By Harry Markov
“Secrets”, the sixth episode in season two of The Walking Dead, hit a new low for the show. I haven’t seen a bigger nosedive into mediocrity and lazy writing. I’ve watched a lot of shows and I don’t consider myself hard to please, considering that I draw immense pleasure from one-liner shows like the long-lasting The Nanny, but the attempt of “Secrets” to raise the stakes or create any tension falls short.
Let’s begin with a short recap, with all the subplots writhing on the screen, but don’t be fooled by the sheer volume: Nothing of great importance happens. The episode opens with Lori and a recovering Carl feeding chickens. The focus gradually moves towards Patricia [one of Hershel’s group who doesn’t shine with much personality], who prepares the meal for all the zombies in the barn [living chickens with broken legs]. This vignette cements the belief of the farm survivors that the walkers are living. As a scene, I didn’t care much about it. Patricia’s far from memorable enough, but the scene establishes a theme, where, to Hershel, brain-eating relatives are dearer than friendly strangers with guns they’re willing to share. The scene also foreshadows the zombie-killing action to come [hopefully, in the mid-season finale] and main apple of discord to dissolve any friendliness between both groups.
To keep with the theme of deteriorating relationships between both groups, Glenn blurts out to Dale that there are zombies at the barn. Dale, who at this point demonstrates the elderly’s epic talent for sticking their noses into someone else’s business, confronts Hershel about the zombies. The scene is worthless, in my opinion, as it went nowhere. Neither does Dale share what he has learned with the group, which would have moved the overall arc somewhere, nor is any action about the ticking time bomb taken. What the viewer gets is a confirmation that Hershel believes that these zombies can be helped, something I have caught onto from the third episode on. But you don’t get that immediately, because the scene is geared up to come off as a confrontation of epic proportions. The music, the heavy words and the stares create false importance, which leads nowhere.
However, the writers this time convinced me through Maggie that the walkers are sick, poor people that need help. It’s a short quip Maggie and Glenn have about how wrong it is to call them ‘walkers’. Although short, it’s honest and sells me the idea that, despite all the horrific deaths Maggie has witnessed, she genuinely views the dead as the suffering rather than Hell personified. Maggie and Glenn’s budding romance is the only breath of fresh air, mainly due to the fact that I’m noticing progress on that front. Each conversation, each shared moment on screen, is a joy to watch, even Maggie’s almost death, which occurs in the same shop they had sex in. What are they doing in the shop, again? Glenn is on a private run for Lori, who wants to cancel her pregnancy, so the objective is to locate possible pills to do the job.
This moment irked me to death, because a few episodes back, Maggie and Glenn did the freaky on the floor. I presume they made noises, even if they tried to be quiet. Based on the show’s mythology, zombies sense noises. Now, considering that the shop had no changes to its façade or interior to indicate that a walker stumbled in at some point, I have to think that this particular walker has been there the whole time. I’m nit-picking, but so should they, the ones I have to believe are thinking about their survival. So, why did it not attack then? How can this come off as anything other than lazy writing?
Back to Lori and Rick and the third wheel – lazy writing. In order to stay true to the episode’s title, not one, but two whole secrets are at play here. I apologise for the sarcasm. However, the fighting between Lori and Rick sounded false and stilted, more of an homage to Argentinean soap operas than good drama. Not to mention that both confrontations could have jolted the plot and have things move on. Finding out that your group’s leader has been hiding the truth that you are not welcome in what seems like paradise in a zombie-infested world? I would have gone ballistic in such a situation. I would have rallied my group of survivors and staged a coup to take over control of the farm. This would’ve been a far better alternative to Lori taking ‘I’ll handle Hershel’ from Rick, which not only establishes Lori as a mindless follower, but is guilty of devolving sex equality back to the 50’s: Woman, do as your husband says and get dinner started. Not only is Rick guilty here for keeping this vital information from the group, but he doesn’t receive any repercussions for his actions.
Contradictory to this, when Rick discovers about Lori’s failed attempt at abortion, he grills an already distraught and remorseful Lori. The peculiar thing is that he successfully manages to transform Lori into the villain in this situation for her decision to spare a baby the fate of an unfortunate sentient Happy Meal. Women, now, in the non-zombie infested world, abort for serious and emotionally devastating reasons, which are milder in comparison to the dangers of zombies (if I have to make a comparison and justify any suspension of disbelief). So, why is Lori at fault?
This brings me to Rick and his metamorphosis into a paragon of morality. His dreamer qualities and unreasonable decision making, which goes for the moral high ground rather than any sign of practicality, alienate me from him. He even justifies his wife’s infidelity without any sort of reaction rather than acceptance. Not that I don’t expect for Rick to forgive Lori. That’s quite believable for his character. But being under such stress and not having a go at Shane? Not cracking at least with a millimeter? That is unrealistic and the lazy writing shows when Rick parrots the same words Lori said to Dale about her secret relationship with Shane. Even Dale wants to get rid of Shane and Dale is one of the good, well-mannered guys.
Speaking of Shane, he and Andrea have a one-on-one weapons training, which grows into an outing into the suburban areas of the closest town to continue their search for Sophia. Andrea shows potential as a sharpshooter, but she has to deal with her fear and learn to deal with the pesky, shambling targets. In theory, these scenes should have worked, because the chemistry between those two reached a peak (with a quick car romp), progress was made on the search, and Andrea moved up in status to one of the woman who could defend herself with a firearm, which is a rarity. Neither Lori nor Carol can shoot, as you can remember. What irked me here was the sudden click with which Andrea shed her skin as a rookie and delivered headshot after headshot with deadly precision. Don’t get me wrong. Andrea has the attitude to be the bad, trigger-happy girl, but that takes practice. As in, years of practice and experience, not a magical moment of near-death.
This oughta cover everything. I guess I’m not the only person who’s not satisfied with where the show is heading, because “Secrets” had only 6.08 million viewers, an all-season low so far, and I don’t foresee all that many tuning in for the mid-season finale.