Spoiler alert: Don’t read this if you are waiting to see the Feb. 19 episode
Walking Dead fans who have lamented a shortage of gore and terrifying things at times during Season 2 were given just what they wanted at the beginning of this week’s show. The walker ripping its face off as it pushes through the broken windshield trying to get to Lori is one of those frightful images that makes this series so scary. That we don’t get these moments before each and every commercial break is a good thing. The pacing gives us time to come to care about the characters.
Speaking of the characters, a few of them are going through changes following the philosophical turn we analyzed last week.
Shane and Andrea now have a hostage who they can plot to kill, in direct defiance to Rick’s renewed attempt to fight for the sake of humanity and common decency. The idiot stranger who jumped off the roof and was almost left to be dined on by walkers—Randall—seems like he could have a Nordberg-esque existence. Sometimes characters are props and I suppose that’s fine. Do I smell a dramatic arc for next week’s episode?
One of the subtler signs that things have changed: At the 17:35 timestamp, Herschel (probably still drunk and having just seen a man get his face eaten) uses the word “Walkers” for what I believe is the first time, a word he rejected using back before the barn incident. His idealistic worldview is gone.
With the group severed from the fools’ errands that defined this season before the barn incident, this little slice of humanity is now teetering on an existential precipice. What I found most telling in this regard was the ending, when Lori and Rick are finally alone and Lori makes a case for getting rid of Shane:
“You killed the living to protect what’s yours?….Shane thinks I’m his. He thinks the baby is his. And he says you can’t protect us. That you’re going to get us killed. He’s dangerous, Rick, and he won’t stop.”
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
It’s one thing for Rick to kill a stranger to protect his own people. It’s something else to kill his own people to protect his own people. But if anyone has the valorous tongue needed to talk Rick into offing his former best friend, it’s Lori.
Am I going overboard with the Shakespeare comparison? Probably—it wouldn’t be the first time the Zombie Professor took things too far. Are there simpler readings? Definitely. The Atlantic looks at this week’s episode as a trio of love stories and doesn’t seem to think much of the Rick/Lori/Shane triangle. I agree with them that Shane’s sometimes over-the-top belligerence could be reigned in. Apparently, so too do the show’s writers: Andrea tells Shane he should use a “lighter touch.”
But what’s more interesting to me is the possibility that Shane is right, that the group is focusing on the wrong things. “They want to play house….They are bound to get us all killed,” he says to Andrea. Could Shane be turning into a kind of Thug Cassandra?
(Probably not. After all, Rick knows something that none of us do; if anyone has prophetic wisdom, it’s the sheriff.)
Which brings us back to Lori’s Lady MacBeth scene. Lori may be right that Shane is violent…but her claim that “he’s going to get us killed” is weaker than Shane’s identical claim against Rick and Herschel. Rick and Herschel have consistently stood for grandiose notions and gallant quests, while Shane is about saving his own ass. The three of them need one another to maintain balance in their fragile civilization. That’s why I don’t think the MacBeth comparison is overdone. Lori is threatening the group’s existence by trying to contaminate her husband with the same “you killed the living to protect what’s yours” thinking that has been driving Shane.
This doesn’t look like it’s going to end well.