Monday 19 March 2012

Five Reasons Why Daryl Is STILL My Favorite

My very first article on this site, many months and miles ago, was a fan girl love fest called Five Reason Why Daryl is My Favorite. After Season 2’s finale, Beside the Dying Fire, I have found that I just gotta’ go there again. Even though I’ve been down this road before, Daryl was, as a character, still in its infancy. He is more of an adolescent now. He’s grown and matured a bit; he’s learned from some of his mistakes; he seems on his way to becoming a responsible, respected member of society. (We only wish we could say this about all REAL children, don’t we?)

My previous reasons for liking this character so much were:

Daryl is a wild card;
Daryl is Mr. Practical;
Daryl calls it like he sees it;
Daryl is decisive;
Daryl has feelings, but he doesn’t let them control him.

Most of those still stand, with slight adjustment. Although he is less of a wild card and his actions are not as unpredictable, he still surprises us frequently. He is still very practical. He still calls things like he sees them. Decisiveness is still a key part of his character, although he is now somewhat less likely to shoot first and ask questions later. He also still keeps control of his emotions, well mostly. He still has some issues with that anger thing.  But having now seen Daryl in a variety of situations and been given clues to his budding friendships with the others, we have a better picture of the man he truly is.

So, I now give you Five Reasons Why Daryl is STILL My Favorite.

Daryl in woods

1) Daryl’s observation skills are exceptional. Several scenes in Season 2 have shown that Daryl notices damn near everything, even if he doesn’t feel the need to share. The perfect example is when he deduced that Shane killed Otis. Daryl told Dale in Judge, Jury, Executioner that he knew Shane had probably killed Otis because Shane “showed up with a dead guy’s gun” after the expedition to the high school. My husband, Jeff, with his own brilliant observation skills, quickly pointed out that detail when Save the Last One aired. As Shane wrenched Rick’s Colt Python from Otis’s hand, Jeff commented “So how is he going to explain having the gun?” We were both disappointed that no one in the group seemed to notice. Indeed, if events had played out the way Shane claimed, there’s no way he would’ve had the Python. It would still be in the undead claw of walker Otis. But the writers were only biding their time and we eventually had a payoff: someone HAD noticed. I’m very glad it was Daryl, because it added an air of intelligence that wasn’t apparent when the character was first introduced.

Although he seems by nature to be a suspicious guy, more than that makes Daryl’s observation skills so keen. His ability to see what others overlook comes in large part from his skills as a hunter. (Granted, he must be some kind of super tracker if he can notice – in pitch darkness – two sets of tracks, blood on a tree, and that “a little dust up occurred here,” but this is what suspension of disbelief is all about. If you can accept Andrea as an instant sharpshooter, you can accept that Daryl has freaky tracking skills.) Hunters must quietly observe their prey as they stalk it; to make the kill, they must pay attention to minutiae others would miss. It was nice to see Daryl’s tracking skills translated into his catching details about Shane’s story that the others didn’t catch. Both his ability to track things – be they escaped prisoners, missing little girls, or game animals for dinner – and his habit of noticing things about people that others don’t, Daryl’s skills of observation are HIGHLY valuable to the group.

 2) Daryl’s ability to read people and situations is almost uncanny. This goes hand in hand with his observation skills. If you pay close attention to someone’s body language or improbable details in a story someone tells, you will often be able to figure out what people are really thinking or that there are things they aren’t telling you that they should be. In the conversation mentioned above, Daryl tells Dale something that shows he easily identified Rick’s inability to see clearly things about Shane. Regarding Rick’s not picking up on the likelihood that Shane killed Otis, Daryl says “Rick ain’t stupid. If he didn’t figure it out, it was cuz he didn’t wanna.’” Wow… a pretty damn good call on how Rick viewed Shane. Rick, so blinded by what Shane used to be, could not see what Shane had become. Daryl saw that Rick’s long held feelings clouded his perception of his best friend. Daryl also saw that it was Rick’s own fault if he couldn’t or wouldn’t adjust his view of Shane. Daryl just didn’t feel the need to point this out to Rick.

He was not shy however about making it known that he thought Shane was lying in Better Angels. When he asked Shane how Randall was able to get the jump on the former deputy despite only weighing “a buck twenty-five,” it was pretty obvious he could read Shane and the situation for what it really was. Didn’t mean he knew what Shane was up to, only that something didn’t smell right about Shane’s description of events. It also reinforced the fact he calls it like he sees it and he called “bullshit” on Shane’s story.

