You can’t top an episode like ‘Triggerfinger’, an episode that, thus far, rests high on top of the pile of all WALKING DEAD episodes. No, ’18 Miles’ is a break, a breath catcher that puts all the pieces in line for the final 3 episodes of this up and down second season.
Before we dive into what those pieces may be, lets explore what went down last night on THE WALKING DEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Leading the horse…
The Lori-Andrea-Beth-Maggie story was a little bland, more a distraction from the main story and a way to put Mrs. Rick and Mrs. Shane against each other with Maggie and Beth thrown in the middle. In the end we saw Rick’s wife abandon the opportunity to bury Andrea who clearly resents her and all she has, same as we saw Rick abandon a chance to bury Shane, who resents him and all he has. Only difference is I know why Rick saved Shane.
As for Andrea, there is no character that veers further than their comic book counterpart, and it is a true shame as the TV version has become annoyingly zen in her need for rebellion. She’s like a nihilist that only believes in Shane (this is the G rated version of that assessment). Tonight though, she clearly crossed a line, all but putting down bread crumbs to lead Beth to the culmination of her bleak notion. Thankfully the girl walked away with an “ouchie” and a fresh determination to make space for the pain but it wasn’t really a shock. Still, maybe Andrea should take her own advice and try, “a lighter touch”.
This show is in the habit of pushing characters to the edge and then pulling them back, that’s why Shane is still around (for now) and it’s why Andrea, despite being reviled by Lori and Maggie (now), can stick around a little longer. Something that wouldn’t be true if Beth had succeeded.
As I said, I don’t get Lori’s effort to soften up Maggie toward Andrea’s actions. Lori is a tough read and a character that is a bit unbalanced, but even this made my head tilt. As did her bent-feminist dig at Andrea in the kitchen for not, well, being in the kitchen more.
Choke on your teeth…
It’s pretty clear that Shane went through the fullest transformation during the first half of this season but Rick is mounting a campaign for the final flag. Something hasn’t snapped in the man, and he isn’t a cartoony rage-freak like Shane, Rick is evolving into the leader and man he needs to be in a bleak-and-getting-bleaker world, someone who is willing to go to extremes but plagued by the uneasy places he has to step.
Shane, on the other hand, was born to run in the wild, his eyes are unrepentant and his justification is easy. Rick carries guilt like buckets on a bar across his back, and he probably always will.
Shane? He’s a psychopath, he was bitten by it long ago. Rick is not, but (and I’ve said this before) Rick is becoming the man he needs to be to kill Shane and not be paralyzed by it. We can see that in the way that Rick conceded that he would probably kill Randal after the fight at the Public Works building and the news that Randal went to school with Maggie and knew her family, the revelation whose consequences led to the Rick and Shane brawl.
Rick’s evolution wasn’t serviced by tonight’s tussle though, a dust-up more for our amusement than it was for character development, but there was a moment when Rick spoke of the strength it took to not break Shane’s jaw, a moment where he left un-said the lesson that Shane should take away from that — Rick kept Shane alive for the safety of the group, which means he’ll kill him for the safety of the group.
The stammering “Walker” in the field, both on the way to and on the way back from the Public Works building, was doubtlessly symbolic, but what did it mean? My theory: On the way there it signaled, to Shane, how strongly he feels that Rick really isn’t prepared for a world where fields are now filled with the un-dead. On the way back, after Rick tells Shane, “if you’re goona be with us, you gotta follow my lead, you gotta trust me” Shane sees the lone roamer as the likely future of someone who goes out on their own, something Shane had pondered, but something he seems unwilling to fully pursue.
The road ahead…
In the end Rick tells Shane that it is, “time for you to come back”. A call for Shane to fall in line but as the rest of the season unfolds it is hard to envision a version of Shane that can peacefully do that. Rick may have saved his life but it likely isn’t the kind of leadership, friendship, or toughness that Shane recognizes anymore, no, the only thing Shane seems to get is protecting what he perceives as his and the “My wife, my son, my unborn child” speech sure doesn’t seem to be convincing him.
Line of the night:
Rick to Shane: “Can’t be that easy killing someone, killing anyone, you know that.” To that I say, does he?