Winter is coming. (Oops, wrong show.) But there is a definite chill in the air in “Better Angels,” Episode 12 of “The Walking Dead” Season 2. You can tell by the sudden appearance of scarves and jackets on the survivors camped out on the farm. It’s obvious in their rush to secure the property with newfound purpose. And if you want to get metaphorical, there is the decided loss of warmth and compassion within the group since moral compass Dale was gutted by a walker last week.
And so Episode 12 opens with scenes of survival: Of Shane, Andrea, T-Dog and Daryl descending on a pack of walkers with surprising violence — even for a show that regularly shoves blunt objects into the skulls of the formerly living — interspersed with lines from Rick’s eulogy to Dale. “He said our group was broken,” Rick says as he and his fellow survivors are standing over Dale’s grave. “The best way to honor him is to unbreak it.” My, what lovely foreshadowing you offer, Rick!
The hour focuses on the group’s efforts to move from their makeshift camp in the barnyard into the farmhouse — at the insistence of Hershel, who continues to seek redemption. Rick, playing Leader Rick with full confidence, directs everyone in where they will build lookouts and stock supplies. Shane balks, particularly when the issue of the outsider/prisoner, Randall, who remains locked up in the barn, is brought up. Rick says they’ll secure the house, then cut Randall free.
“So we’re back to that now?” Shane asks.
Rick says that was the original plan, that it was just poorly executed.
“That’s an understatement,” says Shane. It’s funny, you see, because he wanted to kill Randall. ... OK, yeah. You get it. But it’s also a pivotal exchange, once again setting up the Rick/Shane dichotomy.
Later, Rick asks Andrea to keep things in check while he and Daryl take Randall off the farm. Andrea realizes he’s asking her to “babysit” Shane because he doesn’t want “all hell to break loose” when he leaves the farm. Andrea, still a card-carrying member of Team Shane (even after voicing concern over killing Randall), agrees.
Meanwhile, Carl finds his way over to Shane. Carl’s got a secret he wants to tell, but wants Shane to promise he won’t tell Rick and Lori. Shane says that’s not a good idea. Carl pouts and begins to walk away, and Shane, offering a rare glimpse of compassion, calls Carl back so the kid can get everything off his chest. Carl hands Shane the gun he stole from Daryl. Kicking the dirt, averting Shane’s glance, Carl relays the story of finding a walker stuck in the mud and taunting it. Shane guesses it was the walker that killed Dale, which, of course, is correct.
Shane tells Carl to keep the gun. You need to hold onto this to protect yourself, Shane says. (Another tasty foreshadowing morsel!) Carl turns and runs away, yelling that he’s never going to touch another gun, ever.
With an SUV full of lumber, Shane heads over to the windmill to build that lookout post. Lori comes over for a heart-to-heart.
“After Sofia, I thought, ‘We’ll figure this out. We’ll heal somehow,’” Lori says. “After Dale — this is real. And we can’t keep it at bay. It’s already got us and it just keeps coming.”
Shane looks over with that stupid Shane look on his face, saying nothing.
“I made a mess of things,” Lori confesses. “I put you and Rick at odds. I don’t even know whose baby this is. I can’t imagine how hard that is on you. You led us out of Atlanta with no thought for yourself. You remember that night? The flames? And I’m sitting in your car thinking we’re gonna be all right, he’s gonna make it all right, and I never thanked you for that. Even though things got confused between us, you were there for me. Thank you.”
Shane steps closer, tentatively, tenderly. He says she doesn’t need to thank him. Lori says of course she does.
“Whatever happened between us,” Lori says, “I’m sorry, Shane. Please believe me. I am so sorry.”
That stupid Shane look turns into a look of pain, like Lori just kicked him in the nuts. Did he think she was trying to say she was choosing Shane over Rick? Boy, is that the total opposite of how she left the conversation.
Back at the house, Rick and Daryl continue to make plans. Shane drives up and Daryl smartly excuses himself. Shane reveals Carl’s secret, and when Rick seems too preoccupied with cutting Randall free, Shane snaps on his friend (former friend). Shane insists Rick talk to Carl; Rick thinks Shane’s just trying to get Randall to himself so he can kill the outsider. When Shane pulls out the gun Carl stole, things are put into perspective for Rick. Yeah, he’s gotta have a chat with Carl.
Rick finds Carl hanging out in one of the barns, where the little guy is “keeping lookout.” Rick pulls out Daryl’s gun and insists Carl keep it. (Hey, wait a second — doesn’t Daryl get a say in who gets his gun?) Rick lays some heavy stuff out on his little boy — basically, that he can’t protect his son from death and other horrible things — and says “no more kids stuff.” Carl takes the gun.
Now all of this time, Randall, in one of the barns, has been trying to escape his handcuffs. We see him struggling; then the door opens, and we see a pair of boots. It’s Shane, and it really looks like he’s going to kill the outsider this time. Shane sits in front of Randall, who is blindfolded and probably peed himself in fear at this point. Shane looks angry, menacing, contemplative … and then he starts slapping himself. He puts the gun to Randall’s head and sees that Randall had been struggling to escape. He throws the guy against the wall and breathes heavy, contemplating. …
Cut to Rick, Daryl and T-Dog, who are ready to take Randall off the farm and set him free. But Randall isn’t there. He’s escaped!