3) Daryl is willing to help Rick with the “heavy lifting.” In both interrogating Randall and shooting Dale, Daryl showed he is capable of carrying out unpleasant tasks if they need to be done. This is something that others – and yes, I’m talking about Shane here – have not been either willing or able to do. I suspect that even if Shane had remained alive, Daryl would still have become Rick’s wingman and Shane’s role in the group’s leadership would have diminished significantly.

I’ve seen many comments online recently describing Daryl as “Rick’s enforcer,” but I disagree with that assessment. Daryl is not an enforcer by the classic definition of the word. According to Miriam Webster, my favorite dictionary, “enforcer” is defined as “1.) one that enforces 2.) a: a violent criminal employed by a crime syndicate; b: a player known for rough play and fighting.” (There are other definitions, but only one of the 10 or so I could find would fit Daryl’s role as “one whose job it is to execute unpleasant tasks for a superior” and to me, that is a definition by usage, not a meaning that comes from the actual word history. It’s a minor academic point, but I am a minor academic!) An enforcer’s role is to ensure compliance with rules or help maintain rule over a group. Daryl does neither. An enforcer’s role is to be a violent man. Daryl is not. He is simply a man capable of violence. There is a difference. Daryl doesn’t necessarily LIKE violence; he is however very good at it, when he has to be.

4) Daryl gets some of the best lines. If it is smart-assed or sarcastic and delivered dead-pan with a dash of piss and vinegar, chances are Daryl is the one saying it. My favorites in Season 2 include:
“Climb out of my ass, old man!” to Dale when he ask asks if Daryl let Lori go with Maggie in Triggerfinger.

“It ain’t the mountains of Tibet; it’s Georgia!” to Andrea when she asks if Daryl thinks they’ll find Sophia in Save the Last One.

“Look at him. Hanging up there like a big piƱata.” To Andrea when they find the tree walker in Save the Last One.

“That’s the third time you’ve pointed that thing at my head. You gonna’ shoot me or what?” to Rick in Chupacabra, followed of course by “I didn’t think you’d do it” when Andrea actually takes a shot at him.

“Shoot me again, you best pray I’m dead” to Andrea in Secrets.

“It’s as good a night as any” to Herschel in Beside the Dying Fire when Herschel tells him “It’s my farm; I’ll die here.”

Daryl and Carol
5) Daryl is part of the group, again. Early in Season 2, he accepted direction from Rick in the search for Sophia. As he put so much of himself into that search, we could see Daryl slowly becoming more a part of the group. He opened up a bit to Andrea and Carol. He defended Rick to his hallucination of Merle. But let’s face it; if they planned to keep Daryl in the series, the writers had to give him greater depth and more back story. They had to give him more emotional ties to the group. (Sadly, they have yet to do the same things for T-Dog, but that’s another article!) To say Daryl withdrew emotionally and physically from the others after Sophia was discovered in the barn would be a huge understatement. Daryl got the bitterness and pain out of his system the only way he knew how: he got mad; he yelled at people; he blamed the innocent; and he stalked off to pout and cool down. But, eventually, he dealt with the situation and his anger about it lessened.

Daryl was still standoffish, but he slowly reintegrated. For example, he told Dale in Judge, Jury, Executioner that the group was “broken” and that he was better off fending for himself, but he didn’t leave. Daryl was also willing to accompany Rick to remove Randall from the farm in Better Angels, even though he was unconcerned with Randall’s fate. His only voiced thought on the situation was that once they were done “this whole pain in the ass will be a distant memory,” adding “good riddance.” A moment later, when Rick specifically asks if he’s “good with this,” Daryl replies “I don’t see us tradin’ haymakers at the side of the road; nobody wins that fight.” This provides a subtle reminder that Daryl, unlike Shane, won’t question Rick’s decisions or challenge Rick’s authority. He showed that despite being a loner who was perfectly capable of surviving without the group he was willing to be a team player. When the group comes back together on the highway after the farm is overrun in Beside the Dying Fire, it was especially heartening to see Rick and Daryl lock hands like they did. To me, that action showed Daryl’s growing connection to Rick as did his defense of Rick to Carol later beside the campfire when Carol appeared to be trying to talk him into either taking control of the group or leaving it. Daryl isn’t interested in her suggestion. Now that it is now longer a democracy, maybe Daryl will become Rick’s enforcer instead of just Rick’s doer of difficult and dirty deeds.

