TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD Season 2, Episode 12 'Better Angels'

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Walking Dead

Their moaning moral compass now suffering from an utter case of dead (the kind you don't come back from), it doesn't take long before the group begins to fall apart. Flying in the face of Rick's promise to show Dale that they can all make nice, Shane finally goes a step too far. The events of Better Angels, then, are all Shane's fault. You'll be glad to be rid of him by the time it's all over.

The events of Better Angel are mildly predictable, even if you've never read the comic books. After Rick decides to free Randall from the group's procrastinating hands (will they kill him? Won't they kill him? Just put the kid out of his misery, already!) Shane kidnaps the hostage and walks him deep into the woods. At first pretending that he wants to join Randall's group, Shane puts the poor youngster at relative ease before unceremoniously breaking his neck behind a tree. To cover up his crime, Shane then smacks his own face into the same tree. The old “he broke loose and knocked me out” routine is priceless. Is it going to fool anyone?

No. Never mind the fact that Randall is (was) tiny and Shane could easily headline an action movie on his own - Rick immediately sees through Shane's ruse. Maybe he recognised it from when Michael did the same thing on LOST. They walk into the woods together, for only one to walk out again. Also out looking for the 'escapee' are Daryl and Glenn. Detective Daryl deduces that Shane has led Rick in the wrong direction (thanks to some tracking skills that would have put LOST's Locke or Kate to shame) and finds what the maniac cop really did to poor Randall. The revelation is made more shocking when Randall's now-zombified corpse attacks Daryl and Glenn. This time Glenn saves the day (earning Daryl's approval) with a machete to the head.

Meanwhile, Shane gives up any pretense of civility, and pulls a gun on Rick. His suggestion that Rick is a crap husband and father doesn't seem far off the mark, but is severely lacking in tact. This has been on the cards since their physical confrontation in 18 Miles Out, but Rick still seems surprised. He at first tries to talk his old friend out of it, but Shane is in no mood for listening. The outcome is inevitable, but the show pulls it off in a very surprising manner. Who brings a knife to a gunfight? Rick Grimes. 

So soon after the exit of one series regular, another follows. Little Carl arrives just in time to see his Daddy stab Shane to death. He then pulls off the sort of move reserved for action movies and Stephen in Dawn Of The Dead: shooting a zombie that's standing just over another character's shoulder. In this case, the zombie is a re-animated Shane. Carl's impressive shooting aside, the reveal is interesting in that neither Shane nor Randall were bitten by zombies. It casually reveals that a corpse doesn't have to be bitten or otherwise infected in order to return.

All this in the same episode as Rick gives Carl the age-old “everyone dies” talk (like the birds and the bees, except more depressing). To be fair, it's not as though he could just nip to Waterstones and pick up a copy of Gentle Willow: A Story For Children About Dying. This episode gives the kid yet another death to deal with. Unfortunately, Carl's dad-saving gunshot might not have been the best idea in the world, as it looks to have been heard by every zombie for miles around. Oops.

The penultimate episode of the second series, Better Angels is an odd send-off to Shane. By far this series' most important character, it almost doesn't feel worthy at times. His death is an emotional moment – but somehow not emotional enough. It hits the same notes as the book's treatment of his death, but does so differently enough so as to offer some surprises along the way. This way it manages to (mildly) surprise both newbies and fans of the comic at once.

Next week, the season finale.

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