Better Angels (The Walking Dead)
|The Walking Dead episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Guy Ferland|
|Written by||Evan Reilly
|Original air date||March 11, 2012|
Following the death of Dale Horvath in the previous episode, this episode presents a shift in attitudes amongst the group members. This episode features the death of Shane Walsh (played by Jon Bernthal). This episode explores the depths of Shane's antagonistic behavior culminating in his murder of Randall (played by Michael Zegen) and ultimately a fatal confrontation with Rick where he meets his own untimely demise.
Dale's death also influences the character development of Carl Grimes who has shown increased maturity in confronting the reality of the death of people close to him and the consequences of his actions. This mental growth is displayed when he properly uses his gun to dispatch a zombified Shane and save his father's life.
As creator Robert Kirkman describes: "That scene right there, Carl would never have had the strength to pull the trigger and save his father from Shane zombie if he hadn’t had that ordeal with Dale and felt responsible for killing Dale because he wasn’t able to shoot that zombie".
Dale's (Jeffrey DeMunn) death has profoundly impacted the group cohesion. Hershel (Scott Wilson) shows great hospitality - lengthening the group's stay for the approaching winter. Rick (Andrew Lincoln), reflecting back on Dale's last words that the group is "broken," abandons Randall's (Michael Zegen) execution and plans to release the boy. Daryl (Norman Reedus) asserts his status as an important member of the group. The survivors begin gathering supplies, clearing the property of nearby walkers, and fixing up Dale's RV to prepare for the upcoming winter. Given the current conditions with the swamp drying up and a large amount of cattle on the property, there's an increased risk of more walkers appearing.
A guilt-ridden Carl (Chandler Riggs) discloses his role in the events surrounding Dale's death. Shane is left speechless after Lori expresses all of her feelings to Shane, including uncertainty, regret, and appreciation toward her former lover in an attempt to keep him stationed with the group.
While Rick is consoling Carl, Shane sneaks into Randall's holding cell in the barn without anyone's knowledge. Shane fights with himself to avoid shooting Randall right there in the barn. Instead, Shane murders Randall in the woods outside camp by breaking his neck. Shane then intentionally smashes his own face onto a tree and hides his weapon. He returns just as the camp is alerted to Randall's disappearance from the barn.
Shane fabricates a story that Randall had escaped from his shackles, assaulted him, and stolen his weapon; providing his self-inflicted injury as proof. Fearing an armed Randall on the loose, Rick, Shane, Daryl, and Glenn go on a manhunt for the fugitive while the rest of the group gathers in the safety of the house. Shane leads Rick one direction while Daryl and Glenn comb another part of the woods. Glenn and Daryl find and kill Randall who has inexplicably reanimated from the dead as a walker. Examining the body, Daryl observes no visible bite marks on Randall, citing a broken neck as the cause of death. As they set off to regroup, both of them express confusion on how Randall became a walker.
Elsewhere, Shane suspiciously leads Rick further away from the woods, but Rick uncovers Shane's murderous ploy. Shane drops his facade before drawing his gun on Rick. Rick refuses to engage Shane, daring him to kill an unarmed man. Rick negotiates with Shane in order to get close to him and stab him when he lowers his guard.
Rick grieves his best friend, cursing and blaming Shane for forcing Rick's hand, as Shane dies in front of him, gurgling incoherent words before passing. Rick spends an unknown amount of time waiting with Shane's body. Carl arrives on scene unexpectedly and initially appears to be aiming his gun at his father for killing Shane. Rick protests that it is not what it looks like, but Carl fires, right past his father and into the head of Shane's looming, reanimated corpse. Unbeknownst to them, Carl's gunshot has attracted the attention of a horde of walkers in the nearby woods that start to advance on their location.
"Better Angels" was directed by Guy Ferland and written by Evan Reilly and showrunner Glen Mazzara. The episode features the death of Shane Walsh, who was stabbed in the chest by Rick Grimes. Subsequently, Shane reanimates into a zombie and is later shot in the head by Carl Grimes. Initial talks of killing off the character commenced before the auditioning process of the series. Because of the short length of the first season of The Walking Dead, producers decided to retain the idea until the following season. Writer Robert Kirkman remarked: "We knew from Day 1 when we sat down in the writers' room to pull out the second season that this was going to be the season that Shane died. It was always about working toward that and building up that character and setting up this confrontation between Rick and Shane." Jon Bernthal admitted that he had no coaching prior to the scene, and said that many of the writers and cast members were divided on how to execute the sequence. "There was a lot of discussion going back and forth, a lot of arguing going back and forth on what that last scene actually should be — between myself and Andy and the writers. And everybody kind of got their own little say in what that last scene actually was." In his interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bernthal recalled the production of the scene:
We shot that scene all night long. And the entire cast came out and spent the entire night out on that field to be there for the last scene, and Jeff DeMunn [...] actually had been gone. He lives on a farm in upstate New York, and he had flown down and surprised me to be there for my last scene, which just touched me. And like I said, there was a lot of feeling about the last scene. The writers wanted it to be one way, the actors wanted it one way, the producers wanted it to be another way, I think everybody just sort of had their idea of what that scene should be, and it was just Andy and I in the woods walking out together, and Andy and I turned to each other and said, "You know what, man, this is you and me. Let's do this for you and me.”
Speculation related to Bernthal's release first surfaced in January 2012, when it was announced that he was negotiating with Frank Darabont to be a part of his upcoming television project L.A. Noir.
In a 2014 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Robert Kirkman revealed that he regrets revealing that everyone in the new world is infected too soon, saying "If I had to do it again, I wouldn't have done the CDC episode [at the end of season one]. It possibly gave away too much information and was such a big change very early on in the series."
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