This last point brings me to a very important question: What happens when Merle returns? Merle is said to be returning at some point in Season 3. Daryl, in his new position as Rick’s wingman, you know, the position that Shane, uh, vacated, will undoubtedly be torn between his brother and the group. Yes, Merle is kin, but the group is becoming more of a “family” to Daryl then I think the older Dixon boy was ever capable of being, shared DNA be damned. Hell yes, there will be fireworks between the brothers, that goes without saying. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: watching Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus on screen together is well worth the price of admission. Hell, it’s worth the cost of two tickets!

As the writers explored Daryl’s character over the course of Season 2, Reedus continued to use body language to provide his own clues about Daryl’s personality. At times, Daryl’s inner struggle with being a part of the group versus keeping himself on its periphery – a key element for the character’s development – was almost painfully obvious. We often saw him off to the side of the group, unengaged, which showed us two things: 1.) he was still a loner and not comfortable connecting with people or forming close friendships; and 2.) he was always watching and evaluating his fellow survivors, trying to determine if they were worth his time and effort.

His mannerisms and facial expressions also provided insight into Daryl’s thoughts. Sometimes that vision was cloudy; other times it was as clear as an August morning in Georgia after the haze of dawn has burned away. As Shane told the story about Otis’s last moments, we saw Daryl in the background, saying nothing, just squinting as he listened. Was he skeptical of Shane’s tale or just bored and ready to get the whole affair over with so he could continue the search for Sophia? As the story played out, it appeared to have been both. But when he questioned Shane about his story regarding Randall, there was no confusion over what Daryl was really thinking. His wrinkled brow and “that just don’t make no sense” expression emphasized the fact he wasn’t buying what the other man was trying to sell.

Finally, another important element for the character’s development, the amount of anger he displayed changed minutely. Daryl still had a couple of verbal explosions, but all in all, he seemed to have mellowed somewhat, perhaps because he is more distanced by time from Merle. In Season 2 there were no squirrels thrown at anyone, no knives pulled, fewer veiled threats and angry, arms-folded-across-his-chest stances, and much less glaring. Okay, so there was still a LOT of glaring, but for the most part, it felt less… hostile. Which brings to mind a comment that I once heard Reedus make; he said that giving people dirty looks “kind of turned into a career” for him. Good thing too, because trust me, dude, we fan girls LOVE those dirty looks! Keep ‘em coming.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Angel and Devil on Andrea's shoulder

As the countdown to the Season Two Finale begins, fans of The Walking Dead wonder which cast members will fail to survive and fight on in Season Three. For the first time since the group left the CDC in Atlanta, I find myself hoping Andrea is not part of the upcoming body count.

Oh, I still don’t like her much. I also don’t like Lori, to the point I almost cringe typing my own name. The argument the two women had in the kitchen of the farmhouse a few episodes ago drove me crazy, because I agreed with every single rotten thing they said about each other. I sort of hoped a walker would lurch out of the pantry and have a bitch buffet.

But now I feel as if Andrea is on the cusp of something, and it could be very interesting. She’s made a lot of transitions in the first two seasons, perhaps more than any other character. She started out trying to be tough, going into town on missions. Still, despite being a civil rights attorney with – presumably – a life of her own, she in many ways remained the daughter who fished with her father and wanted to make up for ignoring her younger sister.

When Amy was attacked and awoke as a walker, Andrea dug deep, searching for the inner strength to do what had to be done to prevent her baby sister from continuing in that dark existence. It was undoubtedly the most difficult thing she’d ever had to do, but that decision came from love, not calculated, strategic violence. The act changed her profoundly, making her doubt her will to live in this new reality.

Dale wouldn’t let her “opt out.” Seeing him as her surrogate father, Andrea saved herself to save him, and eventually regained her will to go on. But in order to protect herself from further emotional and psychological damage, she started pushing Dale away and stomped all her emotional sensitivity down, adopting a stoic, practical persona. And who guided her and nurtured this mercenary attitude? Shane. He taught her to shoot, and he encouraged her to tap into her repressed rage to find the cold, dead attitude he believed she needed to survive.

As the debate raged about deciding Randall’s fate, Dale reminded her of her former role as a civil rights attorney. She cared about fighting for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. By the time a decision was reached, she was wavering, asking if they could find another way to eliminate the threat the boy posed, short of killing him.

