‘The Walking Dead’ finds ‘Better Angels’

In its next-to-last episode of its second season, “The Walking Dead” continued to thin the ranks of survivors of the zombie apocalypse and demonstrate to viewers that no one is safe in this new world.

Some spoilers ahead (not the finale of this episode however, if you haven’t yet seen it).

After last week’s shocking demise of Dale, the group’s conscience, Rick speaks at his funeral and maintains that the group — which Dale had agreed was “broken” — can be repaired.

And for a while, it looks like the group will become a cohesive unit again. The survivors begin making preparations to settle into Hershel’s farm and defend it against either walkers or human interlopers, including those in hapless Randall’s group.

Ah, Randall. Rick still insists on taking the subject of so much recent disagreement miles away from the farm and setting him free. The decision infuriates Shane, of course, who’s been inclined to kill Randall outright.

The stage is set for a fatal conflict when Randall “escapes.” Rick and Shane and Glenn and Daryl set off into the woods to find him.

Randall hasn’t escaped, of course. Shane has taken him into the woods and killed him with the intent of luring Rick out into the wilderness to kill him too, paving the way for once again setting up housekeeping with Lori and Carl.

The last third of the episode, as Glenn and Daryl pick their way through the woods — with Daryl becoming more suspicious of Shane’s story as they go — and Rick and Shane inexorably moving toward a fatal encounter is among the best sequences of this season.

The woods and, ultimately, the meadow in which the showdown occurs are bathed in eerie blue moonlight that makes the inevitable blood seem black as night.

Spoilers for the ending of the episode have been circulating for a few days now. For people who’ve been following news of the show and its actors, the ending probably isn’t a surprise.

The previews for next week’s season finale looked in some ways as low-voltage and small in scope as the entire season has been. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to it.

And I’m really looking forward to next season and new horizons and new characters.

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