The second season of The Walking Dead continues, with—get this—the fairly uneven and inconsistent zombie apocalypse program actually airing its third solid-to-good episode in a row.  That’s got to be some kind of record for the show, and the second half of TWD is shaping up to be a fairly consistently entertaining program, unlike Season One and the first half of Season Two.

Check out our review below…

The Players:

  • Director:  Ernest Dickerson
  • Writers:  Scott Gimple and Glen Mazzara
  • Cast:  Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Laurie Holden

Episode Title: “18 Miles Out”

[Spoilers ahead!]

The episode revolves around two storylines: Rick and Shane’s dueling philosophies about how to handle Randall (a member of the Other Survivors), and Maggie, Lori and Andrea’s debates on life vs. suicide when Maggie’s young sister Beth wishes to kill herself.

Rick and Shane take Randall 18 miles out from the farm, with Rick planning to drop him off at a power plant while Shane simply wants to kill him and eliminate the possibility he’ll alert the Other Survivors to the location of the farm.  Various revelations ensue, with Randall claiming he knew Maggie before the zombie plague and already knows the location of the farm, and Rick telling Shane he is aware of his affair with Lori.  Rick and Shane fight, which draws a zombie attack, forcing Rick to save both Randall and Shane.

Back on the farm, Beth wishes to die, with her sister Maggie and Lori arguing she should fight to live, while Andrea states it is a choice best left to Beth herself, and locks Beth in her bedroom.  Beth then attempts suicide, but manages to survive.

The Good:

  • The plotting:  Never the most solid aspect of The Walking Dead, the plotting of “18 Miles Out” was compact and concise, splitting the story into two intertwined halves with none of the usual excess fat (Dale complaining about random things, Daryl being mad about random things, Lori being bitter about random things, etc).   Both halves centered around two of the Big Questions of The Walking Dead: is it better to try and survive or simply take an easy and non-zombie related quick death, and is it better to hang on to one’s humanity in the face of disaster or simply become a human monster in order to survive?
  • The Walking Dead:  It seems the showrunners have remembered that, in addition to apparently being a philosophical treatise and examination of humanity under strain, this is a horror show about zombies, and that it’s ok to actually toss in a few moments of zombie-horror amidst all the hand-wringing and existential discourses.

The Bad:

  • The characters/writing:  Once again, most of the characters on TWD are mere sketches of real people, and often fall flat.  Which makes it more than a little difficult to care when the stakes around them increase (Oh no—that one girl who’s been in a coma [the same could be said of most of the characters, though] wakes up and wants to die!  Oh no—the vaguely unpleasant and wholly bitter Lori suddenly thinks life is all about living and should be fought for!).  You have to care about the characters before you can care about the situations they fall in and, unfortunately for TWD, the writers still have it backwards and hope that you care enough about their scenarios to start caring for the characters who are trapped in them.

Overall:

Yet another solid (not great, but hey, it ain’t first-half-of-Season-Two cringe-worthy, either) entry into Season Two’s back half, “18 Miles Out” narrowed its focus and structure, offering up a far more concise and exciting episode than one would expect from such an intermittently plodding series.  Barring any major missteps, it looks like The Walking Dead’s second season may just finish strong, leaving the door open for a much better Season Three than anyone thought possible (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and for now just hope for a good season finale).

Rating:  7/10

The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.