Dale was the angel on one shoulder, whispering in her ear about humanity, fighting for what’s right, and not letting the daily horrors change who she is on a fundamental level. Meanwhile, Shane was the devil on the other shoulder, urging her to shed her emotions in favor of a hard, calculating, merciless approach, focused on nothing but survival.

Now, in the space of about twenty-four hours, Andrea has lost her two primary influences. Her angel died, his integrity intact, even if his innards were not. Her devil also died, victim of his own murderous plot and the error of underestimating exactly how far Rick would go to protect his family.

Andrea has alienated herself from much of the group. The remaining men don’t really see her as the warrior she tried to become, and the women see her as a slacker or a cold, distant, delusional guardian wanna-be. Who will become her new stabilizing or destabilizing influence, if anyone? Will she become even more isolated and bitter in the absence of Dale? Will she become more ruthless, stepping up to fill the void left by Shane? Or will she remember her connection to Dale and recover her emotional balance, perhaps even developing into a unifying force in this traumatized, fractured group?

If she isn’t among the dead (or un-dead) at the end of the Season Two Finale, she will be a fascinating character to watch in Season Three.

Monday 12 March 2012

Walk on By

** SPOILER Disclaimer – In my articles I talk openly about things that happen in older issues of the comic series, The Walking Dead. I think for the most part this is extremely fair as the series began in 2003 so it’s unreasonable to gag events from 5 to 8 years old. Know that I will tend to be closed mouthed about specifics for up to 20 issues back from current (meaning #94 is current so I’ll try hard not to spoil anything after issue #74). If I feel I have to I will put a Spoiler warning in the article. Everything else is fair game. All images property of their copyright owners.**

Walker in field 18 miles out
I was so excited to see this lone “walker” shambling through a field tall with grass. The evening sun casting long shadows. It was a very tranquil moment, almost a spoof of some National Geographic documentary. I’m referring to a scene from the Walking Dead TV episode, “18 Miles Out” of course. I was so excited, but even more for the “non-reaction” of our two survivors, Rick and Shane.

It is unclear whether Rick ever saw the zombie, but I like to believe he did. I took driver’s ed classes so I was trained to constantly scan everything. That on top of my post-traumatic stress and I just couldn’t miss a large detail like that. But, maybe Rick is one of those “focused” drivers, or his head was full of Lori, Shane, and poopy diapers. Shane saw it all though, and it is his total, unflinching silence that I love. He doesn’t instinctively reach for a gun, or hit Ricks shoulder for attention. He just watches this zombie, like a viewer watching a lion walking across the Serengeti in a lazy rest from stalking antelope, in contemplative silence. And if ever a silence spoke volumes it was this silence. And because of this, in my mind Rick saw it and had that same non-reaction.

You see, this type of scene has now happened many times in the graphic novel, or comic, or whatever term you prefer. I don’t think ‘nonchalant’ is the correct word, but in some ways it is… The lone roamer, or even a couple lurkers thrown in, 40 or 50 feet away doing whatever zombies do in their down-time has become this secondary issue for survivors. As long as a lone zombie is not at this very moment attacking, and she is “over there”, then we can get on about our business as long as we keep an eye on him. And so, I’ve been waiting patiently to see how this might come to pass in the tv show.

Walk on ByA little terminology lesson for those who are just discovering the whole TWD thing. In the graphic novel (comics – also referred to as GN) the word “zombie” appears very early on. It isn’t used often but it exists. There are two types of zombies: zombies who are constantly in motion are called “roamers” and zombies who find some place to sit or lay are known as “lurkers”.  The word “Walkers” does not exist in the GN. Lurkers seem to have found undeath just too tiring. You have to at least get within a couple of feet before they will even acknowledge your existence. Some you have to actually kick, and then they might find the energy to try and eat you. The two TV walkers I can point to as lurkers would be the woman in the car that Glenn wakes up (played by a really nice lady, Sonya Thompson – who has a Facebook page btw) and the lurker in the tank with Rick. These two kind of show the range for lurkers. Roamers have a bit of a range also, but it never reaches the physical and mental range of the walkers on the show.

As kind of a critique of the show, I have seen TWD zombies use rocks to smash windows which is a bit more tool usage than I prefer. In the show I have seen them reach speeds equal to a run. No, they did not have that classic form, and no you cannot say they were running. But you go back and watch those roamers keep up with Shane and Otis, who were running. As far as I’m concerned, even if you are jerking and shambling, if you are keeping up with someone running then you are pretty much running too. My point is this though, you are not going to get outrun by a walker in the GN. The zombies here are very much like those in George A. Romero’s ground shattering “Night of the Living Dead” and this is the way I prefer my zombies, thank you.

Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, has stated in interviews and letters that the zombies are very secondary. This becomes so apparent in the graphic novels as the characters have longer interaction with them. Scenes of the lone walker in the grassy field are common. We can debate the effect of this, whether it is bad or good for a long time. And it comes down to two basic camps: Terror lovers –v- Creepy Eerie lovers.

I for one prefer the eeriness, the surreal-ness, of the living moving through an undead world in an uneasy truce. “Man” always adapts… we do this with deadly spiders, and lions, and snakes around the world. Recall the extreme story of Timothy Treadwell, environmentalist/film maker,  who lived with bears for 13 summers until he and his girlfriend were finally eaten. Why should the walking dead be any different? I was heartened to here Glenn saying how he had forgotten how dangerous they were, that it’s all become another round of Portal. With that “comfort” comes new dangers to the survivors as Kirkman examines how we humans just cannot help ourselves. We HAVE to find some comfort level, some radical acceptance, of the world around us or we go mad. Hence, my personal preference for the creepy-surreal over the constant horror/terror.

Walking Dead comic "yeah..they do"I think, in closing, that there is a hidden seed of hope (or the need for that seed of hope) in Kirkman’s vision. He wants us to see the zombies as merely the earthquake, tsunami, or sinking ship. But these are all events with which we must merely endure, find a way to survive. There is no cutting the head off an earthquake, no sticking a screwdriver in the eye of a hurricane; we can only seek shelter. Intentionally or unintentionally, The Walking Dead exposes that need for the human to fight back. With knives and guns we fought to keep bears and lions from eating us. With tools and shelters we fight the weather from freezing us or cooking us. With all of our arts and sciences we fight an uncaring universe for our right to breath. And through the lens of a silly little comic and tv show I can see that “we” would only find a zombie apocalypse a speed bump and nothing more. We would eventually watch a roamer stumble  through the sunlit field with as much excitement as we watch cows chew their cud. In this we are not the Walking Dead.

Friday 9 March 2012

Death of Innocence

Rick Grimes Family Photo - Rick, Lori and son Carl.
Rick, Lori and Carl
Lori Grimes‘ perception of Carl Grimes is one of innocence on the cusp of corruption. This is a sad, but true assertion. It’s evident in Chandler Riggs’ portrayal of the character, especially in episodes like Secrets and Pretty Much Dead Already.

In the opening of Secrets, we find a completely recovered Carl helping his mother feed chicks on the Greene farm. After some light banter, Carl comments about the location of the mother hens. Lori, in an attempt to reassure her young son, replies that maybe they are off somewhere, implying a necessary and inevitable return.

What Carl says in response surely caught his already ailing mother off guard: “Maybe they got eaten.” Immediately Lori reveals a sense of mingling shock and surprise at her son’s words; no doubt this walker-filled world is beginning to rob her son of his innocence and happiness. What is most surprising is not the accuracy of that thought, but the answer Carl provides to his mother’s worried countenance. “Everything is food for something else.”

That singular statement reveals Carl’s awareness of not just his current surrounding, but of life in general. Whether he lives in zombie land or reality, he is not wrong in his assertion. He is maturing at a rate not yet understood by his parents; now whether or not that is in correspondence with the current crisis in which the world finds itself is debatable.

But what we can be sure of is his desire to prove himself, and to not remain a helpless victim. We see that again in Secrets, after he promises Lori that he understands the gravity of possessing a firearm. Carl is growing up, steadily coming into his own and asking for the opportunity to do what he feels is right for his family.

Carl Grimes looking at the deer
Carl staring on in amazement at the deer
We can’t forget however, that he is still just a boy, and one far removed from his comic counterpart at this point. It’s this innocence that people like Shane look to manipulate in their favor, a tactic seen in Pretty Much Dead Already.

Shane knows that Carl looks up to him. It was a bond he attempted to break early in the second season, though that failed miserably when Otis shot Carl. So when Carl confronted Shane about his reluctance to search for Sophia, calling it “bullshit,” Shane saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, (metaphorically of course). If Shane could turn Carl over to the dark side, so to speak, he could potentially win Lori as well. Shane used his charm and power over Carl’s remaining innocence and convinced him that saving Sophia meant securing their place on the farm, at all costs. How could Carl disagree?

