The title of the latest Walking Dead interests me. “Better Angels” evokes Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural, a speech steeped in good intentions that still couldn’t stop a civil war that was already fomenting and that officially began a month later with the attack on Fort Sumpter.
Rick’s eulogy for Dale in which he appeals to everyone’s better angels is an earnest attempt to restore togetherness. It’s like a plea for the former way. But the earnestness is undermined as scenes of zombie butcher are interspersed, just as Lincoln’s speech was undermined by the fact that the South had already seceded from the Union following his election. Dale wouldn’t have been happy to see Andrea cruising around in a truck looking for chances to stick a pitchfork through a zombie’s face. Come to think of it, Abraham Lincoln probably wouldn’t like it either.
Despite the attempt at rhetorically-induced peace, there is conflict coming. Early on we have Lady MacBeth herself taking pity on Shane as he toils alone repairing some kind of tower. She tells him she appreciates him, and that it might be his baby but that, as far as the two of them as a couple go, sorry not gonna happen. But you sure are great!
Lori seems very sincere in this scene. Maybe she’s driven by guilt for planting a homicidal notion about Shane in her husband’s ear; I can’t help but feel that she’s the one that upsets the first rock that starts the rockslide. Why tell Shane it might be his baby? Lori caveats her appreciation by disclaiming her appreciation with “even though things got confused between us.” If a woman said this to me I’d flip. Sounds like a semantically camouflaged way of saying I’ve convinced my husband to kill you.
If Lori Grimes’ motives are in doubt, Carl Grimes’ are not. (In fact it seems that preserving Carl’s innocence is one of the big changes in the show from its comic roots.) Carl just wants absolution from Dale’s death, and for some reason he seeks solace in Shane. As discussed, Shane has a different appeal for a young boy. Of course Carl’s confidence in Shane has an unexpected outcome in the hands of all these “better angels.” Carl gives up his gun to Shane, who gives the gun to Rick and offers some sound parental advice, provoking Rick to give the gun back to Carl so that Carl can eventually use it to kill zombiefied Shane. Got it? By acting like a concerned parent Shane eventually undoes his undead self. This comes full circle when Shane claims he is a better father than Shane.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First Shane has to break, and break he does. Shane draws out his plan to get ride of Randy and Rick in one fell swoop, and I ended up feeling kind of sorry for him in the process. The plan is forced, no doubt by the urgency of the latest “Save Randy” plans. But this is where I think the evidence of Shane’s cracking is most pronounced. Lori broke him, created the urgency, forced Shane to make a decision—whether she meant it or not, her role here was crucial.
So Rick has to stab Shane in the heart. Rough way for one friend to end another, though all that the moaning and groaning afterwards is overwrought and Rick’s responsibility is not transferred even though Rick tries to pin it all on Shane. Sorry, dude. You just murdered your friend.
So Shane is now dead, and a lot of commentators don’t seem all that surprised. The coverage of this episode has included various reminders that Shane died much earlier in the comic book and we all saw it coming (I like this link in particular because it’s from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which is the Walking Dead of newspapers).
The death of Shane serves a few purposes. Shane Walsh/aka Daryl says it’s Shakespearean, so there we have the Bard showing up again. Though killing your best friend with his eyes wide open is more like Richard III than Lady MacBeth.
The biggest question—and second biggest suspense point beyond the approaching zombie hoard—is the question of why Randy and Shane turned into zombies without being bitten. Not everyone is asking about this but I know at least a few avid watchers are as confused as I am. It clearly wasn’t a plot inconsistency—Daryl and Glenn come to the same conclusion over Zombie Randy’s body. Though it sounds like this may have been a plot addition made on the fly, if Shane in real life’s explanation is any indication.
Now we have so many things to ponder: Has the virus mutated? Is everyone already infected? Why are we changing the zombie rules in the episode before the season finale? That’s the part that worries me, though from the look of the preview, the final conflict on the farm is upon us.