Episode Title: "Better Angels"
Writers: Evan Reilly & Glen Mazzara
Director: Guy Ferland
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
As Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) delivers the eulogy for Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn), the funeral is intercut with a scene of Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), Daryl Dixon ( Norman Reedus), Andrea (Laurie Holden) and T-Dogg (IronE Singleton) patrolling the outskirts of the farm for walkers. And while Rick states his intent to honor Dale by reclaiming the group's humanity, Shane and the others brutally beat the walkers to their second deaths. Later that day, Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) finally agrees to let Rick's group of survivors move into the house with his family.
While Rick delegates the assignments, he notes that he will accompany Daryl as they take Randall (Michael Zegen) away from the farm and release him, much to Shane's obvious disgust. Hershel tells Rick that he is out of patience with Shane, so Rick makes a point of asking Andrea to keep an eye on Shane and keep him from causing unnecessary problems. Meanwhile, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) confides in Shane that he helped cause Dale's death by antagonizing the walker that killed him and Carl surrenders his gun to Shane over Shane's objections.
Shortly thereafter, Rick's wife Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) approaches Shane and gives him a heartfelt apology for the way things have gone down between them. But Lori takes it a step too far when she mentions that things would have been different if Rick never returned, which leaves both of them in tears. Back in the house, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) invites Glenn (Steven Yeun) to move into her room, but he turns her down. Some time after that, Shane comes to Rick and relates Carl's story to him. Shane tells Rick that Carl needs his father, but freeing Randall is more important to Rick than his son.
Shane volunteers to go with Daryl to escort Randall away from the farm, but Rick clearly doesn't trust him to spare the boy's life. However, Rick does take Shane's advice and he seeks out his son. Rick speaks plainly to Carl and tells him that he has to grow up fast in this new world. He also insists that Carl take back his gun in case he needs to defend himself. Meanwhile, Shane enters the barn where Randall is kept and he seems to agonize over what to do next. Shane then takes Randall out into the woods away from the farm and announces that he wants to join Randall's crew.
Randall is happy to lead Shane to his people, but off-camera, we hear Shane execute Randall before he returns to our viewpoint and bloodies himself against a tree. Back at the farm, T-Dogg discovers that Randall has seemingly escaped and he sounds the alarm. As the survivors gather around the farm, Shane hides his gun and tells the group that Randall got the drop on him and stole his gun. While the rest of the survivors flee back to Hershel's house, Rick takes Shane, Daryl and Glenn with him to find Randall.
Daryl is frustrated by the lack of tracks and Shane's inconsistent story, but Rick splits up the group by sticking with Shane while Daryl takes Glenn. Daryl and Glenn eventually double-back and discover Randall and Shane's tracks… and Shane's blood on a tree. They also find a walker, who gets too close to Daryl before Glenn kills him… and they see that the walker is Randall, who apparently died of a broken neck without being bitten. Back at the house, Carl searches the area with a pair of binoculars.
As they walk in the field, Rick gets increasingly suspicious of Shane before he turns around and tells Shane to admit that he plans to murder him. Shane not only doesn't deny it, he claims that both Lori and Carl will eventually get over it. Rick refuses to draw his weapon and he attempts to talk Shane down. Rick even takes out his gun and prepares to hand it to Shane to show him that they can still get past this… until Rick draws his knife and fatally stabs Shane in the chest. As his former best friend dies, Rick screams at Shane for making him do this.
Strange images of walkers fill Shane's brain as he dies. Sometime later, Carl comes across Rick standing over Shane's body and Rick sees his son draw his gun. Rick attempts to get Carl to lower his weapon, unaware that Shane has risen as a walker behind him. Carl shoots the walker Shane in the head, killing him again. Unfortunately, the gunshot got the attention of a nearby horde of walkers, who begin lurching towards the farm.
Fans of "The Walking Dead" comic book know that this story was inevitable. Shane had to die eventually and he lived a lot longer on the show than he did in the original story. And while that arc went on a little bit too long, Shane's character was a lot more interesting in this incarnation because we got a better sense of who he was. Ultimately, Shane was someone who used to be a good man who lost his way in the new world. He was well suited to survive, but the Shane Walsh of old died a long time ago.
Unlike his comic book counterpart, Shane actually seemed to back down from his plan to murder Rick. There's no way that Rick could have gotten so close to Shane if Shane hadn't lowered his weapon and his guard. But in the end, Rick had to kill Shane. Once the idea was in Shane's head that he could kill Rick and essentially take his place, it was only a matter of time before Shane tried it again.
To a certain extent, Shane's murderous ambitions can partially be blamed on Lori, even though she was trying to do right by Shane while apologizing to him. I doubt that Lori meant to give Shane false hope that they could still be together, but that's exactly what she did. If all Shane wanted was someone to sleep with, he could have pursued Andrea after their tryst. Instead, Shane desperately clung to the notion that he could have Rick's family under the right conditions and that slowly killed him just as much as the knife to the chest did.
The sad part is that Shane was probably right about Randall. The kid did hold out on what he knew about his group's location and he probably would have led them back to the farm if he had the chance. The off-camera death scene of Randall was an interesting way to stage that sequence and it led to a nice surprise when Randall showed up as a walker. Combined with Shane's resurrection, it's clear that walker virus has already infected the living; but how that happened still isn't known.
On a side note, now that Shane is gone, "The Walking Dead" can probably get around to bringing in Tyrese. I suspect that he was held back from the story because Rick and Shane were the main "alphas" among the survivors and bringing in Tyrese with Shane still alive would have upset that dynamic. But there's a big hole in the story without Tyrese, so I expect we'll see him sometime in season 3.
While I appreciated the surprise of killing Shane off before the season finale, the scene was more horrific in the original comic because it was Carl who killed Shane, not Rick. That was probably changed to make Rick less of a passive participant in the moment, but Carl's sudden appearance at the end seemed a little jarring and out of left field. Carl was only there because he had to be there, and the show glossed over how he found them.
The rest of the episode had a lot of small touches that were enjoyable, particularly the team up of Daryl and Glenn in the woods. Even Hershel seems a lot warmer now that he's invited everyone to share the house with him and his family. That's another change from the original story, but it gives the farm more of an emotional stake to the survivors now that a zombie horde is heading their way. It's unfortunate that the farm took up so much of the second season, but the last few episodes have done a great job of increasing the tension.
And it looks like D-Day on the farm is about to arrive.