in the distance is really something we rarely see in zombie fiction. Zombie apocalypse stories usually occur with the world already gone to hell or the setting is more intimate and smaller scale. Rarely do we see just how epic in scope the event truly is (w/ exception to Max Brooks’ World War Z and, to a certain extent, 28 Weeks Later)
  • It was good to see Carol not moping around and feeling all useless. Her volunteering to cook for the group and the Greene family was a nice touch in trying to bring her back from the brink.
  • Leave it up to Glenn to figure out Lori’s secret and as we see later on in the episode it won’t be the only one he will have to try and keep to himself.
  • Speaking of Glenn, his growing relationship with Maggie was such fun and nice addition to a show that’s all about doom and gloom. The fact that they were acting like high school kids who were in lust with each other put a smile on my face.
  • The fact that the barn finally becomes a major component to the current story-arc wasn’t a surprise, but how the writers were able to finally show why Hershel wanted Rick and his group to stay away from the barn should make the next episode something to look forward to.
  • Maggie’s expression of glee at another rendezvous with Glenn suddenly turning into utter horror continues another strong performance from Lauren Cohan in the role. She has definitely made the Maggie Greene much more well-rounded this early on in the show when compared to the books.
  • I was surprised at how Merle’s return was treated and I must admit that it was done in away that made sense.
  • Always wear steel-toed boots when the zombie apocalypse hits.
  • Andrea is finally on her way back from being useless and constantly harping on Dale and everyone. Unfortunately, her first attempt to show just how useful she can be ends up turning into a friendly fire situation.
  • Daryl’s “encounter” with his big brother Merle may not be to Rick and the group’s benefit. Going to be interesting what the writers plan to do with this turn of events and whether fans of the character will like or hate it.
  • Two more very inventive zombie kills from the make-up wizards of KNB EFX.