Thus ends the ballad of Rick and Shane
I’m a bit pressed for time tonight, so I’m going to cut right to the chase. First, while we still haven’t hit the high of two weeks ago, the show continues to improve, by culling and characterizing, in ways that provide some room for hope. Second, a few theories on this new development with the zombifying virus.
First: improvements in the show. The single best thing The Walking Dead can do is kill off some people. This is so not only because it raises the stakes, but as I said a few weeks ago, thus far TWD is not a show blessed with a talent for developing realized characters, and so an ensemble approach is death to any momentum it possesses. I haven’t been a fan of Dale for a long time, but I thought last week’s episode worked, for the most part: while Dale has generally functioned as a mouthpiece for the moral dilemmas the writers wanted to introduce, his campaigning for Randall’s life had a nice urgency to it. It finally gave him a real purpose (unlike divining Shane’s abandonment of Otis, or arbitrarily hiding guns in a swamp), and it revealed the moral inertia of the group he was up against. Conversely, Shane’s character had really lived out his usefulness, but seeing him go at Rick’s hand took TWD to a new, very dark place. This is especially so when read against the attack on the walkers in the cold open, which was staged to look very much like a gang taking out its rivals in a turf war, and those terrifying shots of ravening walkers juxtaposed within the frames of Rick and Shane’s struggle. The downside to all of this, though, is that the barrel of interesting characters is pretty shallow here – are they going to give T-Dog something to do? Carol? The most promise here is with Andrea, I think.
Second: Shane’s death brings up the issue we were speculating about two weeks ago – the security officers who caught the virus without being bitten. I’m curious to hear what you all think of the development last night: both Randall and Shane catch the virus without being bitten (and it’s not even totally clear Randall was killed). I find this really exciting, as it seems to be something the writers have been working towards, which is a great sign. So what’s happening? I have three theories going: first, that the groundwater at the farm has been contaminated after that walker they inadvertently disemboweled in a well, and everybody is infected with some kind of slow form of the virus (this almost certainly doesn’t work, though, since it wouldn’t apply to the security guards). Second, the virus has mutated and become airborne or likewise changed its vector of infection (most real-life likely but also most prosaic dramatically). Third, therefore, the two confirmed cases – Randall and Shane – were both at the maintenance yard two episodes ago when they noticed the security guards. So perhaps it’s something connected to that location – in which case Rick is infested as well?
In closing, it’s appropriate to note how last night’s episode recalled that shot of the walker alone in the field, which so intrigued us two weeks ago, back to mind. It appears it was foreshadowing, not Shane, but Rick alone in a field, separated from his world.
Hi Travis and all,
Yeah, I have to admit, I was quite shocked by Shane’s death – when it was starting to look imminent, I thought, “yeah, but we can’t have two major character deaths in a row! Surely we’ll find a way out of this.” Even once he was dead, I thought we’d get some extended fun-Shane-zombie antics (I believe I was overly-conditioned by Shawn of the Dead on this failed theory). But Carl’s head shot (um, when did that kid learn to shoot like that??) made me gasp out loud. The moment leaves me with a couple of thoughts.
First, are we to think that Carl was considering shooting his own dad and then switched his choice when he saw Walker-Shane? He had his gun cocked before Shane arose, in my recollection. And this opens up some dangerous territory for father-son relations in the weeks to come! And second, with the deaths of Dale and Shane, and as Rick has proven himself again and again in recent weeks to be more of a waffler than a leader, or anything resembling the symbol for goodness, we have the departure of the two most single-minded, moral compasses (one for good; one for evil) on the show. As I’ve thought about Dale’s death over the last week, I’ve become excited for who might fill his gap: Andrea (of all the characters you’ve mentioned who might step up, Travis, this one intrigues me the most, although I’d also love to see a little more from Carol). Dale’s uncomplicated morality comes to life with Andrea’s complications. So does this mean that Rick will be the one to fill the Shane gap in the narrative? Between Laurie’s snide comments to Andrea in recent weeks, and Andrea’s refusal just to do what she was told by Rick this week, I’m getting more and more convinced that Andrea and Rick are going to be the central battle from here on out…at least, you know, until one of them gets eaten too. As things are shaping up, these two can take us to a central narrative that functions (forgive me for the obvious reference here…) beyond good and evil. Here is where the show might find its own resurrection.
I’m not going to say anything about your virus theories, Travis, because unfortunately, I think I know the answer from a commenter a few weeks ago. Please, dear readers, if you’ve read the graphic novels, don’t give any reveals in the comments below. Guessing is half the fun!
Looking forward to hearing what others thought!
