This week is all about resetting the situation. The Walking Dead picks up a week later as Shane and Rick take Randall out 18 miles from the farm to drop him off. All of the personal intensity from the last episode has dissipated, only to be replaced by an impassioned and careful concern. The result is a deeper building of tension between many characters. Decisions and discussions are had by all, and yes there are zombies. But more importantly lines are drawn.
”The pain doesn’t go away, you just make room for it.” – Andrea
The Walking Dead was bare bones this week, and that makes for an intimate episode. I don’t know that we would have gotten so much time with Beth with the entire cast involved. Beth’s attempted suicide, and Andrea’s stance that it was no one’s decision but the girl’s, showcased a dividing line in the group. We’ve watched as the idealogies of Shane and Rick have conflicted as some people have chosen sides. Sure, there’s yet to be a moment where the group begins standing behind one of the two men, but the worldview of each character is being tested this season. Are you willing to do whatever it takes, or is there room for a selfless act to benefit your fellow man?
”One of us wasn’t gonna make it out, it had to be him.” – Shane
This is exemplified throughout this episode with the confrontation between Rick and Shane. The episode focuses so heavily on the two that the Andrea, Lori, Maggie, and Beth seconadary storyline is almost a way to keep more of the group involved and not turn this into a purely contemplative Waiting for Godot hour of television. But it’s a focus on the two men that is necessary at this point in the series. We’re done waiting for them to hash it out, and we’re done with the wondering where everyone stands.
The confrontation starts at a crossroads for both men, quite literally in fact. Rick begins by lying it out clearly that Lori, Carl, and the baby are his family. His alone. He understands what happened, and even explains to Shane that he knew soon after his return and wanted to knock Shane’s teeth out. He knew, but held back. And he also understands, but it’s time for Shane to let it all go and move on.
So they continue on, looking for a decent spot to release Randall, only to find it in a small town. Unfortunately for Randall he makes a plea for his life and reveals he knows Maggie from school. Wow, talk about a huge mistake. It puts a twist on the theory that Randall is no threat, and Shane makes the immediate decision to shoot the kid. An act that Rick stops, and finally we get the showdown this show has been building toward.
”I will stay alive to keep them alive.” – Rick
Here we finally are, the battle has begun. On the one hand Rick still exists in a world where there’s got to be some semblance of law and order. He holds to his police background, despite his insistence that he is capable doing the unthinkable for his family. But he is transformed, and while he may not have fallen from grace in the way Shane has there’s still a darkness to the man. The light in the world has gone very dim, and Rick tries to fight for not only his family but for what light is left.
Shane on the other hand is a survivor. He’s a man that is willing, able, and capable of doing anything to get through the day. That doesn’t make him evil, but he is dangerous. A fact that other’s have begun to notice, some like Dale and Lori have personal reasons for calling him out, but Rick knows that his friend is a bit lost. I’m not sure that there’s any saving Shane, but there’s no way that Rick can let Shane go without battling to the end.
So as the men begin to fight a zombie onslaught occurs, dividing the men, and giving us our weekly dose of superb zombie battles. This includes a ZOMBIE PILE!!! on top of Rick as he resorts to using a dead zombie’s head as a muzzle extension, and concludes with Shane being trapped in a bus with a dozen or so walkers vying for his tasty flesh.
”If I could take it all back, I would.” – Shane
It’s here that Rick abandons Shane, taking Randall with him. I’m not sure exactly what Shane was thinking as he watched Rick trot away, but it only took him a moment or two to continue defending his life. Abandoned or not, he’ll be a survivor…or die trying. Then Rick returns with a derring-do rescue and get’s Shane out of the bus.
Afterwards Rick explains to Shane that he knows the kid will likely have to be killed, but it’s a decision that takes time. Even in the current situation it just can’t be so easy to take human life. Perhaps Shane does not agree with that, but there’s a chance he sees that there is reason behind the decision. It’s not weakness, simply an alternative. There doesn’t have to be bloodshed, but when it’s inevitable there has to be a moment to pause and reflect on the decision to take life. It’s a commodity that is exceedingly precious in a walker infested world.