Summary: Glenn tells everyone about the walkers in the barn and everyone is upset, especially Shane. Rick tries to make peace with Hershel so that his people can stay on the farm. Dale tries to hide the guns from Shane but Shane tracks him down and finds them. Rick helps Hershel bring more walkers to the barn. Shane sees this and freaks out. He arms up everybody and they slaughter all of the walkers in the barn to Hershel and Rick's dismay. Sophia is revealed to have been a walker in the barn the entire time and Rick kills her.
The Good: This was an excellent mid-season finale. The story felt really important here and the scenes had a real sense of urgency to them, unlike all of the previous episodes this season which have felt lackadaisical and almost meaningless at times. This episode picked everything up and the whole episode had a much better flow overall.
I've been critical of this show's dependence on one on one conversations this season as I felt they have been too jarring and pretty poor for character development. Thankfully, this episode actually started with everyone together and ended with everyone together, giving the scenes a greater sense of importance due to the change of format from earlier. Furthermore, every conversation had a sense of purpose and felt significant to the story. Rick and Hershel hit a breaking point in the relationship between the two groups so they are forced to settles their differences. Shane and Dale have a tense confrontation to play off of their distaste for each other. Shane and Lori get to discuss the possibility of the baby being Shane's. All of these scenes had a purpose to them and they were also longer scenes, making them fit into the episode much more organically than previous conversation scenes. This change has helped the show a lot and I really hope that these one on one conversations are used more sparingly later in the show.
This episode was outstanding for Shane's character. He has a fascinating role in the series as his morals directly oppose the protagonists, yet he isn't treated as a villain, more like a rival. It's been fascinating to see Shane slowly get darker as the series goes on, becoming more willing to make the hard decisions to help the group. What I like most about this development is how Shane is actually proven right by the end of the episode. The walkers are dead and dangerous, even Hershel must agree to that now. Sophia was gone and it was a waste to spend so much time looking for her. By proving Shane right, it seems that the next half of the season may explore Rick being forced to accept Shane's way of doing things a little more as it does seem necessary for survival.
The most important part in keeping Shane relatable to us is that we understand why he does everything. And we do get to see that which is very fascinating. We see him getting frustrated by a number of things, so that final ten minute sequence becomes the moment where Shane finally snaps under the pressure. He has had to put up with being hated by Lori and Dale who actively try to stop him, he has to endure Rick making the wrong decisions and now he has to endure Hershel endangering all of the camp. It's frustrating for Shane, so when he sees Rick and Hershel bringing in more walkers to put in the barn, he snaps, leading into a tense and terrific final sequence where he finally gets to make his point (see: Best Moment).
As far as specific scenes go, I really enjoyed Dale and Shane's confrontation. It was subtly tense and scary as Shane looked more unhinged and dangerous as ever, and with no witnesses around, you could never be sure about what happens to Dale. But the scene takes off with its great thematic exploration as it looks at the idea of how valuable your humanity really is in a post-apocalyptic world which is a concept I would love to see explored in greater detail.
The Bad: A few scenes stood out as not that great, but nothing here was awful. I wasn't a fan of Daryl and Carol's scenes as their relationship seems to have evolved a bit too abruptly for my liking. I also didn't like Glenn and Maggie's scenes as their relationship has evolved in such a ridiculous and unrealistic way. I was also confused by Glenn's explanation about forgetting how dangerous the walkers are which didn't make sense for his character at all.
The Unknown: Did Hershel know Sophia was in the barn the entire time? Surely he would have known. Why did he keep it secret from the group?
Will Hershel kick the group off the farm in the mid-season premiere? I doubt that he will want to keep them around after what just happened.
Best Moment: Those final ten minutes were truly fantastic. As slow as this season has been, it has been trying to tell a story the whole time. The final sequence brought every storyline together and paid it off in such a brilliant way. We got Shane's descent into losing his humanity hit a major point, we had closure on Hershel's argument that walkers are human and we also got to find out what happened to Sophia in a great twist that I wasn't expecting. The scene was a great catharsis and a terrific way to end the season, by closing out every major storyline from the farm which has been stretched out so long.
Character of the Episode: Shane. This was his episode all the way through.
Conclusion: This was an awesome mid-season finale which was the best episode of the show since its pilot. There was a lot of pay-off here and it nearly makes up for the weaker episodes which preceded this one.
As for this half-season, I thought it was disappointing for the most part, especially after such a strong first season. The middle section was stretched out and weak, and the entire run could have likely been condensed into 4 or 5 episodes. However the start and ending were very good and it reminded me that this show has the potential to be something special. Hopefully the next six episodes of the season live up to the potential.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.