In last week’s episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Lori left us with a promise of action: Shane is dangerous, she told Rick. Something needs to be done. Those of us beginning to nod off pricked our ears: What’s this? Is something interesting finally going to happen? Luckily, this week’s “18 Miles Out” goes in like a lion. In medias res, we fall straight into chaos as Rick, newly captured hostage Randall, and Shane fight their way through a horde of the undead.
Randall (the kid whose leg Hershel fixed up after his meddling, dangerous buddies nearly ruined everything) is beginning to heal, and Rick decides it’s about time to get rid of him. Rick and Shane blindfold Randall, clamp headphones in his ears, and pack him in the trunk of the car. On the way out, Rick stops the car to have a heart-to-heart with Shane. He tells Shane that when Rick found out Shane had begun an illicit relationship with Lori, it took every ounce of self-control not to want to break Shane’s jaw and watch him choke on his teeth. “That is my wife, that is my son, that is my child,” Rick says. “And if you want to be with us, you gotta let me take the lead.” Shane, for his part, plays the good guy here. He explains that he didn’t know Rick was dead, he didn’t even look at Lori before this all happened. Basically, “I didn’t mean it, bro.” Shane finishes the conversation by saying, “You can’t just be the good guy and expect to live, not anymore,” says the man with the crazy eyes.
The duo find an abandoned public works depot and decide this is the appropriate place to drop Randall. Rick shows Shane that sometimes killing with a knife is better – doesn’t make so much noise, doesn’t waste such resources; blood from a finger slice on a chain-link fence draws a singular walker, who then gets a knife through the head. “Hey buddy,” this gesture seems to say, “you don’t need to shoot first and think later.” When they leave Randall on the ground, tied up with a knife nearby, the poor kid saves and damns himself when he blurts out that he went to school with Maggie. Um, oops. All this time the survivors have been banking on the fact that Randall’s a stranger who won’t be able to tell anyone where they are. Unfortunately it’s not the case – which sets Shane off. This kid’s gotta go, says Shane, and starts raining bullets at Randall, hog-tied on the ground. Rick, who has wrested some semblance of control from his old deputy, can’t abide by senseless killing. An unrealistically prolonged fight between Rick and Shane ensues, and we remember suddenly that they’re both cops, both trained to fight hard and fight dirty if need be. Anything and everything becomes part of the battle: the car, the gun, a motorcycle. Finally, in a fit of rage Shane hurls a massive pipe wrench at Rick’s face. Instead of connecting with its intended target, the wrench demolishes an enormous window. Oops.
Enter the moaning cadre of undead. Rick has to bury himself beneath a corpse while Randall scoots himself ten feet on the pavement to get to his knife. Shane is forced into a schoolbus, where the hands of monsters pound on those collapsible doors that are familiar to so many American schoolchildren.
Meanwhile, back on the farm, Beth, who’s awakened from her catatonia, decides she’s going to kill herself. Lori takes the knife from the girl and fetches Andrea, who gets Maggie. While Maggie and Beth scream at each other upstairs, Lori and Andrea get into a knock-down-drag-out verbal battle in the kitchen. This, we saw coming. Andrea thinks Lori was wrong and has no right to dictate whether or not someone dies. Lori finally blurts out that she’s pissed Andrea’s “playing man” and ignoring all her housewifely duties. This part, in particular, will make a lot of savvy viewers sit up and listen. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one totally disgusted from the beginning that the women in this show were relegated to laundry and cooking duties during the aftermath of the apocalypse, while the men do the hunting and gathering. I was annoyed that the moment Lori set foot off the farm by herself, she got in a car accident (“ladiez can’t drive!”) and even more annoyed that Andrea’s personal journey into badassery seems to involve drinking Shane’s crazy kool-aid. So it is refreshing to hear someone speak of this on the show – and I hope they act on putting some women in stronger roles within our group. In case of a zombie invasion, I’m pretty certain I can do more than make sure there are mint leaves in the lemonade.
More importantly, Andrea points out all her issues with Lori, some of which are frustrating for everyone and some of which are just pissing her off. While the rest of the crew is busy “piling up its losses,” Andrea says, Lori just reaps the benefits of being a pretty, weak little flower. A husband, a son, a baby, a boyfriend, Andrea says pointedly. Ooooh, it’s on. I’m on neither side in this fight – but when this show’s writing is really in stride it brings up the things that would suddenly become important in a world that’s unfamiliar and hostile. Who is assigned what role, how, and why? Is it selfish to want to live? Is it selfish to desire death? Is it worth it to hope things will get better?
At the public works depot, Rick and Randall prepare to leave Shane behind (I can’t be the only one who hoped they actually would). Then, in a truly heroic move that puts Shane back in his place, Rick sticks Randall in the driver’s seat and hangs out the car window to shoot zombies as Shane acrobatically dives into the moving car from the back window of the bus. For once, Shane needed to be saved. And Rick was the man to do it. It’s delicious.
After a slow start, this season is building momentum again just in time for a (hopefully explosive) season finale in two weeks. I’m ready for our band of jaunty survivors to get the hell out of dodge and bring Maggie with them – Beth and Hershel aren’t really worth the plot they’re given, not yet anyway. At least the writers are once again bringing some interesting plot points to the table, and Greg Nicotero is raising the gore factor. (This episode contained a few delicious head-stabbings and one wonderful car-wheel brain-crush.) What’s odd is that this episode was apparently a vacation for most of the cast. Lori, Beth, Maggie, Shane, Randall, and Rick are the only characters of whom we caught a glimpse. Curious.
What’re your thoughts and predictions?