It had been a while since there was ever a real sense of danger in The Walking Dead, but the first half of "Triggerfinger," a gigantic improvement over what's come before it in Season 2, put several of our survivors right in the heart of the *cue Sterling Archer voice* daaaaanger zone. Let's face it, as much as the show wants to be about the psychological strains of survival in a world that's gone to shit, we as an audience thrive on the feeling of danger and that sense of "oh my gawd everyone is going to diiiiie!!!" And that sense of danger amplifies what the writers are trying to say: that things are different now.
You can put everyone on a farm talking about danger for a few episodes, or you can throw them into danger, let their actions speak for themselves, and have them discuss their cracking states of mind while the blood is still wet. Each and every time, the latter will be more effective. "Triggerfinger" did just that, and is the model episode for what will make the The Walking Dead work and scare our skirts off. Even the name of the title of this episode got it right. Where's the sense of danger in "Nebraska?"
Obviously The Walking Dead can't do this each episode. When surviving a world in which the dead rise to eat the living, it's recommended that you find yourself a nice, safe spot and stay there. And that's what Rick and his friends did with Hershel's farm. But where The Walking Dead made its mistakes was in not bringing any danger to them. While staying at Hershel's B&B;, the survivors were closer to starting a composting program or adding a new addition to the house than they were to being eaten by the undead. That's just not good television for a series that bills itself as an unending nightmare.
So let's all stand up and applaud Lori fighting zombies in the street and Rick, Hershel, and #Glennsanity (copyrighted) pinned down in a bar battling both live and unlive threats. Because admit it, that's why you really tune in. We might think we're above appreciating The Walking Dead based on the amount of times we pull the covers up to our eyes, the number of zombies that are punctured by pickaxes, or how many mouths are eaten off of someone's face, but I'm done kidding myself. When I look back on my fondest memories of the show, it's not when Dale tells Lori that Shane's dangerous, it's when Daryl puts an arrow through a walker's skull and says, "Shut up" or a wave of zombies are shambling by while Rick and crew are within spitting distance of them hiding under cars.
Having said that, the talky-talky parts in the episode were really good because they were more than simple commentary about the world no longer being a fun place to live. Shane let slip that Lori was pregnant. Story advanced! Stubborn Carol refused to let Daryl project anger about Sophia because of his own guilt. Character development! (Loved Carol in this episode, by the way.) Andrea and Shane's us-against-the-world talk aired things out and addressed Shane's anger issues exactly how we all wanted them to be addressed: straight-forward and with reason. Shane, you're right, but stop being a dick about it. Even when Glenn admitted that he froze to Maggie because he loves her it explained some solid internal character conflict. Heck, Rick and Lori even felt like a couple for once.
I'm normally of the mind that television shows don't owe anything to their audience except for some rare cases (Lost owed answers, True Blood owes skin). The Walking Dead is one of those rare cases, and each episode ought to scare us and put threats face-to-face with the characters. "Triggerfinger" showed that The Walking Dead can be the series it wants to be AND we want it to be. Best episode of Season 2 so far.
A Few Awesome Things
Rick Gets A Leg Up
Thank you, Rick Grimes, for doing what we were all thinking. I realize the noble thing to do when a victim is trapped with immobility due to an appendage impaled on a spike or crushed under under a rock is to cut that darned thing off, but that wasn't going to work in this situation. But zombies were-a-comin'! So what does Rick do? He just yanks Randall's leg off the spike *rrrrrripp* because it was the right thing to do. I like to think I would have done the same thing, but I probably would have steered the zombies to him for a free snack and used the extra time bought to escape.
Lori Street Fights
Lori stumbled into my good graces momentarily with her post-car crash street brawl with those two lame-brains. How about that down on the D-pad, middle-kick button leg sweep she did? Not sure I would have gone with struggling to get a gun to kill the second zombie, I think I would have finished him off with the hub cap. Get my hands dirty! No sense in drawing more attention with a gunshot. There were two walkers there, there could have been a lot more nearby. Think, people!
What to Do With Randall?
So you killed two guys from Philly, and now you saved one of their friends. Randall's people didn't care enough to wait for him when the Zs hit the fan, so are they going to bother trying to look for him now? For all they know, the zombies are picking bits of him out of their teeth, so I don't think hanging onto Randall is as big of a threat as they think. I'm surprised no one in the survivors camp even thought of recruiting him to their side. Everyone seems bent on pushing him out into the wilderness alone with a bottle of Yoohoo and some stale bread with a card that says, "Good Luck." What would you do with him?
The Totally GIF-able Moment When a Zombie Had His Mouth Peeled Back By a Shattered Windshield
That. Was. So. Cool.
Some people are better at the whole surviving thing than others. I'm going to hand out episode MVPs to the person who best acts in the spirit of staying alive on both a personal level and a group level. Today the award goes to Rick Grimes, for his excellent leadership skills in the bar and yanking Randall's leg off the gate. His only questionable decision was telling the guys from Philly what had happened in the bar, but I understand why he did it. Congratulations, Rick! I'm sure you'll be getting a few of these over the course of the series. Maybe you can share one with Lori, because there's no way she'll win one. Who would you give the MVP to?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom