The Walking Dead has been picking up in the second half of its second season; we had to suffer through terrible moments of expositional dialogue throughout the first half as the survivors regrouped at Hershel's farmhouse, but now that Herschel has made the inexplicable decision to leave his farm to go have a drink in town at the bar, things have been changing for the better. Perhaps Hershel also felt there was too little action going on.
In "Triggerfinger", we actually find out what happens to Lori now that she's gone and wrecked the car while peering at a map in a scene that sort of parallels Family Guy's Peter driving down the road while reading a comic book. I still have a problem with Lori's reckless behavior, and that doesn't really change in this episode either. Honestly, everyone is making so really poor decisions right now: Shane sets out alone to find Lori, meaning we now have three search parties out and about; Rick decides that, hey, maybe I should actually talk to guys with guns that have come looking for their partners that he's just killed; Glenn blames Maggie for his own weaknesses during a vicious gunfight; and Andrea is still as moody as ever.
There's a lot of bickering in "Triggerfinger"; I'm never sure whether that is the drama of the show kicking in, or if it's just that The Walking Dead is really good at keeping the plot stuck in the same area for far too long. At least this episode's infighting actually occurs with some cool action sequences, and this time Rick's violence is directed at humans rather than walkers.
Still, there are a number of instances that feel like the characters just want to fight about something. I don't understand Glenn's feeling of selfishness during the shootout; sure, he hides, but bullets are directed his way, and Rick did force him to be a bullet bulls-eye, asking him to run out of the bar as a decoy to get to the car. It's not his fault that he wants to protect himself; his selfishness is the same selfishness that Rick feels protecting himself so that he can come back home to Lori and Carl.
And what of the really strange situation where Rick and Hershel attempt to cut off newcomer Randall's (Michael Zegen) leg? Surrounded by zombies, Hershel at first believes he'll be able to saw through bone with a simple blade with enough time to spare to get back to the car. Thankfully, this doesn't occur - if it had, I might have shut the show off right there - but the whole thing didn't really make sense to me.
"18 Miles Out" brings things into focus again, though. Writers Scott Gimple and Glen Mazzara have apparently been paying attention to the details, because not only do they force a lot of important conversations along, they also make sure to bring up certain events that have occurred that probably shouldn't have. Rick brings up the fact that, hey, we really shouldn't be shooting these walkers anymore because we kind of decided early in the show that this draws attention to us and it might be safer to use knives. Finally some common sense!
Plus, this episode really starts to bring the survivors together again, or at least allows them to fight out their frustrations. There's been a lot of bickering without much resolution; however, now that Rick and Shane have to go outside of the farm together to drop off Randall, it gives them time to discuss a couple of things: namely Shane's love Lori, but also the fact that he sacrificed someone for himself back at the school.
The same goes for Lori and Andrea - they have it out discussing suicide and whether Maggie's sister should be allowed to make her own choice. Andrea's my least favorite of the group by a long shot, but "18 Miles Out" actually gives her something useful to crow about; I found myself torn between both of their stances on suicide in a world infested with walkers, and I think that's the point. It also brings The Walking Dead back to its original themes that began in the beginning of the series, which I liked a lot more before things took a turn for the worse in season two.
And then there's the awesome battle between the walkers and Rick, Shane, and Randall. It was about time we got some tense action, and I can't think of a more suspenseful moment than when Rick has three walkers crawling on him, trying to bite him before he blows their heads off with a well-aimed shot in the mouth. Nor does the show skimp on violence this episode; there are a number of stabbings that look super grotesque. This is why I tune into The Walking Dead: for human drama paired with smart zombie action, not just the former.
Things are getting progressively better, and I must admit "18 Miles Out" is a huge leap from the other episodes. Now, I'm really starting to care about these characters again; I like how Rick takes a stand against Shane, calling him out. There's also that moment when he forces Shane to feel like he's been abandoned, strengthening the fact that Rick has all the control over the situation. This drama makes sense, and the power struggle will most likely continue but with new avenues to explore.