Everyone, whether fictional or flesh and blood, needs a person they can go to in times of emotional turmoil. That person holds up a mirror to reflect their true self. Without them, we are doomed to keep repeating mistakes, or worse, destroying who we really are by trying to pretend we’re someone different and going against our nature. Dale is that man. He speaks the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear.
If you aren’t watching the show you should be. From the moment the show begins viewers are taken on the undead ride of a lifetime, watching a cast of beleaguered humans fight not only to survive, but to retain that which makes us most human.
Dale is The Walking Dead’s yoda…or Gandalf, if you prefer. Wise and caring, Dale acts as an elder statesman within the group –tending to group members’ emotional wellbeing, settling disputes and providing a sense of stability and direction in a world gone mad. But as we’ve seen in season two Dale, played so beautifully by Jeffrey DeMunn, is only human. His wisdom is of great value, but—truthfully—is sometimes compromised by his own feelings.
[***WARNING: Spoilers ahead***]
He is a dying breed. More so than the others in the main survivors group Dale –an elder well-educated, worldly man who chooses to remain optimistic and forward thinking—may truly be the last of his kind in the post-zombiepocalyptic world. The group needs Dale, desperately, to keep them morally and ethically grounded. He may not be perfect, no one is, but Dale is the personification of those characteristics from the “old way of living” that must.be.protected. to truly maintain the humanity that binds us all.
Dale sees all. The other members of the main survivors group try repeatedly to get one over on him, to fly under the Dale radar so they don’t have to own up to their behavior. It rarely, if ever, works. T-Dog, for instance, tried desperately to hide how severe his injuries were in the first episodes of the season. In his infection-fueled fever T-Dog became uber paranoid about his place in the group. Who would want to rely on a crippled minority and an old fart, right? Dale set him straight, showing him exactly where he was needed, while also trying what he could to tend to the more pressing matter, the fever about to fry his friend’s brain. In that moment, Dale became like a father to T-Dog. Sometimes we need our parents, even when we don’t realize it.
Dale may not be able to pull the trigger…but is still susceptible to the horrors within. In Shane, Dale finally found the one soul he cannot follow down their chosen path. Shane’s methods in ensuring the people he cares for are shocking to some. He is the trigger man Dale could never be. At the same time, during their confrontations in season two, it is apparent Dale wants to reach that level of practicality Shane is at, the one where he could do to Shane what Shane did to Otis and be able to justify it by saying he did it to keep Andrea safe. But would it really be an effort to neutralize the competition? We still don’t know if Dale’s fatherly nature has given away to more when it comes to her…and how far it could take him.
There was a moment in the season one finale where I literally bit a hole in my index finger to keep from screaming. Dale did what I hope all of us would do in a difficult situation to protect our common humanity. He chose to make the ultimate sacrifice. Andrea later accused him of being selfish. I disagree. Dale’s decision to remain behind at the soon-to-explode CDC if Andrea was staying was a moment of true bravery—one we could all aspire to having (though maybe not in such dire circumstances).
As with many of The Walking Dead characters—and most people in the real world—Dale is defined by the choices he makes. That he consistently errs on the side of traditional morality makes him a force to be reckoned with. He is the group’s greatest defender…the protector of their collective soul.
The Walking Dead: Chupacabra (205) Reviewer: RC Murphy
This episode had a lot going for it. A. Lot. So much so that I had to sleep on an idea on how to tackle this review. Which, by the way, didn’t help one dang bit. My head is still spinning. The writers for TWD are mean, mean people. I’m just going to jump right in and hope this makes sense.
Carol broached the subject of an internal power ranking system for the original group of survivors. For Hershel’s family, it is obvious who is in charge. With the other group it gets fuzzy because there are so many males vying for that top spot. You have to look at them like a pack of wolves. As Carol sees it, and others as well, Rick and Lori are the Alpha mating pair. Where it gets murky is trying to rank the rest of the group. Who is the Omega member? That one person left to fend for them self until they prove their worth, takes the brunt of everyone’s aggression, but also is there to ease tension in their own way. Can you guys figure it out?
