‘The Walking Dead’, Ep. 2.05: “Chupacabra” a bit of a mess

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The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 5: “Chupacabra”
Written by David Johnson
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC

Simon Howell:

First, a word on the episode’s title. Thanks to a certain band of Welsh tricksters, I was always under the impression that the word “chupacabra” specifically denoted a mythical bat which drained the blood from goats. Turns out that only refers to the Chilean definition; most other places, it’s though of as a larger creature, hence the reference to a “dog” performing similar functions in Daryl’s possibly shroom-enhanced hallucination. Like the creature of myth, The Walking Dead continues to be a tricky beast that no one can seem to agree on. Sometimes it’s a thrillingly genuine genre piece adapted for a longer format than it’s traditionally accustomed to. Other times, it’s a bit of a mess. This week lands mostly in the latter camp.

More than in perhaps any other episode of The Walking Dead, “Chupacabras” relies on its characters being very, very stupid. Andrea nearly killing Daryl thanks to an errant sunbeam while flashing a grin like Cuba Gooding Jr. in Radio was only the most egregious example. See also: Maggie insisting she be treated like an adult, and then loudly writing and passing a note to Glenn within about four feet of her disapproving father, like a sheepish 13-year-old; Glenn, running and complaining to Dale about women and their wacky ways; and even Rick, who fails to alert trigger-happy Andrea after recognizing Daryl as the “walker.”

Actually, though, what really grates about “Chupacabra” – besides the fact that virtually nothing of consequence happens outside of the closing revelation – is the execution of Daryl’s little misadventure. First and foremost, the hallucinations of Merle (Michael Rooker). In these moments, they seem to be trying to set up some kind of schism between Daryl and the rest of the group (particularly Rick) based on his self-perceived “hick” status. This after weeks of Daryl visibly being the most helpful and resourceful member of the entire group. Why should anyone believe Daryl would possibly be worrying about this? He’s too headstrong and too independent; these “subconscious” fears seem a little out of character. The physics of his tumble are a little off, too: remember how this was supposed to be the show where everyone’s expendable? Apparently not Daryl, who can get impaled with an arrow, rolled down a great big cliff twice, and still have enough energy to kill off two walkers. And then gets a graze to the head without too much hassle. Right. (And, as with his previous appearances, Merle’s dialogue is very silly.)

Probably the best aspect of the episode is Scott Wilson, who injects a little menace into Hershel this week without it feeling jarring or unbelievable – he’s just a guy who’s understandably annoyed at these strangers who keep screwing up in some of the dumbest ways imaginable, and killing people (and probably horses) in the process.The fact that he really does have a Big Bad Secret, though, in the form of a barnful o’ zombies, is a little disappointing, given that there’s enough interpersonal friction being worked up without the aid of a giant, barely-hidden plot point. Mostly an inessential installment, then.

****

Ricky D:

It becomes quite a challenge every week to try and find something new to say after Simon continuously beats me to posting a review for the Walking Dead series. Luckily for me, Simon keeps his opinions brief, leaving me with a lot to say. Based on his opening statement, clearly Simon has never watched Scooby Doo, The X Files or even Dexter. Unfortunately, there’s no Chupacabra in this week’s deceptively titled episode but mythical goat-sucking creatures aside, let me get to the dead.

As Hershel points out at one point in the episode: “It’s a wonder you people have survived this long.”

Yes, the group often makes bad decisions, but that is one of the highpoints of the series. It becomes increasingly frustrating to see our group of travelers constantly being more of a threat to themselves than the waking dead are to them – but this is a good thing. This is a show about survival and an examination of how people have to overcome differences and find ways to work together to stay alive. In reality, this is not an easy task and if the Walking Dead does anything right, it simply points out how irrational and selfish we human beings can be, and how difficult it is, for a group of strangers to come together at a time of crisis and find ways to work together as a team to to stay alive. Choices shouldn’t be made easy and decisions shouldn’t always be made right. The main difference between the two groups here, is that Hershel’s family are just that – a family. They know each other well, have similar backgrounds and more importantly are surrounded in the comfort of their own home. Rick and his band of survivors are just the opposite. So yes they will make mistakes, but that’s the fun in watching from week to week.