Except Randall hasn’t escaped. As we see through the outsider’s point of view, Shane is dragging him through the woods. Shane takes off the cuffs, blindfold and gag and demands to know where Randall’s group is. Randall reluctantly tells him that they set up camp on the highway, about five miles away. Shane says he’s done with the barn and wants to join the outsiders. Randall perks up and starts talking about the great group of tough guys he’s in with, and how Shane will fit in well, which sounds like all the bad things everyone thought about Randall were true. Shane walks him behind a tree, and SNAP! Then silence. Woah. Shane killed Randall.
That stupid Shane look returns, and he runs face-first into a tree. He rolls to the ground, obviously in pain. It looks like his nose, all bloody, is broken.
Back at the farm, the group is freaking out over the disappearance of Randall. Shane watches from the tree line, throws dirt over himself, and then screams, “RICK! RICK!”
Shane fabricates a story, saying Randall snuck up on him, knocked him out, and took his gun. Rick rallies the men into a search party. Why can’t they just leave Randall go, Carol wonders. They were going to set him free anyway.
“Not in our backyard,” Rick says.
It’s night as Rick, Shane, Daryl and Glenn head into the woods in search of Randall. Rick and Shane set off together in a tense partnership. Daryl doesn’t seem to believe Shane’s story. With Glenn, he heads back to where they started and picks up the trail of two sets of footprints. He deducts that Shane and Randall were walking in tandem, disproving Shane’s story. Then Daryl sees blood on the tree where Shane tried to knock himself out. Then he sees an area where there was a “dustup.” Where Randall’s dead body should be.
They hear a noise, and see a walker coming toward them. There is a struggle, with Glenn ultimately putting a dagger through Zombie Randall’s skull. Daryl discovers that Randall’s neck had been broken. But there are no bites. How did he turn into a walker?
Meanwhile, rather than looking for Randall, Shane seems determined to be walking Rick far away from everyone else. When they arrive in a field, Rick holsters his gun.
“So this is where you planned to do it,” he says, turning to face Shane.
“It’s as good a place as any,” Shane says.
“Just call this what it is,” Rick replies. “Murder. You really think you walk back there alone they’re gonna buy whatever bullshit story you cook up?”
Shane thinks so. Rick wants to know why now. Shane remind him of their previous almost-killed-each-other scuffle.
“Kill me in cold blood? Screw my wife? Have my children call you Daddy?” Rick spits. “I know you won’t be able to live with this.”
Shane asks what Rick knows about what he can live with. He baits Rick, trying to get him to pull his gun. Rick refuses.
Shane says he thought Rick wasn’t the good guy anymore. “Even right now,” he says to Rick, “you’re not gonna fight for them? I’m a better father than you, Rick. I’m better for Lori than you, man. I’m a better man than you, Rick. I fight for it. But you come back here and just destroy everything. You got a broken woman, got a weak boy, and ain’t got a clue how to fix it.” Shane draws and demands Rick raise his gun.
“You’re gonna have to kill an unarmed man,” Rick says. He reaches for his gun and holds it toward Shane, butt out. He tries to talk sense into Shane, saying they can forget this incident and walk back to the farm together. He walks closer to Shane. Shane, with those crazy eyes of his, is still pointing his gun at Rick. Rick is now standing directly in front of Shane. He slowly reaches behind him and … pulls out a knife and stabs it into Shane’s chest. At the same time, a gun goes off.
Who has been hurt? We see the silhouette of two mean holding each other up in the moonlight. Shane falls to the ground, blood bubbling out of this mouth. Rick is on top of him, screaming.
“Damn you for making me do this, Shane,” Rick yells, hysterical. “This is you! Not me! You did this to us! This was you, not me!”
Rick pulls out the knife. Shane is dying … dying … dead. Rick weeps over the body of his friend. And the screen goes black.
There is a flash of zombie teeth and eyes and teeth. The camera lands on Shane’s face. He remains motionless.
Rick is standing over the body of his friend, lost.
There is another flash of monster awesomeness, and then another flash back to the dead Shane.
Rick still stands there, crying.
More flashes of terrifying walker parts, then back to Shane. Why? Because …
“Dad?” Carl has walked onto the scene.
Rick is crying. “Carl,” he says. “You know you should be back home with Momma.”
Carl pulls his gun.
Why? Because HOLY CRAP, ZOMBIE SHANE IS SHUFFLING OVER FOR RICK BRAINS.
“Please,” pleads Rick, who has his back turned to Zombie Shane. “It’s not what it seems.”
Carl still has his gun raised. He shoots. He kills Zombie Shane.
The camera cuts to a hoard of walkers in the woods. Did they hear the gunshot? They must be so close. …
Back in the field, stunned father and son try to take in everything that just happened. Carl starts to move toward the body of Shane when Rick tells him to wait. What is this new menace? How can a person become a walker without getting bit?
Rick stoops over the body to get a closer look. But we’ll have to wait for next week’s season finale to find out what he saw.