This was probably my least favorite episode so far in the second half of season two. It felt too much like a rehash of previous ideas, and didn’t provide sufficient plot movement. Sure we finally get a big confrontation between Rick and Shane, but it’s hardly satisfying. In the end it’s only setting things up for later, which is disappointing after how much energy is dedicated to it in this episode. Sigh…
My recap and review follow below, any unsuspecting readers beware, spoilers ahead!
There are two story threads in the episode. The main one is that of Rick and Shane trying to find a good place to dump the new guy, Randall. It has to be far enough for that he won’t be able to find his way back and endanger our group, and also safe enough that they’re not just offering the poor guy up to walkers (not that Shane would mind). They soon find a pretty good place in a public works station surrounded by a fence, which I assume is about 18 miles out (huzzah, that’s the name of the episode).
What follows is a big fight between Rick and Shane centered on what to do with Randall. Shane is ready to just flat out kill the kid, and naturally Rick won’t let him, instead he’d rather just leave him there, equipped with a knife so he can free himself and possibly survive. It’s possible that killing the kid would be a kindness, considering that the place is of course infested with walkers. Rick and Shane’s brawl eventually draws them out, and their animosity is replaced by the need to survive.
Making matters worse is the reveal that Randall went to the same school as Maggie, implying that he might know where the farm is located. At this point, there’s no way that they can just leave him behind, and in the end all three escape together, thus leaving Randall’s fate still to be determined. Yep, that’s pretty much the pattern. For all of the fighting between Shane and Rick, nothing conclusive is really established. By all means Shane should be cowed. Rick has proven he is the better man, but every sign points to another, hopefully final confrontation, down the road.
Sure, everything is revealed between the two, so that’s arguably some progress, but beyond that the nature of their conflict has not changed. Shane is still too rash in making absolute judgements, and Rick more measured and human. This has been a driving theme this season, but lately it feels like we’re running in place, and just being told the same things again and again. I understand that it makes for better drama to save the final conflict for the end of the season, but it feels forced to drag it out that long, especially when they are so obviously at each others throats. Seriously, just kill Shane already and move on…
That aside, I think it’s worth noting that at one point during Rick and Shane’s fight, as Randall crawls closer to the knife that might free me, I was struck by what I consider to be a central theme in this show — namely that in this god forsaken world humans are still the greatest source of evil. This is certainly not the first time we’ve seen this, nor the last by any means, but it did a very good job of it. It captures everything from Randall’s struggle to survive, to Rick and Shane’s viciousness, and paints a very ugly and poignant portrait of humanity at it’s worst.
The second plot threat is that of Beth, Hershel’s other daughter that’s been in shock the past few episodes, and is now conscious again. She’s still in bad shape, and is seriously debating suicide. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s another theme being rehashed. We’ve been here before with Andrea. There’s two sides to the argument, Lori and Maggie want to take the choice away from Beth, and prevent her from taking her own life. While, Andrea, who is familiar with the circumstance, would rather let Beth choose for herself, of course that also potentially means enabling suicide.
It’s difficult to choose one side as right over another. On the one hand I believe in freedom of choice, and don’t think that Lori and Maggie have an absolute right to dictate Beth’s choice, especially in a post-apocalyptic scenario. At the same time, who’s to say that Beth is making a clear headed decision, which by the way she is not. All signs point to her being incredibly emotional over the loss of a good number of family members. Also, it’s not hard to see that Andrea is going down the same path as Shane. She thinks she knows best, and will act despite opposition from other group members, diplomacy be dammed. Either way, this is the kind of difficult issue that the show constantly brings up, and I might not mind seeing it explored otherwise, but in an episode that feels like one big rehash, not so much.
Overall, it’s not a bad episode, even though it’s easy to feel like nothing new really happens, the issues raised are compelling. In a way it provides deeper exploration of ideas, which is good, but every bit of momentum built up over the last two episodes is wasted. Too many threads are put on hold, and generally it all seems like running in place.