Monday, 21 November 2011

The Walking Dead: Chupacabra (spoilers)

After the disappointing Cherokee Rose I should probably have been a little more cautious about watching Chupacabra straight after but the fact that Merle Dixon was making a comeback meant that I wasn’t going to put off watching this episode any longer.

PLOT:  The episode opens with a flashback in which Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) meet up with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Sophia (Madison Lintz).  We see helicopters “napalm” a city and I find myself shouting “Oh the horror! The horror!” at the shockingly bad usage of green screen. 
Mary-Sue sets off on the hunt for the McGuffin. Daryl (Norman Reedus) sets off on a horse (which leads to many inside joke sniggers) in another attempt to find Sophia.  The horse (Nervous Nellie) gets spooked by a snake and Daryl falls down a cliff.  Daryl climbs up the cliff and promptly falls straight back down again. As a result of Daryl’s concussion Merle (Michael Rooker) makes a cameo in several motivational hallucinations.  Back on the farm Hershel (Scott Wilson) is unhappy that Carol and Lori are cooking his spuds in his kitchen and once again emphasises that clear boundaries need to be set with these people.  Daryl finally manages to successfully mountaineer the cliff and heads back to camp only to be shot by Andrea (Laurie Holden) who believes that shouts of “no” and “don’t shoot” give her adequate cause to go on ahead and open fire.  After the awkward dinner party in which Hershel is a complete kill joy Glenn (Steven Yeun) arranges to meet Maggie (Lauren Coha) in the barn for dessert and much to his wide eyed surprise he finds the barn to be full of Walkers (none of whom look anything like Sophia) END PLOT

Sophia’s doll has been located so the plot progress people have been crying out for has been made.  We now appear to be collecting bits and pieces of Sophia up and down the river and this will be perfectly fine provided that it leads to something whether it be Walker Sophia or not.  There has to be a big reveal at the end of this arc otherwise it will create an anticlimax that I don’t know if the season will recover from.

As the pacing of The Walking Dead moves slower than the Bicycle Walker it does rely heavily on character development to flesh out the episodes.

Shane and Rick had some important scenes together in the forest which is large enough to lose a child for days at a time but also small enough that they end up wandering into Andrea and T-Dog’s (Irone Singleton) patch. 

Their conversation starts off light hearted and helps to remind us that these two are best friends.  It does take a more sinister turn as Shane announces that he wants to stop the search for Sophia.  We get a clear glimpse of their contrasting survival outlooks as Shane is prepared to cut his losses with Sophia and move on whereas Rick is still the optimist.  At this stage both characters make very valid arguments but as Shane already has attempted rape, murder and a penchant for having more buttons open on his shirt than necessary on his résumé his view point will always be considered the dark side.

The Walking Dead characters are familiar to those of us who have read the graphic novel but Daryl Dixon is not in the comic.  This means that whenever we get Dixon heavy episodes such as Chupacabra or Vatos these are the ones that deviate the most from the source material.

After the non-event that was Cherokee Rose I welcomed the Daryl episode with open arms as it meant that we actually get to spend time with a character which will actually get up and do something.

Norman Reedus is managing to keep Daryl grounded and from becoming too damn cool for his own good.  His comic timing with Daryl’s sarcastic one liners cannot be faulted.  The Chupacabra joke ran through the entire episode emphasising the impact Daryl has made on the group.  As The Walking Dead stands at the minute – you remove Daryl and you have a gaping hole.

Daryl’s mini adventure meant that we got a decent amount of screen time with the fan favourite.   I am ignoring the fact that the skilled hunter/tracker fell down twice, stabbed himself with his own arrow, was delirious enough to make an ear necklace and hungry enough to eat raw squirrel all in the space of half an afternoon.  Even Daryl can have a bad day!

It was only a matter of time before Michael Rooker came back and I think it was a good idea to test the water with Merle in the form of a flashback just to see how viewers would react.  I was very excited as it was the first time we got to see Merle and Daryl interact and it did give us a good insight into Daryl’s upbringing and their brotherly relationship.

We can probably expect to see Merle back in season three and it will more than likely be during the Governor arc. If Rooker’s short cameo is anything to go by we are in for a treat when he returns full time. 

Continuing on from last week Carol and Daryl’s relationship is still growing and is developing at a very natural pace.  The little Ed cameo at the start of the episode reminds us of Carol’s abusive marriage and will contrast nicely with her growing relationship with Daryl.  Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus are doing a great job – their little moment in the bedroom with Daryl flinching when Carol leaned in to kiss him on the forehead was subtle but it spoke volumes.  To hell with Rick/Lori, Glenn/Maggie and Andrea/Shane this is the couple to watch.

Dale (Jeffrey De Munn) hasn’t had much to do these past few episodes but he is quietly growing into his role as the father figure of the group.  His scenes in this week’s episode – the awkward conversation with Glenn and his moment of comforting Andrea are secondary scenes but they are very much cementing his role within the group. 

I can’t fault Laurie Holden’s performance as Andrea but as with Lori in the opening episodes of season two a decent character is being written poorly.  It has been very hard to like Andrea for the past couple of episodes and the fact that she shot the fan favourite has not done her any favours.  Andrea in the comic was very much the best parts of Maggie and Michonne rolled into one and the sooner she turns into the Andrea we all want to see the better. 

Similarly to the attack on the camp in Vatos the ending of Chupacabra brings us back into the comic with the reveal that the Hershel’s barn is full of Walkers.  I absolutely loved the closing shot of the barn doors straining against the horde of Walkers inside.  I don’t mind that some of the episodes are relatively Walker free but the bulging barn door is a sign that some good action is still to come.   

The pacing of the show means that the midseason finale may well see the Walkers escape the barn and most likely kill off the red shirt Hershel’s and possibly T-Dog.  I have a feeling this will also bring an end to the where is Sophia question. This would lead the way for the group leaving the farm in the early part of the second half of the season although its difficult to gage as my guess was always that they would stumble upon the prison as the final shot of season two.    It is so hard to tell with this show but they couldn’t possibly drag out the stay at Hershel’s right to the end of the season.

Last week Cherokee Rose should have been named Filler Episode.  In the same vein Chupacabra will be forever known as the Daryl Episode.  This is not a bad thing and Chupacabra gets a decent 8.5/10.  It’s obvious that now the midseason finale is quickly approaching we are in for a couple of quieter episodes before the shit really hits the fan.  

Performance of the week: Michael Rooker.
he did a great job of making Merle a complete dick without the aid of racism or crystal-meth.
Annoying character of the week: Andrea
Zombie kill of the week: Daryl *by default*
Daryl line of the week: "That's the third time you have pointed a gun at my head"
Daryl picture of the week:


  1. Enjoyed this episode a lot even though, as you mention, Daryl really kept beating himself up, literally! Michael Rooker is just wonderful as Merle, really can't wait for him to come back, him and Reedus have great chemistry together.

  2. I really liked this one and it is down to Michael Rooker!

    Fingers are well and truly crossed that Rooker will be back sooner rather than later.

    Even though Merle was only in two episodes in season one you forget just how memorable a character he is