just blame the little woman
Sorry to have missed the conversation last week – but I was in complete agreement with the whole tirade of this show not managing to stay smart enough to do anything with the multiple potentially interesting themes it has introduced. And yes, I too wondered why it took all night to drive back to the farm?! But mostly, I was frustrated with the fact that any zombie action seemed staged entirely for the purpose of keeping fans of guts and gore invested, but not for any deeper meaning. Shelly pointed out last week that we might be coming up with gracious interpretations of the show to justify our own blogging of it, and I was about to suggest that we therefore stop…but then this episode, for me, worked again.
Perhaps it’s because I’m most intrigued by gender narratives – I spent the first half of the season wondering if the writers were trying to set up a gender dynamic of men’s vs. women’s work, but their set ups never quite paid off. Last night they did in spades! Sure, Lorrie’s over-the-top insistence that the men are the protectors and the women are the domestic queens felt a little over-wrought, for sure. But Andrea’s response revealed just how much this system trades on patriarchal ownership of the little ladies. Not being owned herself, she is free to pursue the types of work that matter to her – something, it seems, Lorrie might actually envy. But it was her question of Lorrie with regards to Beth that truly stung – can you tell her everything’s going to be ok, just like it is for you, that she’ll have a husband and a son…and a boyfriend…[pause camera on awesome bitchy stare down]. The very things that make Lorrie’s life livable are the very things that trap her. And the only response left for her is to take the blame once in a while, and try to make this post-apocalyptic world just a little prettier by chopping cucumbers for the water.
No wonder Beth wanted out! In fact, her choice to live was, in the end, a bit of a let down. The men face death daily (perfectly illustrated in this episode), but the only way women can face it is at their own hands. Power from this underside is not easily grasped, and when it is, it risks surfacing in modes that are literally self-destruction. There was a lovely aesthetic parallel between Rick and Shane slicing their hands to taunt the walkers and Beth’s slicing of her own wrist – these are the kinds of details I’d like to see them play up more!
I’ll leave the dynamics between Rick and Shane for one of you guys to comment on. But I do have two questions – how do you all interpret the lone walker in the field who captivated Shane’s attention on the way in and the way out of town? For me, that was the most redeeming moment of the season precisely because I couldn’t easily explain or characterize it. So I wondered what others thought. And second, was the whole, “they don’t have bite marks; must have gotten scratched” insistence simply to show us the danger the guys were constantly in with their little knives, or might it point to a larger mythology unraveling around walker origins? I’m guessing the former, but hoping for the latter.
Ok, one more – is anyone else as uncomfortable as I am with the way that Shane carries his gun tucked right at his belt buckle…perhaps I’m just one of those gore fans, but the perfect ending to this season for me would be a misfire that blows off Little Shane. Allegorically, I think this could be the best move the season could make in the Shane vs. Rick showdown. Just saying.
Curious to hear all your thoughts!
Natalie (et al),
Well, this is awkward.
By the break, I had about given up on this show, and even last week my “cautiously optimistic” was said with great hesitation. But here’s the thing – I liked this episode. Some of it, I liked quite a lot. I’m still processing why, but here’s a couple thoughts.
One of the weaknesses of this show has always been its large cast. It’s not been a show gifted with a flair for developing distinctive characters, so with so many roles to write, most have been reduced to blanks (T-Dog, Carol, the entire population of the farm) or erratic plot devices (Dale, Daryl, Hershel). So this episode does exactly the right thing: strip everything down to a few key characters, a few set pieces, introduce some motivators of tension, and let things play out. It’s not quite a bottle episode, but it used the strengths of such episodes, reducing a show to its fundamentals and letting the most basic rules of drama take over.
I’m glad to take up the Rick and Shane storyline and leave the farm events aside – the “letting the menfolk take care of things while we keep house” theme was interestingly deliberate and ironic, I thought, and Beth’s part was actually played pretty well. So Rick and Shane: one of the interesting themes TWD has been trying to develop, and I think is finally getting some traction with, is the (not exactly new) idea that the true enemy is within. Here we saw that explode, with Rick and Shane grunting, snarling, and stumbling around like walkers. They had to face a real moral dilemma, only to find themselves typically on different sides of the issue (plus ca change). Yes, Rick stayed Rick the deliberator, and Shane stayed Shane the utilitarian survivalist; but the standoff at the intersection that started the whole thing, most of it shot in extreme closeup, had palpable tension. Rick didn’t reason, but gave Shane an ultimatum. And Rick’s fury and conflict fueled the episode – whether this is the need to protect his family, a sense of having crossed a moral line in the bar two weeks back, or simply a badly concealed need to see his rival dead: whatever it is, we’re starting to see something approaching agency interlaced with a real set of contradictions from him, rather than simply making him a mouthpiece for noble sentiments.