Glenn and Maggie get a lot of grief this episode as people begin to connect the dots and see something brewing between the two. Maggie is treated like a child, scolded for making the decision to get close to someone not approved by Hershel. He has such a tight grip on everyone who lives on that farm that the idea of one of his slipping free to interact with the newcomers tweaks his nose big time. She’s lonely and wants to reach out to feel alive again after god knows how long of simply existing. Glenn flat out admits to Dale his reason behind wanting Maggie. Any day could be his last. In a world where the dead don’t stay dead nothing is certain, least of all tomorrow. That being said, poor Glenn needs lessons in wooing a lady. Maybe Shane, the ladies man that he is, can teach him a few things. Or not. Shane can gather notches on his headboard, but none of them are meaningful relationships. I don’t think he’s capable of that.
Speaking of, Shane makes a very telling statement about the passage of time after the zombie outbreak:
“It’s like we’re old folks, the people in our story are all dead.”
They’ve been living on the run for less than a year, from what I can tell. In that time everyone they knew, except for the family and friends traveling with them, have probably been eaten, turned to walkers, or just died. A year for your life to flip completely upside down and turn “I know her” to “I knew her”. It’s really a hard concept to grasp. This also means that time is not measured in days, but resources. Rick’s guilt over leaving Sophia doesn’t cause Shane to lash out about time wasted, but people injured or killed during the hunt. Yes, people are resources, especially after you’ve established a camp and everyone has their separate duties to uphold.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the Dixon brothers. Honestly, when I heard Merle would be back I could not figure out how the heck the writers were going to make that one work. A lot of far-fetched things happen on the show, but the long-lost brother walking out of the shrubbery? Impossible.
* * * * *
[Slight spoiler below. If you haven’t watched, turn away now.]
* * * * *
That being said, how messed up does your family have to make you in order for your subconscious to kick up the image of your abusive, druggie brother to play cheerleader? I mean, it is very obvious that Merle never did anything to help Daryl, even when he was a child. Daryl has been left to fend for himself over and over again by his brother. So what the heck? Leaning on personal experience, I know how far one will go to prove to their sibling that they aren’t needed any more. Everything is moving on just fine without them there to muck up the gears. Even in the end of that scene, Daryl did not reach for Merle. He got himself out of the bad situation. Only to walk into another one that he has no control over. No Merle cheerleader to provoke him into action that time.
Normally I’m all about women fighting against gender roles and branching out to do “manly things”. Unfortunately, Andrea goes about it all wrong. She is very fragile emotionally, I get that. The last few weeks of her life have been spent planning how to opt out of existence so she can join her dead. Then Daryl pops some sense into her head, but she is still torn. If she can’t leave then she wants a bigger role; she wants to move up within the “pack”, so-to-speak. Her drive to be more nearly costs someone their life. Where is that line between challenging the “norm” and knowing when to fall back and follow orders? Andrea crossed it, no doubt about that. Will this incident throw her back into where she was or can she press on with her reforming backbone?
One last note… Who the heck is in the barn?! I want to hear your theories about the barn’s occupants. Next week we’ll see if any of us were correct.
It has to be said, Greg Nicotero and his crew really, really, really outdid themselves for this episode. If you haven’t watched yet, just be prepared for a scene worse than Rick taking an ax to a decomposing walker in season one’s “Guts” episode. Oh, and don’t even think about eating. I had to leave a bowl of ice cream to melt on my side table.
With the nod to outstanding and epic grossness out of the way, lets dig into the meat of the episode. (Did you just gag a little? So did I. Promise that’s the last intestinal pun in this review.)
Can we address the Shane problem? Last week’s review lit off a small debate in the ZSC command center about whether or not Shane acted within reason given the circumstances he was in. I was hoping this week he’d give us a clear direction his head is going, but it became impossible to tell if the guilt eating him alive stems from using a good man as zombie bait or because he feels that he failed Otis in some way by leaving him behind. Later in the episode he tells Andrea that in order to kill you basically have to turn off everything that makes you human and act on instinct. The need to survive is a strong instinct, I’ll give him that. But… wasn’t there another way? A humane way at least?