He couldn’t because he sees the hardship his father has to endure as leader of their group. So Carl wants to prove himself capable of protecting what is his. He is maturing in a world that is all but corrupted by pain, sorrow and death; a world his mother views as being without joy. She struggles daily with the very idea of letting him live in this world because of the havoc that corruption may wreck on his impressionable psyche. We see it already at work on those of considerable experience: Shane, Andrea, even Rick.

Especially Rick, the man that Carl adores and worships like a god among men. When Rick killed Sophia, Carl immediately backed his father’s decision, saying he would have done the same thing himself. What a thing to say to your mother; that you would readily kill your best friend’s walking corpse without a second thought.

It must be difficult for Lori to watch her son lose his innocence this way. How painful it must be for both Rick and Lori, the knowledge that they are unable to protect their child from the horrors of the “real world,” and let him resume his childhood care-free. Sadly, it is a pain they must embrace in order to move on and truly protect him from harm. In zombie land, he could just as easily become a casualty like Sophia.

Now from a parental perspective, especially a Western parental perspective, Lori does not want Carl to grow up this way. She does not want her baby boy to brandish a weapon, let alone a loaded firearm. She does not want him to live in fear of an uncertain death or of debilitating loss.

Carl and the swamp walker
Carl almost met his end with the swamp walker
The problem is that neither Rick or herself can protect him the way they could in the old days. Hell, even in the old days it would prove difficult to preserve his innocence. The main difference between then and now, is that those that are corrupting her son are the same people that wish to protect him.

Children are very observant; it’s a trait we all pick up early because we are a social animal. We want to understand what is happening around us, to take part in it and have a hand in our destiny. We listen and we learn. Sometimes we pick up bad habits or overhear negative conversations. Since children lack the mental capacity to truly understand “adult” situations, they are left to perceive any given situation as best they can.

Carl sees the nervousness of a group unable to carry weapons; he sees the slow degradation of his father’s indomitable spirit; he sees the anger the grips Shane’s heart. He sees his family dynamic slowly dissolving, and he wants to help fix it. Would you deny him?

Carl tells his dad to shoot Randall
"Do it Dad!"
Admittedly, he has a long way to go before he actually proves himself useful for killing walkers and not group members.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Daryl’s Ascendency

Daryl Dixon in Judge, Jury, Executioner. Daryl about to torture Randall.

In “Judge, Jury, Executioner” we fully see for the first time the new role Daryl is taking within the group. The episode opens with him torturing Randall for information. There is no indication of enjoyment in this repugnant task for Daryl, but instead a willingness to do what is necessary to protect the group, which he has come to view as a surrogate family despite all his protestations. Trusting him with this task shows Rick’s increasing trust and reliance on Daryl to get things done. After all, Rick is waiting in camp to base his entire decision of Randall’s execution on what Daryl has to say. This lets us know several key things.

Firstly, Rick is confident in Daryl’s abilities to get the information out of Randall without going too far and killing him. It would be easy to be caught up in the violence and cause mortal damage. Conversely, if he did not have the stomach for the calculated infliction of pain, the prisoner would gain the upper hand and ruin any chances of getting real intel on the hostile group. That Rick is unable to do this task himself is an interesting thing. Despite his insistence in “18 Miles Out” that he is no longer a good man, Rick shows conflict throughout this episode between the police officer he used to be and what he has to do now to survive.  Shane has proven to be capable of violence, but Rick did not look to him for this.

Secondly, Rick knows Daryl will not be fooled by disinformation or be suckered in by a sob story. We have seen from the beginning that a lot of people underestimate Daryl’s intelligence, whether due to his accent, appearance, or “redneck” background. However, as the show has progressed, it has become quite apparent that Daryl, while socially awkward and emotionally stunted, is very observant of others and we see in this episode especially that he knows a lot more than he lets on.  Daryl was never fooled by Shane’s rather weak story of how Otis died and knew before anyone else that he was not to be trusted.  That he did not share this information with anyone reinforces how isolated he has felt from the rest of group.

Lastly, and most importantly, Rick trusts that Daryl will be honest. Daryl lays out plainly exactly what kind of threat this other group is and what will happen to everyone should they attack. If Daryl was really some psycho he could have lied or left to join Randall’s people, but Rick obviously knows that Daryl is not that kind of guy.  The expressions on the faces of everyone else in camp when they realize how Daryl acquired the information show how little they understand his motivations and it is a slap in the face to Daryl, yet again.