So well did this episode turn up the emotional register, that it actually achieved something genuinely haunting with that bookending shot of the walker in the field. I think we have to see a possible future for Shane there. He’s been blustering about going it alone, but here he faced the stark possibility of exile and abandonment, the cost of which is that much more evident after his experience in the bus. So it was a nice note to end the episode with Wye Oak’s “Civilian” (“I am nothing without pretend/I know my faults/can’t live with them”) – highlighting the impossibility of citizenship in a world without rules. And the miracle, for this show, is that we’ve been left to figure that out, and to dwell on the resonance of that image, rather than having it talked to death.
P.S. I think the scratch comment was deliberate in introducing a new threat and expanding mythology – especially since Rick and Shane fight off the walkers after leaving quite a few scratches in each other. Not an accident, I’m willing to bet!
First of all, Natalie, thank you for your concluding sentiment. Hilarious!
As far as the episode, I’m largely in agreement and you both have done such an excellent job on commenting on things that I don’t have much to add (and I want briefly to say that, Travis, I tend very much to agree with your reading of the lone walker). My question for everyone is quite simple: what ought Shane and Rick do with kid that they saved? I ask this because I found it curious how bloodthirsty and vicious he was in killing the female zombie. A scene of violence that we’ve seen before, but was it meant–in this context to suggest more–that there’s a latent danger to him? That there’s a viciousness in him that’s not present in Shane and Rick? Shane’s viciousness on the bus doesn’t really reach the same proportions, but in the few moments where it does crescendo, it seems to do so out of desperation, whereas, the kid’s violence seems somewhat sadistic (degrading, calling her a “bitch” and so forth). Was this whole scene meant to suggest something about the nature of his character? And if so, does that somehow make Shane and Rick’s decision more justifiable?
Finally, I found it striking how the motif of life played out in this episode: the kid struggles to live, Shane and Rick are worried about future life, Beth is concerned with her present life, everyone is in one way or another dealing with their past lives. But all in all the show seems to suggest that it’s not immediately clear nor obvious, even to those living a particular life, which life is worth living and which life “counts,” and certainly now how or why.
I finally watched this episode last night (rushing to finish a dissertation really cramps my TV style) and I was a little wary going in. I knew you all really liked it – even Travis! – so I had high hopes, but I was also worried that I’d be suckered into liking it just because you did. But from the first moments of the episode I was hooked. They’ve used this technique before (and Breaking Bad has used it to great effect) – open with a dramatic scene of danger and high suspense and then let the rest of the episode build you back to that point. The flabby jaw-ed walker jumping out of the window and startling an already bleeding and dazed Rick, Shane trapping himself in an abandoned school bus, the nameless kid commando crawling to a knife – what the hell is going on here? I felt real suspense and fear and I haven’t felt that watching this show in quite some time. Later, as we watched Rick and Shane tear into each other (though come on, shouldn’t at least one of them be bleeding from the mouth or nose after all those face blows?!) and the kid start his slow crawl to the knife I was practically jumping out of my seat waiting for the walkers to come. I loved it! It was a reminder – again, as you’ve all pointed out, without any voice overs or explanations – of the raised stakes to any normal human emotion. A jealous brawl between rival lovers turns into a vicious zombie blood bath. The danger within calls forth the danger without, both settling the former for a moment and heightening the tension that will boil over again sooner or later since nothing can ever be properly resolved if you are always interrupted by zombies.
I loved everything you all have already said, so let me just add one more image to those we really liked this week: after Shane throws the wrench at Rick and breaks the glass he stands for a split second staring at himself in a shard of window left in place. What he sees looked, to me, like an image of himself walker-like: his shoulder droops to one side, his face is bleeding and distorted, his anger leaves him mute and brutish. It was a perfect “what have I become” moment without any sad music or brooding reflection. And before he can even take the measure of the moment, a “live” walker crawls out of the image to try and make it real. If there is something to this reading, then it surely resonates with the walker in the field. Though I have to agree with our commenter, Mark: there was something beautiful and romantic about that image. Shane might see it has the cost of what it means to strike out alone, but compared to how trapped and desperate I think he feels, maybe there is a part of him, like Beth, that longs to be free, even if that only comes in death.