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'The Walking Dead' Review: Season Two, Episode Two -- 'Triggerfinger'

Thompson on Hollywood By Terry Curtis Fox | Thompson on Hollywood February 20, 2012 at 1:02AM

There was a lot of incident in this week’s episode of “Walking Dead” – a high zombie-count, several off-screen killings, an amputation – but not a whole lot of story. If anything, the narrative developments actually drive the series backwards.

"The Walking Dead"
"The Walking Dead"
Spoiler alert:

There was a lot of incident in this week’s episode of "The Walking Dead"-- a high zombie-count, several off-screen killings, an amputation-- but not a whole lot of story. If anything, the narrative developments actually drive the series backwards.

It turns out that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) really was responding last week to someone’s “drawing down” on him. Neither Hershel (Scott Wilson) nor Glenn (Steven Yeun) so much as questions his actions. That puts Rick back in the unambiguous good-guy, heroic role, a very strange choice given the out-of-control, revenge-seeking guy of the comics, not to mention the fact that the show is on a network that celebrates leads like Don Draper and Walter White.

With an audience that trusts and loves it (myself very much included), “The Walking Dead” could go anywhere. That was the promise of the fall mini-season, as well as last week’s winter opener.

Instead, this week seems like a scramble back to shore. Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) not only survives her ill-motivated car wreck, but does so unhurt and unchanged. Hershel has become a second Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), unhappy with the state of things, but resigned to the continued presence of the regulars on his farm. Daryl (Norman Reedus) -- who had flourished in the fall -- is once again a redneck outsider. Someone even flat-out says that Glenn is a “good guy.” (This episode has a lot of on-the-nose dialogue.)

The new human antagonists are even more faceless than the zombies. They’re not only off-screen and not individualized as they’re killed off, but the one member they leave behind has no say in his fate.

Worst of all, by episode’s end, we’re pretty much left with good Rick and bad Shane.

That’s a pity because Shane’s (John Bernthal) most significant action – heading out to find Lori – could have been a head-spinning moment. Here was Rick, having killed the living, and there was Shane performing the kind of heedless heroics that he’s criticized Rick for previously.

There’s not a single moment when Lori even considers that it’s Shane and not Rick who has put her first. (Defending Shane is left to Andrea (Laurie Holden), who is far outside this episode’s drama.)

Indeed, by episode’s end, Lori is telling Rick how dangerous Shane is (just as Dale has told the audience). And there is saintly Rick, accepting Lori’s baby as his, whether or not it carries his genes.

 "The Walking Dead" is so much better than this. Let’s hope tonight was a simple misstep and not a significant change in direction.

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, TV

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.