Unfortunately the search for Sofia, who has become season two’s indisputable MacGuffin, continues. Yes, I know we are all tired of the subplot, but let’s step back and acknowledge the good that has come of it. Daryl, with his never ending quest for the missing girl, has quickly become the show’s star, hero and biggest question mark. In “Chupacabra,” we witness his heroism, as he survives a fall from a cliff (not once but twice), a fall from a horse, an arrow in his abdomen, hallucinations of his missing brother, a dual zombie attack, and even a bullet grazing his temple – thanks to who else – the all too trigger-happy Andrea. Anyone who payed close attention to the opening credits may have been prepared for the return of Michael Rooker as Merle. While only a hallucination, his return did show further insight on Daryl’s psyche. While Merle’s speech was merely Daryl’s subconscious slowly awakening, it did give us a clearer understanding of how hard it must have been for him growing up and how he often feels like he is living in his brother’s shadow. Many people have expressed concern with Daryl’s response to his hallucinations when he said, “That son of a bitch was right.” Should his delivery leave us concerned that Daryl will turn on Rick? I’m not quite convinced that one line of dialogue was meant to say that Daryl agreed in anyway with what ghost Merle had to say, but the hero and star, leaves a big question mark for most viewers.

Last week I argued that the episode lacked any sort of tension and suspense. In “Chupacabra,” Daryl is thrown into dire straits, and his struggle to survive was a nail-biting fifteen minutes of tough, no-nonsense action made all the more effective by its brutal landscapes and score by composer Bear McCreary. The question remains: Are the writers laying the groundwork for the real Merle to return? I’ve already mentioned on the podcast that he may be the reason they haven’t found Sophia yet. Remember back in season one; we learned that Merle escaped the city in his car. One can only assume he drove in the same direction as the rest of the gang and also found himself stuck at a highway traffic jam.

“It’s math, man. Alive or not, she only matters to the degree to which she don’t drag the rest of us down.”

I’m a big fan of Rick and Shane’s private conversations. In this episode Rick engages Shane in a long but well-written scene questioning the ongoing search for Sofia. Without question, this was the best sequence from tonight’s episode. Ask just about anyone and they will tell you that Shane is the voice of reason here. Honestly, do any of the viewers care about Sophia? Shane quickly abandons the light conversation about high-school sexual encounters and twists it into a long talk about making tough decisions.

“Nostalgia is like a drug – it keep you from seeing things the way they are and it is a danger when you got people depending on you.”

Rick clearly feels guilty and admits that he let Sophia down after promising her that everything would be alright. With that said, I think we can all agree that he did the best he could, and it was she who lost herself in the woods. It has become very clear how much of a danger Rick is for the entire group. He will risk lives to do what he believes is the right thing and rest his heavy conscience.

Tonight’s episode started with a flashback, another look back to the pre-apocalypse days and a window showing us how some members of the group met. Seeing napalm dropped in downtown Atlanta only further proves my continuous speculation from previous reviews, that the dead people found on the highway were killed by the military and not zombies. Clearly the government cannot be trusted. As I mentioned time and time again, I love these flashbacks, and hope the show-runners continue to offer more.

Ever since that farm was introduced, fans of Robert Kirkman’s long-running Walking Dead comic series have been patiently waiting for the big reveal at Hershel’s farm. I wonder if any non readers picked up on the subtle clues from the previous episodes? More importantly, will the writers stick to what happened in the books, or will they surprise us again? And why is Herschel a zombie-hoarder? Who is the father of Lori’s baby, and why would the group want to continue to stay at the farm given the tension between Hershel and his guests—made very clear during the uncomfortably silent dinner scene?

Other observations:

“You see 11 condoms. I see 11 minutes of my life I’m never getting back.” – Ouch … that was harsh.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all wanted to shoot Daryl.” – Not anymore Dale, not anymore.

“That sorta makes you our unofficial first lady.” – I wonder what they will say when they find out she’s been sleeping around?

So is anyone else confused as to who the 17 year old boy is? Have we seen him before?

Andrea might continue to prove she is an idiot, but at least she’s an idiot who can shoot. Yes calling her an idiot is quite harsh but she did take the shot. Hershel made it very clear he wanted no weapons fired on his land. Rick, Dale and Shane also requested she hold her fire, and more importantly there was no immediate danger. The situation was under control and Andrea was only acting selfishly.

Be sure to listen to our Walking Dead podcast. It is well worth your time.

2 Comments
  1. sillytee says

    i want sophia to be a mini zombie!!

  2. Ken from Chicago says

    Daryl was saying Merle was right about yanking out the arrow, because that would make it easier to dress his wound. Daryl had left part of the arrow in. Once he pulled the arrow head out, despite the pain, he did find it easier to dress the wound. That’s how that son of a [beep] was right.

    — Ken from Chicago

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