The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Here it is…

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The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 3, “Save the Last One”

“You gotta make it ok somehow…no matter what happens.”


Hello friends,

As you can see from my title, the first thing I was inspired to do after watching this episode was to listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Here it is” as I began to write. It just seems appropriate. I was especially impressed by how this episode brought together everything we’ve seen thus far–not only in this season, but also the last. I thought the last season started great and then sort of dovetailed into (what I took to be) irrelevancy. But with this episode and with the touching and yet deeply disturbing focus on the problem of evil, I feel like the two seasons have an amazing continuity, with past actions easily fitting into an organic (or better, with this episode in mind: living) whole. The theme that unites everything in the show thus far seems to be the question of the relationship between life and evil, especially how the existence of something like radical evil affects the sorts of reasons we might give for choosing life. This episode presents three basic options: (1) something like the an agent’s involvement with and dependence on others (taken broadly here to include God), (2) animal instinct, and (3) habit. What is so fascinating to me is how the show is able to complicate all of the options, showing not only how they often (pardon the pun) bleed into each other, but also seamlessly exploring them from several angles and in different contexts. The storyline, of course, centers around Shane’s choice: what is the reason for it? Is it to help Carl and thereby Lori and Rick? If so, is the implication that the existence of evil is necessary for the bonds of friendship and society to exist? Or this simply Shane wanting to survive? Or is it the sort of evil inspired by the former, but also bred by habit? Or is it ultimately revenge for Carl’s accident? The questions about Shane’s actions perfectly parallel the various debates between Lori and Rick, but also Dale and Andrea and Daryl and Andrea. When Andrea replies that “she’s trying” to forgive Dale, the response is meant as a stand-in for everyone: everyone is trying–trying to “make it OK somehow.” (And this includes everyone and God, I would stress.) And again, what I find so appealing about the show is how it gives no easy answers: yes, Carl seems to survive–but at what price? Because of what sort of actions? The deer scene, then, emerges as a sort of metaphor (and indeed its the sort of “rallying point” for the Grimes family). This experience of beauty can only exist for humans, and it can only do so against a backdrop of a flawed world. This point, of the interpenetration between life and evil, permeates every plot-line in this episode, from Carl’s survival to Andrea and Dale’s emerging connection to Shane’s gruesome decision. In conclusion, I suspect the typical next move would be to set-up Shane as a sort of trojan horse in the group, descending into madness, and eventually endangering the group or provoking a confrontation within it. And that might still happen–but I suspect the show will go elsewhere with this theme, and for good reason, in my opinion.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, especially how you read Shane…

Until next week,



Hi friends,

I imagine we’re all going to want to talk about Shane this week! While the opening scene felt so clichéd – badass guy shaving head looking resolutely into mirror – I trusted it would go somewhere more interesting. As with the Malickesque deer scene that gripped us all the other week, this felt like a trope in the midst of undoing. But covering up a brutal, self-serving murder! I did NOT see that coming. As for motivation, yikes! It’s near impossible to tell (and the aftermath, I think, could support each and every one of the options you name, Martin). But yes, I absolutely resonate with your trust that his character won’t simply descend into some madness that serves as a reminder that in the midst of outside threats, perhaps the greatest threats will remain those closest to us (although the constant draining of Rick’s blood for Carl’s saving certainly resonates with this theme – zombies aren’t the only ones who feed off human life!).

Rick and Shane’s hug, in fact, has me agreeing with you that something more interesting is coming. Each week the (perhaps?) inevitable revelation of Shane and Lori’s affair (can you call it that? They did think Rick was dead, right?), and the impact on their complex little family unit (I include Shane in this complex unit) intensifies. Saving Carl, losing a part of his soul in the process, giving up, perhaps, a grip on his sanity – all these add to the bond Shane has with Rick. And the bond Rick has with Shane. So when/if the truth comes to light, will these uber-intense bonds of attachment lead to a deepened sense of betrayal, or a deepened experience of forgiveness – or, more likely, something really interesting between and transcending of the two?

Someone, please – tell us what you thought of that zombie hanging in the tree is its strange impact on Andrea’s own compassion, grasping for the habit of living, and attempts toward forgiveness!



Zombie watchers….

In the zombie apocalypse, are heroes and saviors things of the past? In season one, sheriff Rick starts out looking like the hero of the show and, increasingly, seems weak without some laws to guide him. Lori has to tell him to ‘strengthen up’ in this episode. Shane, however, seems to be on the rise, emerging from his role as the shafted best friend and lover, to something of a Guy-Pierce-Memento character who suddenly comes to life in the absence of the law. The zombie grasps were chilling this week, as Otis and Shane moved through the halls of the old high school. But to get in the mind of Shane in that moment as he used his last bullet on Otis…wow, it is that journey that screws you up for a long time. It’s the antithesis of Maggie’s statement, right? Making it OK somehow? Surely, this somehow that Shane chooses cannot make things OK, can it? And, of course, I loved the return of the deer scene and wondered whether this ‘something beautiful, something living’ was more, Martin, than what you present here. Can beauty fuel us in the absence of belief?

— Shelly


I don’t mean to brag, Natalie, but I did kind of see Shane’s rogue killing coming. To be fair, someone tipped me off that there was kind of a twist at the end so I was on the outlook. As soon as Shane showed up at the farm without Otis I could guess what must have happened. But aside from little narrative hints to let us know all was not well, what I loved was how much this violent action made sense of the journey Shane has been on. He has been holding back a welling anger for many episodes now – from nearly shooting Rick in the woods, to drunkenly attacking Lori at the CDC, to his self-destructive desire to take off into the zombie horizon. You are right, Martin, that shooting Otis is survival and instinct and habit all at once. But it is also transformation. When he looks in the mirror he is checking out this new man he has become, the one who was capable of doing what he only half-did when he left Rick in the hospital – choose his self-preservation over his role as public defender, give into the vindictiveness and violence this new world encourages. But of course, it really matters that he did it, at least in part, to save Carl and in love for Rick and Lori (and how can we not read the shot in the gut as a kind of payback for Carl’s shooting? Shane knows how to shoot to kill and the fact that he didn’t even try to kill Otis seems downright cruel). I agree that there doesn’t seem to be anyway this action can make things right, but that just raises the question: what in the world makes anything right in this world?



Moth Chase friends, don’t forget to check back later to see the rest of our round-table responses…we’ll be chatting throughout the week, and we’d love to have you join in the conversation in the comments below!

Written by Martin

October 30, 2011 at 9:43 pm

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