This episode brought our core group of survivors back together. Once they were all gathered two people stood out, T-Dog and Daryl. T-Dog had a bad patch in the last episode, meaning he lost his ever-loving mind while burning up with a fever. Some of what he told Dale made sense in a way and that is what haunts him. The idea that because the group may see him as weak, it could cost him his spot with them. How rough would things have to get for any of them to look at T-Dog and, essentially, vote him off the “island”? He could simply be paranoid with a bit of brain fry from the infection… or maybe he’s got every right to fear being left behind.
Then you’ve got Daryl who seems from the get-go to want nothing to do with anyone on the farm, whether they are original survivors or part of the new group living there. As soon as they parked he was off into the woods alone. All of that progress he made being a decent man around Andrea vanished. Only thing I can think of is he fears opening up, at least until the Cherokee Rose. Daryl gave Carol a deeper look into himself than he has with anyone. Again he knew exactly what she needed to hear and gave it to her in this wonderfully sad story about the flower. He knows that crying won’t bring him Merle back, but also understands that Carol needs the tears to voice her grief, worry, and the sliver of hope that Sophia will come back.
Seeing where everyone ended up this episode has me rethinking what I said about Glenn last week. I assumed that he would likely jump at the chance to ride at Rick’s side again when he resumes the hero role. Only… Glenn became his own hero this week. Sure there was a lot of awkward moments where he became really goofy and cute, however you’ve got to give the man a hand at lassoing a bloated zombie like that. We know he’s not exactly a smooth talker with the ladies, but Glenn is growing out of the sidekick role if he keeps this up. Go, Glenn, go!
I’ll wrap this up with a quick thought on something Hershel said to Rick. Faith seems to play a huge part in how Hershel approaches life. He sees God’s hand in everything around him. If a rainbow forms after a storm, God sent it. A car hits a man on his way to dinner with his wife; God decided it was his time to go “home”. But, you see, I cannot fathom how his faith holds up when faced with the animated corpse of someone he knew. Is Jesus cleverly disguised in the blood splatter and we just can’t see it because the need to survive has blinded us to faith? Or is Hershel clinging to the one thing he has left to give him hope for his family? That’s got to be it. Mankind will tell themselves anything to maintain hope, even if it means believing in a miracle cure that’ll never come, from God or mankind.
The only warning I got before tuning into a replay of this week’s “The Walking Dead” came from my mother, of all people. I told her I needed to catch up, she replied, “All I’ll say is, when Daryl is the sane one, you know things got bad.” With that statement in mind I tuned in… and quickly realized how right she’d been.
I’ll get back to Daryl in a moment, but we’ve gotta talk about Shane. This man strives to be the hero that Rick is, and fails miserably. He tries too hard. Doesn’t plan his strategy. Shane barges in headfirst and damn anything or anyone that gets in his way. That would be a good trait except for the fact that Shane’s motives are purely selfish. He didn’t go off to fetch supplies for Carl. He rode into the sunset, hoping that the display he made would get him back in Laurie’s good graces. I spent a good chunk of the hour grinding my teeth at Shane.
And because Shane has his head wedged, Glen is beginning to have an identity crisis. His main purpose in the first season was to be the sidekick to the hero. Well, our actual hero isn’t in the game. He’s sidelined with his family, holding their breath to see what the future holds for Carl. Glen can’t help there and he realizes it. The guy trying to be the hero isn’t, leaving Glen to flounder around searching for someone to connect to that he can help. It seems he’s found that in Maggie, but what will happen when Rick is ready to don the white hat again? Will his Tonto abandon the potential Maggie presents to be just a sidekick again? Only time will tell there. I don’t even try to predict what TWD’s writers will do. They’re kinda crazy.
Speaking of crazy… I can’t believe my mother was right about Daryl. It is a trip to watch this character slowly open up to the other survivors. From the get-go we were supposed to think he’s like his brother, but this episode shot that to hell. We actually see Daryl for the first time. It isn’t the hardass squirrel killer in those woods with Andrea, but an intelligent man who was given the short stick in life and still managed to make the best of it. The way he dealt with Andrea and her determination to opt out of life was brilliant. This is a character to watch, not that you guys weren’t already.
The overall tone of this episode was hopelessness. Each character had a moment when they looked at the world around them and the pressure became too much to handle. Our survivors are beginning to buckle. They are getting desperate and we all know that desperate people do stupid things. The next couple of episodes are going to be interesting, to say the least.