I don’t have too much to add this week, since I too was surprised by Shane’s death and jolted back into serious interest about where this show might go. Like Natalie, I remember the comment from a reader about how the virus spreads without biting in the graphic novels and I assume that is what is going on here. But I am going to try and ignore the technical “hows” and focus on a few clues that we received from this episode itself. First, what to make of the violent gory dream-montage between Shane’s death and resurrection? Is this what every walker sees/feels before waking up ravenous for human flesh? If so, is there any connection between the violent movie reel and whatever visions/impulses/daze Shane experiences in the barn with Randall? Remember when he kept slapping himself in the head and the camera got all jerky? Was this some kind of strange allusion to a transformation already underway? Could we even read the increased aggression Shane and Randall both expressed as the early signs of the virus in their systems? Second, the scene of the woods filling up with walkers made it feel like something had been triggered. Like a kind of horrible second coming – all the dead rise as one, as if on cue. However all these people got infected, it must mean something that a whole crop of walkers just rose up at once.
If this whole season, in some ways, has been dictated by the plot of children – keeping children safe, losing Sophia, Carl getting shot and growing up, Lori’s pregnancy – tonight also felt like a turning point. Rick finally had the “facts of life” conversation that will probably stand Carl in a lot better stead than “where do babies come from.” I though the blend of earnest advice, matter-of-fact tone, and genuine emotion was one of Rick’s better scenes and definitely the best example of parenting. Here at last is advice that makes sense: Carl does have to learn to face death if he is going to survive, but that doesn’t mean he has to stop caring or get “cold.” In fact, talking to Carl like a member of the new world might be his best salvation. He is certainly going to end up a lunatic mess if people keep imagining their job is protecting his innocence according to pre-apocalypse standards. That conversation was also for all of us, I think, about this season and where we are headed. No more hiding from death or retreating to pretended havens. Death is coming and I hope its immanent arrival forces us off the farm and back into to the real moral stakes of this new world.
I will also say that as annoying as it was to see Lori flip-flop yet again, I am glad she gave up on Lady Macbeth so quickly!
I don’t know what to say. I felt about Shane’s death pretty much the same way that I felt about Dale’s death: I didn’t care much.
I think it could be interesting to have Andrea take the limelight as a main character, but more interesting would be Darryl. Overall, I found this episode to be largely dull…Natalie, your suggestion that perhaps Carl would have shot Rick is interesting and could make things more interesting in the future, but overall, I feel like this show is slowly on its way towards death, much in the same ways as its characters.The writers can’t seem to make up their minds about whether they want to focus on the humans or the virus. Adding a new twist on the virus seems unnecessary to me when the human dimension is resolved in such a clunky and cursory fashion.
My prediction: rampaging walkers kill off even more characters next week (I predict some random people from the house), then in a week or two, our human characters run into Randall’s bunch and all hell breaks lose again. My hopes for the show: the abandon the annoying drama that forms up Rick and company and focus on Darryll, Maggie, and Glenn, the only interesting characters on the show (and, really, its only Darryll, because they’ve turned Glenn and Maggie into whining teens).
I’m weighing in rather late this week — zombies gutted my hard-drive. I started out this week’s episode bored, preparing myself for an hour of the usual farm banter. Then, the group ‘hit the woods,’ and I began to see the glimmers of Heart of Darkness. Things happen when they leave the perimeters of the farm. I was in full support of Travis’ opening statement: killing off some of the major people was exactly what the show needed to do. When Rick killed Shane, I literally shouted, “Yes, yes, brilliant move. This will change everything.” I’ve been working out this everything since that initial reaction….perhaps I was just relieved that the Shane-Lori-Rick would come to an end. [No one commented on the only soft moment we saw from Shane this season — a tender word from Lori, and he was puddled on the farm-floor]. And I like the speculative pause that Natalie adds — was Carl intending to kill off his father in order to protect his protector (Shane) whom he had come to admire more than his own father? I never liked the turn to the family-oriented drama; I was hoping for commentary on friendship or other relational configurations in the zombie apocalypse, so the parenting moments were not terribly compelling.
I, like Travis, connected back to the lone zombie in the field. Why had this lone walker stood out to us–and to Shane? What did it signal? I couldn’t help thinking of him/it when we saw the score of walkers moving out of the woods into the open field. Has this murder activated something more cosmic?
What is going on with Daryl and Carol? Please, please, don’t turn them into a ‘Maggie and Glenn’ unit in the last episode. Instead, we seem to be pleading to give some of these minor characters some texture instead of coupling them…..Andrea Get Your Gun.