In a discussion post a few weeks ago, we talked about the limitations that many of the best drama’s main protagonist face: Characters like Dexter, Don Draper, and Raylan Givens have to remain fairly static because too much growth or maturity would necessarily end the show. If Don Draper sobered up and settled down, there’d be no more “Mad Men.” If Dexter defeated his urge to kill, or if Raylan Givens resigned as a marshal to raise babies with Winona, those shows would cease to exist.
“The Walking Dead’s” Rick Grimes faces a similar predicament: His own dumb choices often create the arcs around which the show’s plots are built. But, despite fairly two-dimensional characterization, the second season of “The Walking Dead” — or at least the second half — has been about Rick’s rise to the true leader of the group. In order to achieve that position, however, a far more dynamic character, Shane, had to go. Unfortunately, being the leader of the group doesn’t change the fact that Rick is still one of the least interesting characters on the show.
Last night’e episode followed a similar narrative arc several of the previous episodes: Five minutes of gripping action followed by 35 minutes of talk, talk, talk, and ending with a two-minute “Oh SH*T” moment that keeps us compelled enough to watch next week. Last night’s “Oh SH*T” moment was the biggest of the season, even if it was the most expected. We knew Shane would die (I didn’t think it would happen until next week), but we didn’t know how or under what circumstances. He was killed by Carl in the graphic novel, and in a small moment of redemption for Carl’s character, Carl was able to pick off zombie Shane last night to end the episode.
However, it was Rick that turned him into the zombie, after probably the best dramatic sequence of the season, a gripping showdown in which Rick talked Shane out of killing him, only to plunge the knife into Shane’s stomach while Carl stood by as witness. It completed both Rick and Carl’s transformation to leader and to man, respectively.
The episode did leave open a lot of questions, namely: How did Shane and Randall — who Shane killed earlier in the episode — turn into zombies with no apparent zombie infections? Hopefully, that will be explained in future episodes (does the infection now simply affect anyone that dies?) We’ll also have to see how the rest of the camp sits with Shane’s death. More importantly, beyond the horizon, there was a horde of zombies likely to invade Hershel’s farm next week and force the survivors to a new location. Next week’s season finale should be a blood-soaked orgy of brain goulash.
Huge props, too, to the opening sequence, which alternated between Dale’s funeral and some good old fashioned zombie stomping.
What did you guys think? Did the show handle Shane’s death well? Will you miss him? Do you think that being the true leader will make Rick a better character?