Last week a talky episode brought out the naysayers who claimed that this second season of The Walking Dead has been heavy on soliloquies and light on action. ‘Chupacabra’ should help to satiate those feelings as the episode focused on a fan favourite and delivered a few key pieces of information that will dramatically alter the fabric of the show as it heads into the latter half of the second season.
He Said/She Said returns to discuss what worked and what didn’t in ‘Chupacabra’…
He Said (Cinephilactic)
First off, let’s address the obscure title: ‘Chupacabra.’ This is the name of a creature of folklore that drinks the blood of goats that has reportedly been seen all over South America, but has never been concretely proven to exist. Sightings are on par with Big Foot and UFOs but have often turned out just to be rabid animals. In the context of the show, we learned that Daryl (Norman Reedus) told the group he once saw a chupacabra, but of course no one believes him. So it’s only fitting that in an episode that heavily focused on Daryl and explored battle lines being drawn between the respective families, we finally witnessed the return of his brother, Merle (Michael Rooker). The fact that this was an injury-related hallucination is actually of little importance. In contemporary television, dreams (or visions) are reflective of the subconscious desires of characters. Merle’s reappearance at this crucial juncture – when Daryl is most vulnerable, weak and alone – and the message he conveyed (that Rick and the others did not consider him family and would turn on him as soon as he was no longer valuable) was rather telling. The fact that Andrea (Laurie Holden) then accidentally shot him after he recovered enough to stumble back to the camp was a less than subtle demonstration of this.
As with any serial narrative worth its weight, we’ll need to wait to see if the poisonous message that Merle the chupacabra delivered takes seed in Daryl’s mind. He neglected to tell anyone what he had seen. He also doesn’t have any one to confide in, despite a developing bond with Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) over his efforts to rescue her missing daughter.
As always the show ended with a quick emotional cliffhanger / gut-punch as Glenn (Steven Yuen) discovered the secret behind the farm: Herschel (Scott Wilson) & Co. haven’t been killing walkers. Instead they’ve kept their zombie relatives and friends locked up in the barn that everyone was told to stay away from – another chupacabra that Glenn alone was privy to discovering and will now need to convince the group of what he saw. The battle lines that we saw being set up in ‘Cherokee Road’ were cemented in ‘Chupacabra’: Rick (Andrew Lincoln) vs. Shane (Jon Bernthal) for alpha dog with pregnant Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) caught in the middle, and an “Us vs. Them” mentality between our Atlanta survivors and the new folks at the farm.
TVangie, what did you think of the dramatic confrontations being set up? I particularly enjoyed the awkward mondo-dysfunctional family dinner, especially when Glenn was put in his place after learning that deceased Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) was the best guitar player. And what was up with Glenn this episode anyways? I realize that he’s supposed to be young, but he seemed perpetually stuck between stupid (the women with synched up PMS conversation) and reckless (the handling of the sex details note at dinner). Were you as annoyed with the sudden infantalization of this character as I was?
She Said (TVangie)
I don’t think I would categorize what’s happened to Glenn as infantalization- I think he’s accurately representing a naivety that almost serves as a sort of stabilization amidst the madness that is going on. Everyone is uber- intense, so I thought it was a breath of fresh air to have someone stop and say, “What the eff is going on with these people?” It’s not like anyone is talking to him – such is the life of secondary character, I suppose. Let’s not forget that Lori has selfishly involved him in her pregnancy drama and all she says to him is “I don’t want to hear it.” I hardly think that’s fair since her condition will invariably affect him and his survival odds since she’s the “first lady” of his group.
Do I think he was reckless in doing to horizontal pharmacy mambo with Maggie (Lauren Cohan)? Probably. But I also would find it really hard-pressed to believe that any hot blooded straight male would do anything different in a similar situation, much less during a zombie apocalypse. Besides, she’s the one who propositioned him. And she’s also the one who started to pass him notes only a few feet away from Daddy-dearest. Glenn’s just reacting – and I can’t blame him yet for any stupid decisions he’s making. (Let’s also not forget how bad ass he was last week when he was in the well. That gives him some cred). All this to say, I didn’t really have a problem with Glenn this episode.
I was however, surprised how blatantly this episode mapped out how Rick’s utopian survival tactics are clearly inferior to Shane’s burgeoning “do whatever you need to survive- no matter the cost” mentality. I thought it would play out much more subtly and less heavy-handed (hello spoon-feed). Now that the sheriff uniform has been neatly tucked away, can Rick’s moral fabric be compartmentalized just as easily? In Shane’s case, it’s much more understandable, and let’s face it, interesting, considering what happened with Otis. Rick’s moral shift on the other hand comes not from direct experience, but from people (read: Shane) telling him to change. The result isn’t as organic as it could be, feeling much more like a plot point to move the future episodes along. Clearly not a narrative device I find particularly appealing. I did love the quick little barn smackdown he got from Hershel. It’s clear who the kingpin is and that Rick’s got a lot to learn.
I also want to touch on the zombie-barn. I don’t think it’s as simple as Hershel holding onto his zombified loved ones awaiting a cure for them. That seems a bit too fluffy bunnies and rainbows for me. Hershel is far more utilitary than that and I think he’s got a much more ominous agenda. Maybe he’s building some sort of zombie army? Are these Hershel’s attack dogs? If Rick and his gang get too comfortable, will Hershel pull a Mr. Burns and release the hounds to make sure they know that this ain’t their new home?
