Better Angels (The Walking Dead)

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"Better Angels"
The Walking Dead episode
TWD, Episode 212, Last Stand of Shane.jpg
Carl aims his gun at a zombified Shane, who slowly walks towards Rick.
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 12
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Evan Reilly
Glen Mazzara
Original air date March 11, 2012 (2012-03-11)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Judge, Jury, Executioner"
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The Walking Dead (season 2)
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"Better Angels" is the twelfth episode of the second season and 18th episode overall of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead, which aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on 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".[1]


Dale Horvath's (Jeffrey DeMunn) death has profoundly impacted the group cohesion. Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) shows great hospitality - lengthening the group's stay for the approaching winter. Rick Grimes (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 Dixon (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 Grimes (Chandler Riggs) discloses his role in the events surrounding Dale's death. Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) is left speechless after Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) 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 gun. 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 assassination ploy. Shane drops his facade before drawing his gun on Rick. Rick refuses to engage Shane, daring him to assassinate an unarmed man. Rick negotiates with Shane in order to get close to him and stab him in the chest 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.


Jon Bernthal made his final regular appearance in this episode after his character is killed by Rick and Carl

"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.[2] 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."[2] 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.[3] "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."[3] 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.”[3]

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, which later became known as Mob City.[4]


Critical response[edit]

Zack Handlen writing for The A.V. Club rated the episode A- on an A to F scale.[5] Eric Goldman at IGN gave the episode 8.5 out of 10.[6]


Upon its initial broadcast on March 11, 2012, "Better Angels" was watched by estimated 6.89 million viewers,[7] up slightly from the previous episode.[8]


  1. ^ Sacks, Ethan. "'The Walking Dead' creator Robert Kirkman explains deaths of major characters serves purpose -- and leads to more dying". NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Goldberg, Lesley (March 11, 2012). "'The Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman Dishes on 'Monumental Event'". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Ross, Dalton (March 11, 2012). "Jon Bernthal (a.k.a. Shane) talks about the latest 'Walking Dead' shocker -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Time, Inc. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  4. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 22, 2012). "TNT eyes Jon Bernthal for 'Noir' pilot". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ Handlen, Zack (March 11, 2012). "Better Angels". The A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  6. ^ Goldman, Eric (March 11, 2012). "The Walking Dead: "Better Angels" Review". IGN. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (March 13, 2012). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead' Dominates, 'Oprah's Next Chapter' Sees Series High". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  8. ^ Bibel, Sara (March 6, 2012). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead,' 'Storage Wars,' 'Army Wives,' 'Real Housewives' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 6, 2012. 

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