The secret of the Walkers in the barn is fully exposed and Shane forces a decision to be made about them. Herschel has given Rick an ultimatum that his group must leave.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9:00 on AMC.
"Pretty Much Dead Already" is an almost perfect title for this episode. Although I would have gone with "Shane Was Right."
It's been a little over two months since this episode aired and to be honest, I've been hesitant to write about it. As soon as it was over I was convinced that this was simply great television. Then I started listening to the internet buzz about how predictable it was, and how it was good, but didn't save a crappy, boring season. I know I said I'd stop bitching about the general reaction and just talk about my own reasons for liking (or disliking) the episodes, but dammit, you people really know how to undermine my enthusiasm for things.
Why should I keep sharing how I feel about this show when all anyone else seems to care about is complaining? I don't have the patience for it.
But now, The Walking Dead is back after its mid-season break and I want to at least sum up some things. Maybe I'll keep reviewing them. Maybe not. I just don't know if it's worth the effort.
What I do want to say, though, is that if you think Shane (Jon Bernthal) is the bad guy and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is the good guy, then you're not watching the same show I am. In fact, if you're reading the comics, Rick on the page IS the Shane on the screen. It took nearly five years of development, but if you love Rick and feel for his distinct form of madness in the comic, then the TV version of Shane should get the same affection.
I'd even go so far as to say that the real conflict in the TV series so far hasn't been about struggling to survive in a zombie apocalypse, it's been about struggling to stay human in a world that has no place for humanity. It's about redefining what humanity is in this new moral landscape.
Hershel (Scott Wilson) is delusional. There's no other way to look at it. Delusional and sentimental. And at this point in the story, so is Rick. The farmhouse is an oasis. It only seems safe because they pretend it is. It only seems like Hershel's private property because Rick and Hershel are playing a civilized, but sentimental, game.
Those laws don't exist anymore. As soon as someone with guns and no qualms about taking what they need show up, Hershel no longer has a farm. He's dead and so is everyone who stands with him. His sense of ownership, his sense of decency toward the "sick" people in his barn, his sentimental attachment to his family are all delusions.
And the longer Rick plays this game, the more damage it will cause his people.
Shane is the only one saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done in order to protect the group. But it comes at a cost.
That cost is a sentimental holding on to romantic notions of how things are "supposed" to be.
Most of the characters are trying desperately to hold onto that. Even Daryl (Norman Reedus) is trying to be noble and good, refusing to give up on finding Sophia (Madison Lintz), working his way into Carol's (Melissa Suzanne McBride) affections. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) are also struggling with this, finding love and realizing that they're not taking this new world seriously.
Even Lori's (Sarah Wayne Callies) conflict over what to do about her pregnancy is really about whether to live with some sentimental hope or to give in to despair and accept the world as it has become. When she vomits up the morning after pills and then admits to Rick that she and Shane had a relationship when they thought he was dead, it's all about coming clean, healing, and having a little bit of hope.
And that's what makes the ending of this episode so god damn tragic. I'm not ashamed to say I cry every time I watch it (and I just rewatched it a third time to prepare for tonight's return). It's heartbreaking not because Sophia is in the barn.
Like you bastards have said ad nauseum, it was no surprise. And that's not a fault, despite what you think.
The heartbreaking moment is before that, when Shane forces them all to confront just what the world really is now. As those zombies come shambling out of the barn only to be shot down in a roar of gunfire, the heartbreaking moment is when each character steps up and begins firing. The heartbreaking moment is the confrontation of delusion with reality and we watch in horror as entire belief systems shatter.
When Sophia comes staggering out, the last of the walkers in the barn, and Rick is the only one who can find it in themselves to step up and put a bullet in her head, he's putting a bullet into all of their sentimental delusions.
Shane will be vilified for this, I know. Nobody likes it when someone makes you face reality. He's already being scapegoated by Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and been told by Lori that even if the baby she's carrying IS his, it'll never BE his. It's a rough place to be in, and let's be honest, Shane isn't the most enlightened character.
What he is, though, is the most emotionally honest character. He's the character that has never stopped supporting his best friend, even when it meant sacrificing his own happiness. He's the character that would do anything to save Carl (Chandler Riggs) as if he were his own son, even if it meant sacrificing others. He's the character was always the ladies' man that envied his best friend for the happiness he had with his family. He's the character that has made horrible mistakes and paid the price for them. He's the character who has been living in this zombie world with no blinders and now he's torn off everyone else's.
Shane was right all along. And I'm afraid he won't be with us much longer.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.