By Karen Moul
Week twelve brought us a landmark chapter of The Walking Dead,
as the season’s slow build paid off with a truly game-changing episode. Rick and Shane finally brought their love-hate relationship to a resolution, and Shane’s death brought undeniable proof that the zombie infection is not passed by the walkers.
From the opening scene to the stunning climax, almost everything about “Better Angels” was right on. The tone of the episode was infused with a real sense of foreboding. The sudden cold weather, the grimness and depression, preparations for winter, it all created an undercurrent of threat that built to a stunning climax. Even Dale’s funeral had an air of danger. I loved the way Rick’s talk of humanity was juxtaposed against shots of the smaller group hunting walkers, not just beheading but beating and stomping them to death. It was personal, violent and showed how angry they are at losing Dale. But few viewers missed the irony of Rick’s voiceover about honoring Dale. I’m not sure this group is capable of taking Dale’s message to heart.
The real action, of course, was set in motion by Shane. Week after week, Rick has made excuses for his friend, telling people they had settled their score, Shane had turned over a new leaf, he wasn’t a bad guy, on and on. It seems obvious now that he was mostly trying to convince himself. Rick probably knew all along that Shane would have to go, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit it. It was only when Shane was ready to kill him that Rick was finally able to act.
But before he got to that point, a few things happened to push Shane over the edge. First he was unhappy at the way Rick marginalized him, choosing Darryl to help him with Randall. Then there was the confrontation with Rick over how to handle Carl. But the real kicker was Lori’s tearful apology for putting Rick and Shane at odds. Millions of viewers shouted at their TV screens as she admitted that she doesn’t know who fathered her baby, thanked him for saving her life, and characterized the situation as “confused.”
What was Lori up to? She has said all along it's Rick baby, no matter what it's Rick's. Now all of a sudden she opens the door to the possibility that Shane is the father? She had to know that would set him off. Many viewers have theorized that she wanted Shane to go after Rick so that Rick would be forced to kill him. I can’t imagine she actually planned it, because it’s just too risky. Shane is both physically and mentally capable of killing Rick, it could have easily gone the other way.
As the end drew near, Shane’s lies unraveled and it’s not clear Rick ever believed them at all. I think he went onto the woods knowing only one of them would return. Why Shane did all of this will never be known. Some think it was a desperate, crazy attempt to eliminate Rick, take control of the group and have Lori to himself. Others believe Shane wanted Rick to kill him, that he knew he’d lost control and could no longer be trusted. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
As if killing Shane isn’t going to mess Rick up enough, he suddenly turned into a walker! Then Carl appeared and killed him again, ensuring that both Grimes men will need some serious therapy. Rick has just killed his best friend and partner, a man who saved both Lori and Carl more than once. Carl shot a friend and father figure who he truly loved.
Ordinarily this is something Rick would agonize over for months, but thankfully it looks like we will be spared all of that for now as hundreds of zombies are headed for the house. Good thing Herschel stocked the basement, because it’s going to be a long night!
A couple of things to note: