Walking Dead Report: 18 Miles Out (2/27/12)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-02-27 05:55

The Walking Dead - "18 Miles Out" (2/26/12)
Written by: Scott M. Gimple & Glen Mazzara
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson

Reviewed by: Brett G.

The Walking Dead report will is a weekly series that recaps the show's most recent episode; spoilers and speculation will follow.

After a brief, surprising opening sequence that finds Rick and Shane surrounded by hordes of walkers, “18 Miles Out” opens, appropriately enough, at a crossroads. The episode’s title refers to the distance the two leading men decided to drive before dropping off the now-rehabilitated stranger from the previous episode (if nothing else, the series spared us having to watch this guy recover). Before they arrive at their destination, however, Rick comes to a halt right in the middle of a four-way stop so he and Shane can finally hash things out; this is by far the most interesting conflict the show has to offer at this point, and this exchange sets the tone for the episode both thematically and narratively.

The big question at the center is whether or not Rick can really be counted on to make tough decisions--to stop being “the good guy,” and the specter of what Shane did to Otis looms over the proceedings. Given the situation and the opening sequence (which ends up being a flash-forward) that lets us know that all hell will soon break loose, it’s pretty clear that Rick is probably going to be forced into a situation that will test just what kind of man he now is.

And the situation we eventually get sets up a multitude of possibilities: will he be able to just strand this guy (whose name we learn is Randall) in the middle of nowhere? Will he be able to use him as walker-bait in the same way Shane used Otis? Or will he maybe even use Shane in a similar capacity?

The answer is really none of the above; that last possibility is teased, as Rick and Randall run off, leaving Shane trapped in a bus, surrounded by walkers. This felt like a huge moment, and, given that Shane had just instigated a fight that saw him hurl a huge wrench right at Rick’s head, I briefly gathered that maybe Rick had reached his breaking point. Maybe he’d finally realized that Shane was too dangerous and that sometimes you have to make tough decisions to protect yourself, so leaving Shane to be ripped apart would kill two birds with one stone.

Except Rick can’t do that, of course, so he and Randall play hero and rescue Shane in an admittedly cool moment that sees Rick mowing down walkers while riding shotgun. But as cool as it is, it sort of leaves us with a status-quo; yes, Rick and Shane have become more volatile, but it feels like the pot is still simmering. We’re pretty much in the same place we’ve been for weeks now, with Rick insisting that Shane’s going to have to play by the rules, and it’s almost appropriate that the episode ended with Shane staring off at a zombie that’s been wandering aimlessly since that’s what The Walking Dead sometimes feels like. “18 Miles Out” at least had some swift and gruesome chops, but, in the end, this is still the rumbling before the actual eruption that we know is still coming. If anything, this episode maybe pushes Shane ever closer to being the bad guy, and you can feel his resentment as he stares out the car window during that final shot, seemingly oblivious to Rick’s ultimatums.

“18 Miles Out” is otherwise rather compact, with many other supporting characters being largely absent. Instead, the only other concurrent plotline this week involves Beth (aka Herschel’s other daughter--the blonde one), who is now suddenly recovered--only now she’s suicidal, so we’re forced to rehash the same old beats of whether or not it’s worthwhile to keep living “in this world.” And of course Andrea can’t help but stick her nose into it because, hey, she was once suicidal too, so she has this wrongheaded notion that they should just let this poor girl off herself if she wants to. She even goes so far as to hint that Beth should give it a shot and leaves her alone to do the deed--and she almost does. But since she didn’t cut all the way, it’s okay because she wants to continue to live. Even Lori tries to justify it by saying you have to go over the edge sometimes just to be sure of what you want; I don’t know--I’m not sure if you’ll find this much melodrama on daytime soaps, though it is kind of interesting how The Walking Dead has seemingly blown humanity back to the stone age in terms of hunter/gatherer gender roles, and it's cool to see this episode tackle that head on in the conversations between Maggie, Lori, and Andrea.

I’d say this episode does a fair job of getting Andrea on my bad side, but she otherwise makes some good points during an argument with Lori where she accuses her of playing mother bee in an attempt to live in denial of the zombie apocalypse. As Andrea points out, that’s pretty easy for Lori, who still has a husband, a kid, a baby on the way, and even a boyfriend on the side. The Walking Dead is pretty good at making its characters slippery like this--one moment, they can be absolutely right, then the next, they’re okay with letting a teenage girl slit her own wrists. I enjoy that nuance, and I hope it continues to define the show--even in the case of Rick and Shane, there’s a sense that neither are always completely right or wrong, so I’m interested to see how that evolves. I think we’ve seen that Rick can become kind of like Shane when he’s forced to--but can Shane become more like Rick if need be? I doubt it, and it’d probably be best if he and Andrea just rolled off of the farm, but it’d surely be a lot more boring without those two around.
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