I wish I shared the writers' belief in these characters as fascinating people, but I just don't. "Secrets" was a character-focused episode that lived up to its title, as most of the show's secrets are now out in the open. Most notably, Lori's (Sarah Wayne Callies) pregnancy and the fact she slept with Shane (Jon Bernthal) while thinking her husband Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was dead. (The baby's Shane's, right? I've watched soaps.) I'm pleased The Walking Dead's giving us overdue movement on these points, but "Secrets" still couldn't avoid feeling like a drag.
It's just tedious watching this ensemble go about their daily lives while crickets chirrup constantly in the background. I'm not saying Walking Dead needs to be an action-packed gorefest every single week, but I do think there needs to be a more pro-activity and drive to the show. The premiere set things up nicely with the group on the road, headed for Fort Benning with clear intentions, but we've spent almost every episode since stuck on the remote Hershel farm... and even longer looking for a little girl who really shouldn't be this hard to find!
As for character development... well, you can see that Glenn (Steven Yeung) is beginning to grow now his ego's been massaged by winsome Maggie (Lauren Cohan), particularly after he saved her from a surprise zombie attack in a pharmacy. And there are moments when the show tries to shake some life into itself (Dale now suspects Shane's a threat), or otherwise deal a few minor surprises (the speed at which Glenn told Dale about Hershel's barn full of "walkers" fed on crippled chickens), but I just don't feel much attachment to these characters. Seeing them change, very slowly (although it's only been 12 episodes), isn't yet a compelling aspect of this show.
That said, I'm fairly interested to see how far they push Shane into the darkness. Will he confess to sacrificing Otis? If so, will he redeem himself somehow? Or will he become the show's villain and split from the group with Andrea (Laurie Holden) in tow? I wouldn't say I'm itching for the next episode to find out, though. The characters aren't why most people are watching Walking Dead, and they really should be. I commend the show for trying to ensure the characters are the stars, not the zombies, but it's not working. It just seems that, while The Walking Dead certainly has its moments, it's too keen to slam on the brakes and follow a great episode with a boring one. I'm beginning to think one reason showrunner Frank Darabont was fired by AMC (halfway through production of this season's episodes) is because they saw the completed hours and realized most were sluggish, dull and annoying.
Overall, as you can no doubt tell because of my brevity and decision not to cover everything that happened this week, "Secrets" didn't work for me. There are better ways to have revealed its secrets , other than having characters just tell each other anticlimactically. Still, a few things bode well for the future: Dale's made an enemy of Shane and is suspicious about what happened to Otis; Rick knows his best-friend slept with his wife; and Andrea and Shane are getting even closer after having sex (is it that guy's mission to sleep with everyone?) As much as I disliked this episode, it moved plenty of stuff forward, eventually, which I'm hoping subsequent episodes capitalize on.
However, after a great opening three episodes, Walking Dead's starting to falter mid-season, and many of my frustrations about the first season are coming back into play...
written by Angela Kang / directed by David Boyd / 27 November 2011 / AMC