Daryl and Dale
However, Rick is not the only one to show Daryl a new level of respect in “Judge, Jury, Executioner”. When Dale is going around trying to convince others to keep Randall alive, the first person he goes to see is Daryl. Instead of launching right into a spiel, Dale expresses concern and conviction that Daryl is more important than he believes himself to be. Despite claiming to want to get away from everyone, Daryl listens and does not become combative with Dale. Carol is the only other person that has said something like this, but Dale takes it a step further by saying that he is in fact a better man than Shane. Daryl’s frustrated, bitter insistence that he does not have Rick’s ear, that Rick only listens to Shane, shows how much Daryl really likes and respects Rick. He wants to be that right-hand man, but feels inadequate and shunted to the side.  He desperately wants to be part of the group, but by saying it is “broken”, exhibits the fear that it will turn out to be the disaster his real family was.

At the end of the episode we see Daryl’s true colors and they are beautiful. When Dale screams, Daryl does not hesitate a second in sprinting to his aid. Daryl literally throws himself at the Walker to get it off of Dale. There has never been so much emotion towards another of the group from Daryl as in this scene.  Jumping and yelling for the others to come and help, he drops to his knees beside Dale and says an agonizing “Hang in there, buddy”. It is then we know what a profound effect Dale’s earlier words had on Daryl and how much he truly views the group as his people. The angel wing vest has never been more appropriate than at this moment. Daryl is willing to be the angel of mercy in place of Rick, willing to take on the burden of putting Dale out of his misery when no one else could. The compassion and sacrifice Daryl exhibits is heartbreaking.

Daryl shoots Dale
This is the turning point. There is no denying now that Daryl, though rough around the edges, shows the qualities of a genuine leader, a much more fitting second-in-command to Rick than Shane has ever been, as we once again see Shane not step up when the times call for a true leader to do so. It is interesting to note in the trailer for “Better Angels” that Rick is taking Daryl to set Randall loose, rather than Shane. Despite what Rick said to Lori about Shane no longer being problem, he obviously trusts Daryl more to have his back on this issue than Shane, considering that both Daryl and Shane wanted Randall dead. In the coming episodes, I fully expect Daryl to assume more responsibility and become Rick’s go-to guy. How this will play into Shane’s power struggles remains to be seen.

Friday 2 March 2012

The Lone Walker

The Lone Walker shuffling through the field in Season 2 of The Walking Dead
The Lone Walker in "18 Miles Out"
The Lone Walker is a cold, distant figure moving through an empty field. We see it as Shane does: gazing through a car window, sitting next to the man who should be his best friend, following a day filled with regrettable actions. It is far enough away to make distinguishing any features impossible.

The Lone Walker is anonymous and unknowable, but it is difficult to not feel sadness rather than fear while gazing upon it.

This is a mirror for what Shane has become. He has finally been told, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Rick’s family is just that: Rick’s. He has relentlessly beat on the man he calls brother. He has attempted to murder two people and subsequently been rescued by them both. When Shane is looking upon the Lone Walker he feels a kinship. He was alone before, but it is painfully obvious now that there are so few people in the world. He has no more purpose than a mindless corpse shuffling through the dying grass.

This moment in the car is perhaps the first time we see Shane look utterly defeated. In what is a moment of synergy, the song playing over this crisis of mind is “Civilian” by Wye Oak.

I don’t need another friend
When most of them
I can barely keep up with
I’m perfectly able to hold my own hand,
but I still can’t kiss my own neck

Shane Walsh observing the lone walker in Season 2 of The Walking Dead
Shane observing the lone walker roaming through the field
In a different man, this may have been the turning point back to humanity. However, like the Lone Walker, Shane will not remain an object of pity for long.

He has become a creature driven by survival and possession. The enormity and emotions of the day in “18 Miles Out” tapped him out, but his slide into something less than human began long before and shows no sign of stopping. Once he has a chance to regroup, Rick’s unequivocal claiming of Lori, Carl and the baby will be taken as a gauntlet thrown and Shane’s efforts to wrestle control of the group will be renewed with a sense of vigor.

The Lone Walker is not merely a lonely traveller.

The Lone Walker is the harbinger of the threat of Walkers to come and the danger of Shane’s continuing deterioration.

It is the calm before the storm and the sky is starting to look awfully cloudy.