This week’s episode of THE WALKING DEAD was all about confrontations that have been a long time coming — especially Rick and Shane finally…er, talking it out. That particular explosion has been simmering since early in the first season.
When Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Jon Bernthal) set out to release the captive Randall (Michael Zegen) at least 18 miles from the farm, they ended up finally talking about the elephant in the car. No, not the blindfolded Randall in the trunk, but all the issues between the two alpha males: from Shane abandoning Rick in the hospital to his affair with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) to sacrificing Otis to challenging Rick’s leadership — it was all on the table.
Rick stopped the car on a deserted stretch of road to tell Shane he’d finally had enough. He presented Dale and Lori’s theory about Otis as fact, and Shane admitted to shooting the farmhand in order to save himself — and Carl. Then Shane basically apologized for taking up with Lori, but justified it by saying they thought Rick was dead, and Shane was wracked with guilt over leaving his partner at the hospital anyway. But again, Shane stressed there was no way for him to get out and take Rick with him. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Shane’s go-to answer to the “Him or me?” question is “Me.”
Shane spelled out how the world is now — underlining the very premise of THE WALKING DEAD: “You can’t just be the good guy and expect to live. Not anymore.” It’s a question of survival, Shane stressed. Rick insisted he could be as heartless as he needed to be in order to protect his family. In other words, in order to fight off zombies, one must become a calculating, unfeeling emotional zombie.
The guys made peace — but only until blabbermouth Randall revealed that he went to school with Maggie and thus knows where the farm is. Shane resolved to kill him immediately, but Rick stopped him, sparking a savage, bloody fistfight that eventually attracted the attention of nearby walkers, sending everyone scrambling. Rick cleverly hid under a dead walker while the pack pursued Shane, trapping him aboard a school bus. The funniest bit in the episode came when Rick was on the ground, shooting a succession of walkers who all fell atop him in consecutive order, creating a zombie sandwich. Luckily, he followed my advice to shoot through the mouth of the nearest walker to kill the third one.
The most cold-blooded moment came when Rick and Randall saw Shane trapped on the bus and decided to leave him. I’m sure Rick was telling himself that Shane would have done the same thing; in fact, he was just crowing about sacrificing others to save himself. But when Rick saw the two dead local cops, side-by-side, he remembered that Shane was his partner, and went back for him. When Shane saw Rick and Randall returning, the joy and relief in Shane’s eyes clearly signaled that he was glad they didn’t subscribe to his philosophy. Will being on the other end of the equation change Shane’s calculating ways in the future? We shall see.
On the car ride home, Rick offered Shane an olive branch, but insisted that Shane follow his lead, which means trusting him. “It’s time for you to come back,” Rick decreed. Shane stared out the window, spotting the same lone walker wandering in a field that he had seen on the first leg of the journey. I think Shane saw that lone walker in the wilderness as a parallel to himself: a loner adrift. Shane definitely feels he’s alone in his way of thinking. But there’s still the question of what to do with Randall, a legitimate threat to the survivors.
It turned out that there was a legitimate question whether Beth (Emily Kinney) would commit suicide in her grief. She begged her sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to join her, but she resisted. Andrea (Laurie Holden), who was determined to kill herself last season, told Lori and Maggie that Beth has to make the decision to live — no one can make it for her. So Andrea told Beth she has to make room for the pain in life because it will never go away, and then contrived to give Beth the chance to do away with herself. But she didn’t, instead choosing a showy-yet-ineffective half-hearted attempt to take her own life.
There were two other interesting points about this episode: Lori and Andrea fought over Andrea standing guard instead of contributing to the domestic chores like cooking and laundry. Lori insisted the men could take care of security while Lori and Maggie attempted to create a more homey atmosphere, something approaching the old normal. But Andrea rejected that outright. It’s interesting that Lori is now invested in nesting, after coming so close to giving up and letting her son Carl die in order to spare him the horror of this world. And the same with her unborn child. In just a few episodes, Lori has a whole new outlook on the future.
I like Rick’s new ammo-saving philosophy, as well as his advice about stocking supplies and preparing for winter. And he’s right; winter should slow down the zombies; in fact, it should starve out a lot of them. But the colder weather will probably bring more walkers down from the north. And just how cold does it get in Georgia in the winter?
Oh, and one more thing: The mystery of the mode of transmission of the disease was hinted at more broadly when Shane noticed there were no bite marks on the dead cops. Rick suggested that the scratches on the bodies were the mode of transmission. But is that really how it happens? If I were Shane, I’d be worried about that knife I used to slice open my hand — after stabbing a zombie in the skull with it!