Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 3 (Save The Last One)

Spoiler Warning!

Holy shit.

Episode 3 of The Walking Dead's second season shows us how Shane and Otis fare in the zombie-infested high school while trying to bring medical supplies back to the camp to save young Carl's life. Meanwhile, Glenn and T Dog join the group at the farm, and Dale and the others keep watch for Sophia back at the RV on the highway.

I have to admit, I really like Daryl as a character. I haven't read up on the comics that inspired this TV show (even though I had planned on doing so - and I intend to in the near future), but judging from Robert Kirkman (the writer of those comics)'s comments on the Talking Dead special that's been airing on AMC, Daryl is an original character for the TV series - and thus a wild card, since readers of the comics don't know his fate.

His brother Merle didn't ingratiate himself to the group very well, but Daryl seems to be a good person, and above all, he knows how to survive - while keeping a relatively positive attitude, too. He almost has me convinced that Sophia really is okay, after all, and that they'll find her. And with Rick starting to lose it over his son's condition, the group really needs a level-headed leader. But he's not as sympathetic towards the walkers, judging from his attitude towards the hanged man. On the other hand, his passive attitude toward meddling in the fate of others demonstrates his conviction not to make other people's choices for them, which seems to be the theme of this episode.

For example, Lori begins to consider whether letting Carl die here and now is not the more merciful decision, than fighting for him to stay alive, to have to endure living in such a hellish world any longer. Which is partly surprising, giving Lori's strength in the face of adversity, and her love for her son. But she has a good point. Still, I truly admire Rick's unswerving faith in his will to live, and his dedication to hope beyond reason. So though it's not as dramatic as his earlier silent pause in response to Lori's question of why it's worth living on in this hell, I was glad that he later found a reason to give her.

It was a combination of there still being beauty in this world (the deer), as well as the fact that Carl, during the brief period when he was lucid, focused on that - the good feelings he had been having, and not the fact that he had just been shot and must have been in great pain. But the most important point of all was that Carl seemed to want to live, and it's not really Lori nor Rick's decision to decide whether to kill him mercifully - whether to live on in this hell or not is something every person has a right to decide, but only for themselves.

Which brings us to Shane. I was really, honestly, truly, starting to like Shane again, even after all the questionable things he's done. He really stood up and did what needed to be done for Carl in terms of getting those medical supplies from the zombie-infested school. I've also come to like Otis - the man who accidentally shot Carl. I was prepared to totally hate this guy when that happened, but he turned out to be such a nice guy, and genuinely resentful of his accident, and so insistent on doing whatever he could to make up for it, I couldn't help liking him. So it's sad that he ended up allegedly sacrificing himself for Carl's sake, though poetically just. That rocketed my appreciation for him up even more...until I found out the truth.

In doing everything he could to accomplish his task, Shane may have finally crossed the line he's been walking for so long. I thought in my mind how perfect it would have been for Otis to sacrifice himself, using his larger size as an advantage to stave off the zombies long enough for Shane to make it out alive. But then when I found out Shane had effectively killed him - making that decision for him - for that very reason, that changed everything. The outcome is the same - and I'm sure that's what Shane was focusing on - but the difference is merciful sacrifice versus murder for advantage.

The ultimate question is, was Shane justified in committing murder in that instance, thinking there was no other way to get out, knowing that the success or failure of his mission could determine the fate of Carl's life? To what extent are we bound by a code of ethics in a world without law, where the dead walk the earth, feeding on the living? Can exceptions be made, or is it more imperative than ever that we follow that code and choose right actions?

Regardless of the answer to these questions, it's very clear that Shane is dangerous - to the point of almost becoming a villain. He may be on our side, but for how long, and what lengths will he go to against someone he perceives as a threat to his own survival, or the survival of those he cares about? Clearly, he's not comfortable with his actions - is there room for forgiveness, and is he obligated to tell the rest of the group the truth about what happened to Otis? Does the answer to that question depend on how it would affect the cohesiveness of the group, or not?

This is what makes The Walking Dead such a great series. Tough questions, with even tougher answers. And continuing on the God front, Maggie from the farm group makes a good point about the absence of God in a world practically devoured by the walking undead. Whether he's up there or not - and the evidence that he is isn't very strong - it's up to us to do what we can to make things right, not to rely on God to fix our problems for us...

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