Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead — "Secrets" — revved up everything from zero to crazy. The show tabled the interminable forest wandering to put almost every single character on a collision course with one another.
It wasn't perfect, but it was a step up from zombie Walden we've been treated to lately. Let's break down the episode's main conflicts, like some sort of post-apocalyptic episode of Maury. Spoilers on!
1.) Rick's Gang vs. Hershel
After learning that Hershel keeps a barn full of zombified, chicken-gobbling family members on his property, Glenn immediately spills the beans to Dale, who then not-so-subtly imparts this knowledge to Hershel. Barring his pie-in-the-sky hopes of curing his undead family, the country veterinarian is no idealist when it comes to Rick's gang. He wants them to get off his land, as he not-so-subtly tells Lori. Again, I don't blame Hershel — they're a bunch of heavily armed, clumsy loons. He's also confides in Dale that the rest of the gang could overreact when he discovers his necrotic nature preserve. Someone like...
2.) Shane vs. Dale
I can't warm up to Dale. He's the goddamn Mary Worth of the gang, meddling in everyone's business. And even though Shane's a total nutter, I loved how Jon Bernthal told the bearded busybody to STFU after Dale suggested Shane GTFO. To paraphrase:
Dale: You are totally canoodling with Andrea, I saw you point your gun at Rick a zillion years ago, and you killed Otis. I'm aware of point #1 because my Sex Sense is tingling and point #3 because I am a wellspring of timeworn wisdom. What do you have to say about that, tough guy?
Shane: I will wear your fucking skull as a hat and your dumb hat as an ironic hat for my new hat.
Dale: I totally did not think this through.
Can someone please GIF the last shot of Dale's face in that scene? That man experienced an enema of fear.
3.) Shane and Andrea vs. The World
They consummated their wild-eyed lust after Shane taught her to aim in a suburban zombie shootout. As a side note, I really enjoyed the creepiness of the burnt-out house scene. You got the immediate, "this was a terrible idea" sense of dread we haven't seen since the beginning of Season 2.
Is this the beginning of Team Shane? I can see Darryl joining Team Shane after Rick left behind Merle, but Andrea did shoot our Orienteering Apollo in the head. So unless the bullet shut Mushroom Merle up, Darryl's still a wild card.
4.) T-Dog vs. Irrelevance
Seriously, who's this guy again? Who thinks T-Dog's marked for death next Sunday? It's either him, or Hershel's brood (who pop out of the woodwork when convenient).
5.) Glenn vs. Rick's Gang
After revealing the walkers in the barn to Dale, Maggie won't speak to our favorite "Go To Town" Man. He wins her heart back after beating a zombie to re-death. Oh, amour! Maggie then realizes she likes Glenn and starts telling that he's better than Rick's errand boy and that he's a natural-born leader and Lori is annoying and stuff. Will Glenn defect to Hershel's camp? Yup, either that or Maggie joins the caravan. But if Hershel reacts like Captain Lou Albano in a Cyndi Lauper video, Glenn's gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
6.) Rick vs. Shane
Ah, the show's ultimate slash fiction pairing. After Rick stumbles upon Lori's abortion medication and learns that she's pregnant. But that's not the bombshell. Rick admits that he knows that Shane was once her main squeeze. I must say, this reveal gives Rick's character a twinge more nuance. Rick has no idea how to talk with his wife now, so he's throwing himself into the role of wasteland savior.
At first I thought Rick was a boring white knight, but I guess he's really, really emotionally constipated. Does this make up for a bunch of the sleepy Rick moments from earlier in Season 2? Not entirely, but it definitely makes Andrew Lincoln's prior performances more interesting.
Next week's episode — "Pretty Much Dead Already" — is the last episode before The Walking Dead goes on midseason hiatus. Here's a two-minute clip that you can spoil for yourself. I'll get into a more detailed postmortem next week about what Season 2's done right and wrong so far, but let's just say that, chronologically, the line charting the amount of intriguing moments per episode shouldn't look like a champagne flute on an X-Y axis.