The recently-resumed second season of The Walking Dead continues, picking up right where last week’s solid episode, “Nebraska,” left off, and dives head-first into the classic “the monsters are really us” theme that runs through so much of zombie cinema and storytelling.

Check out our review below…

The Players:

  • Director:  Billy Gierhart
  • Writers:  David Leslie Johnson
  • Cast:  Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Laurie Holden

Episode Title: “Triggerfinger”

[Spoilers ahead!]

Picking up after Rick’s shocking, mercenary-like killing of two strangers in a bar who wanted to stay at Hershel’s farm, “Triggerfinger” comes out swinging, with the rest of this new band of survivors understandably miffed at the killing of two of their comrades.  A shootout ensues between the bar-bound Rick, Glenn and Hershel against this new group of humans, which, of course, draws the attention of several hungry walkers.

Elsewhere, Lori survives her car accident from last week and is discovered by Shane, who lies to her (telling her Rick is back at the farm) to get her to return with him.  Back at the farm, Andrea backs Shane as the only man willing to make the hard choices for the group, while Rick, Glenn and Hershel manage to escape the town and return with a wounded member of the Other Survivors (hey, they need a title), Randall, who would have been devoured by walkers had they not rescued him.  Shane rages that Randall’s presence will lead to an all-out war, once again questioning Rick’s leadership choices.

The Good:

  • Rick vs. Shane:  While much of The Walking Dead’s philosophizing has been a bit of a bore (not because existential discussions are not interesting or valid, but rather because the characters espousing them in TWD, quite simply, are not that interesting, complexly-drawn, or sympathetic), the development of two camps with warring viewpoints within our group of survivors (the more cynical, cold blooded Team Shane vs. the more compassionate, humanistic Team Rick) is a fascinating and visceral one.
  • Action (sort of):  Look, if we have to choose between clunkily-written philosophizing or tense, dread-filled and shocking action, I’ll go for the latter every time, even if it does feel like it’s being injected into the episode to distract viewers from some inorganic plotting.
  • The Other Survivors: “The monsters are really us” theme isn’t exactly a new one in zombie fiction, but that’s for a reason—it works well in tales of society crumbling thanks to the dead rising from the grave.  This is the most exciting and interesting development in TWD since Shane went a little sideways on us.

The Bad:

  • The characters:  As noted above, the reason that The Walking Dead’s philosophical discourses simply fall flat is because the characters espousing them aren’t really characters at all-they are simply caricatures of zombie- and disaster-movie tropes, surrounded by inorganic plotting designed to keep the show moving forward, even when it has nowhere to go.  Honestly, when is the last time you truly felt you “knew” one of these survivors the way you did Tony Soprano, Walter White, or Don Draper?  What TWD sorely lacks–and desperately needs to improve upon–is characterization with depth.
  • Action (sort of):  At times, the (still exciting!) action of the episode felt a little perfunctory, as if the showrunners sensed that things were lagging a bit and that viewers needed the distraction of bullets flying.

Overall:

Sure, there was plenty to nitpick this week—The Walking Dead will probably never shake all of its flaws loose—but that said, “Triggerfinger” was yet another solid entry into what is shaping up to be a pretty entertaining back end of season two.  After all of the missteps of the first half of the season, it seems that TWD is beginning to learn from at least some of its mistakes, and is moving in the right (and pretty exciting) direction.  Can they keep up this relatively hot streak for three weeks in a row?  Tune in next week to find out.

Rating:  7/10

The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.