The Walking Dead: Episode 2x03, “Save the Last One”

By Karen Moul

The Walking DeadI take back much of what I said last week. In “Bloodletting” I thought we were seeing another side of Shane, a side that was loyal and responsible and almost likeable. This week, I’m pretty sure that is the last time anyone will use those words to describe Shane.

But I don’t mind being wrong when we get an ending this delicious. The final scene was so shockingly great, most viewers didn’t even notice that almost nothing happened during the entire rest of the episode. Those last five minutes cemented Shane’s position as the most compelling character on the show. Yes, his actions were horrifying, but they raised a number of fascinating questions about morality and survival and to what extent the two are compatible.

Rick is the show’s moral center and always does the honorable thing; he’s constantly risking his life for others. He went back into Atlanta after Merle, he ran off after Sophia, and he gives away guns to everyone he meets. There’s no way he would do the things that Shane has done, even if it meant he would survive.

But while Rick sees the world as black and white, Shane is operating in a very grey area. And Rick might not like it but grey is the new reality. And maybe in that new reality the survivors don't have the luxury of making such clear moral distinctions. Doing the right thing is not necessarily going to help you survive. Shane recognizes that and he did what he thought he needed to do to get out of that high school. It is not clear if he did it for Lori, for Carl, or just to save his own skin, but he thought it was what he needed to do to survive. And he's done it before, he left Rick for dead when it was clear he had to get out of the hospital or they would both die. In this new reality do these actions make him evil or just a survivor?Watch out, Otis!

Going down this road leads us to a million interesting questions. In the same situation, would you kill a stranger if it would ensure the survival of someone you loved? Would Rick do it? Maybe not now, but at what point will this new reality begin to change him? Does the ability to make these tough choices make Shane a better leader? And the big picture question the show seems to be asking is if we lose our humanity, what is the point in living?

Lori’s speech about letting Carl die seemed slightly out of character, but by the end of the hour it made sense. She doesn’t want her child to grow up to be an animal that knows nothing but survival. By the end of the episode it looks like Shane is becoming that animal. How will she feel when she finds out what Shane has done, and that her family benefited from the murder?

More importantly, how will Rick feel? He would never condone cold-blooded murder under any circumstances, but that murder ensured Carl’s survival. Shane did what Rick would have been unable to do. It’s another debt to Shane that Rick can never repay. How will he reconcile his revulsion at Shane’s actions with his gratitude for the payoff?

As for everyone else, not much happened.
  • We’re how many months into the apocalypse and Carol still doesn’t know how to use a gun? How is she still alive? Although it was mildly interesting to see how differently she and Lori behave when their children are in peril.
  • I am sick of Dale always asking “Do you think that’s a good idea?”
  • Herschel has electricity and hot running water? Maybe he has a generator, but where is he getting fuel?
  • The Travis Bickle routine seems to be about more than just explaining the chunk of hair missing from Shane’s head; this is a turning point in his storyline. Does the physical transformation signal a mental or emotional transformation as well?

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