Cinephilactic, what do you think the fate of Sophia (Madison Lintz) is? I think she should be dead considering her lack of survival skills and the amount of time that’s elapsed. But since the search has been drawn out for so (frackin) long, I think she’s probably alive. But I’m hoping the reveal will be something juicy. Maybe she’s been taken ala Natalie Wood in The Searchers?
Also LOVED the opening sequence. Hope we get some more flashbacks of how we’ve gotten to where we are with these characters.
He Said (Cinephilactic)
As soon as I wrote that it was Herschel’s friends and family in the barn, I realized I was being presumptuous (and now seems like a good time to remind everyone that comments regarding the comics or spoilers for upcoming episodes won’t be tolerated – we’re in a speculation only zone!).
We really don’t know anything about Herschel aside from the fact that he’s a vet and he’s a grouch when he feels like people are infringing on his space/people. While I don’t think that his methods in ‘Chupacabra’ were necessarily appropriately, that perspective does a big 180 when you think about these events from his perspective. As io9.com explored – why would anyone want these city folk on their property: all they do is lose horses, stick it your daughter, eat into your antibiotics supply, shoot guns and bring you wounded casualties. Let’s face it, our Atlanta band are a bunch of idiot losers, so Herschel is right to be peeved, but he’s not exactly forthright, either, so pot meet kettle.
Regarding Sophia…I still think she’s the MacGuffin of this season (or at least the first half that we’re almost through). Her disappearance is one of several factors contributing to Rick & Co. staying on the farm (in addition to Carl’s recuperation and now Daryl’s). It’s important to remember that at this point each episode more or less covers a day, so although it feels like we’ve been living within this storyline for months, in TV-land it’s only been four days. Whether or not she’s dead, or zombified, or hiding in a tree is less interesting to me than what her disappearance has led to: a quasi-utopian living situation that will likely explode in next week’s episode when the truth about the barn comes out.
Back to you, TVangie: What do you think of burgeoning shooter Andrea? She’s emerged from the pack of mostly blasé secondary characters as someone fans love to hate (sample comment: She almost shot Daryl! How could she be so stupid and useless?!) While I think that Andrea started the season as a mixed whiner/defeatist, I’m interested to see what they do with her now that she’s trying to take a more active role as camp protector. While her sights were off in this episode, I still want to see what she can become in a show that struggles to situate women outside of a traditional mother/lover role (see Lori & Carol). Thoughts?
She Said (TVangie)
I am aware that it’s only (?!) been four days since the disappearance of Sophia. But come on, she’s like what? Seven years old? Even Shane said it – after 72 hours you’re essentially looking for a body. And that’s BEFORE the zombie factor. So yah, I pretty much think, barring being taken in by another adult with survival instincts, a little zombie Sophia is inevitable. I still want to know what’s happened to her, mostly because it means our group can leave and get into more shenanigans.
As for Andrea, I’m not quite sure how I feel about her. I really disliked her last season, but after she lectured Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) about taking away her right to choose, I started to respect her more. It’s pretty clear that she doesn’t want to play the victim card – that was evident from the get-go. But her impetuous decisions are really irking me. She’s rebellious and arrogant. No doubt that’s going to spell trouble for the rest of the group (as we have seen). As Darren Franich observes over on ew.com observes, Andrea’s shooting of Daryl was somewhat glossed over. FOUR members of the team were going to deal with the “walker” – she shouldn’t have wasted a bullet, potentially drawing attention and signaling additional walkers. And that’s not even addressing the fact that she frigin shot Daryl! Andrea wanted to show off her skills as an amateur sniper without any regard to the consequences. You can bet that if this happened in Hershel’s group a severe bitch slap or a time out in the zombie barn would take place. I think it’s pretty evident that Rick isn’t the leader because I can’t imagine him laying the smackdown on Andrea. He’s been given the role for whatever reason, but Shane calls it – Rick isn’t cut out for the hard decisions that a leader in this environment has to make. However, this hopefully sets up some really nice conflicts within the group as the struggle for team leader unfolds.
I’m also scared that Daryl is going to revert back to his one dimensional, season one days. In the quest for Sophia he’s quickly emerged as one of the most interesting characters – and that’s not just because he’s temporarily one of the “good guys.” Through this season’s arc, Daryl has organically (read: believably) shown how multi-faceted and emotionally resonant he can be. The Merle hallucination represents the deeply ingrained values Daryl grew up with, which understandably can’t just be washed away in a couple of weeks. But I hope going forward Daryl continues to struggle with how everything isn’t necessarily as black and white as his subconscious presents. That‘s far more interesting television. Plus, it could mean some more ear necklaces.
What do you think Walking Dead fans? Are you happy with the way characters are evolving/de-evolving? Do you think Sophia is dunzo or is there a chance for her? Do you think we’ll get more background on how Casa de Hershel became such a smooth running operation? And what of the motivations behind zombie farm? Remember, don’t pull a Cinephilactic and reveal a SPOILER (“presumptuous” my ass, Cinephilactic – let’s hope the show decides to make the zombie farm something other than what you suggested earlier) based on the original source material. Let’s keep it clean and spoiler free.