Do not read this if you do not want the episode spoiled.
When we left off, Otis and Shane were chased into a high school carrying the vital medical supplies to save Carl's life. Every series has a couple of episodes where things slow down. This was one of them. Almost the entire episode was devoted to either more character development, or episodic plot drama. The greater story arch however was not progressed at all. AMC needs to be wary of that. I will explain later. A few important things did happen that will set the stage for the rest of the series.
Number One: Shane took the deep end plunge.
So Shane is unraveling. But he does have a sort of nobility. It would hurt Shane if Rick knew how he felt. They were friends, but their friendship is based on a relationship created while the old rules applied. Shane knows that eventually there would be a clash and he is taking steps to escape it before it happens. The nobel anti hero. Sacrifice for the sake of what should be. But is it sacrifice or cowardice? At one point this episode, Shane was about to give up. Then Otis came running, shooting the zombies about to take Shane down. Then again, Shane was about to give up, and Otis kept him going.
But what is keeping Shane going? You would like to think it is his love for Carl, but I have to disagree. It is not even for his friendship with Rick. Shane is ashamed of his own cowardice and weakness. It is noble that he is putting himself in danger for Carl, and helping Rick to save the kids life, but I think Shane is more concerned with the appearance of how he looks, than a deep rooted devotion. Also, I do believe he holds a certain honor debt to Rick.
Rick even betrays Shane's nature when he tells the high school story of him stealing the car. Shane is unscrupulous, and uses his good appearance as a cover.
I have a childhood friend that is a complete and total miscreant. So much so that he had to move away from NY because he was on the top ten most hated list of the State Troopers. His situation was so dire that if he got pulled over one more time, he would end up in jail for years. He is a thief and liar and a close match to Shane's personality. I would not really consider us friends, but, I trust him with my life. I have no doubt that he would take a bullet for me. Why? I'm not entirely sure. But he holds a level of devotion to me that belies his unscrupulous nature. Maybe because I always gave him the benefit of the doubt and respected him despite what others said. I think this is the relationship Shane holds for Rick. Shane feels guilt over leaving Rick in the hospital, he also feels guilt for moving in on his wife after telling her Rick was dead.
Shane owes Rick, and that along with his cowardice and shame of failure drive him. That is why Shane put the bullet in the guys leg and left him. Shane decided he had to pay his debt no matter what the cost to him. Mostly because he wanted it paid so he could slip away guilt free. Hence the problem. Shane only feels guilt towards certain people. Rick being one of those few names. He knew it was wrong to shoot Otis and leave him, but his sense of guilt/nobility/shame for Rick was stronger than the morals he might hold related to a world now dead.
The head shaving was symbolic of all of this. It was symbolic of him shedding his debt to Rick. It was symbolic of him shedding his sense of right and wrong based on old world rules, and it was symbolic of him trying to wash his hands of Lori despite the fact that she gave him respite from his shame by asking him to stay. But now he would have to wear the clothes of a man he betrayed, and lie to his loved ones. And sooner or later that lie is going to unravel too. He is going to have to explain why he has Rick's pistol, which was supposedly in the hands of Otis when he died. When that lie comes to a head, Shane's world will come crashing down. My guess will be that Glen will be there to help resolve the issue.
Number Two: The rise of Glen!
Last week I predicted that the Vet's cute daughter would rise to the level of regular character. This week I am sure of it. First of all, there are at least there other people in the house. Only she got more then a few seconds of camera time. But also, most of that time was spent with Glen. We are going to see Glen step up and take a more active role in things. Glen is an optimist and holds a fatherly respect for Rick. Rick owes his life to Glen. Those facts will lead to Glen replacing Shane as a decision maker, especially as Shane's sanity slips further away. I have not read the graphic novels, but I predict a confrontation between Rick and Shane, probably caused by Shane getting the girl killed or nearly so, and Glen ending it with a bullet to Shane's head.
Number Three: Daryl becomes a leader?
Yes, Daryl, the neo nazi redneck is stepping up into a position of respect and leadership. Such is as it would be. The guy has useful skills in the new reality. He is a survivalist and analyst. He can break down situations, and offer quick and efficient responses. But most importantly, as opposed to Shane, he does have a sense of right and wrong. He might not have followed the rules of society before the fall, but now that things have changed, and people rely on him, his sense of right is coming to the surface. As he laid trying to sleep, the crying mother got the best of him. He knew that going to make a show of looking for the girl would help. While out there with the blonde, he actually showed some wisdom. His logic on choosing not to kill the hanging zombie was sound and based on his reality which is very black and white. Why waste an arrow? But also, he wanted to prove a point to the blonde. The dude hanging from the tree opted out. There are consequences to those actions. And Daryl was going to enforce those consequences. But the wisdom is in his accepting her deal and shooting the zombie. Now he had her trust. It was not about the arrow, or her answer. It was about him taking the time to give her the chance to trust him. I think he manipulated her in that regard. Now he has her in his pocket. In fact, he is slowly doing deeds for every one in such a way. T-Dog, Rick, The Blonde... I would not be surprised if every one ended up owing him.
This is a common classroom discipline tactic. When you have a room full of tough kids, you do subtle favors for them individually, but you don't point that out to them at the moment, you wait until you need to pull that favor out of your pocket! Soon they will develop a sense of loyalty to me because they owe me, they have a street code, they have something invested like Trust. Hmm, sneaky? Is Daryl a teacher? What is the difference between me and my miscreant friend?
But it is how he uses this subtle power that will decide what kind of man he is. Sadly, as likable as he is, I think that the first chance he gets he will betray the group. That will probably coincide with a late season reappearance of his brother Merl. But he has still done good along the way. Is this the definition of anti-hero?
But what happens if no progress is made in the overarching story?
AMC needs to be wary of bogging down the story too much with character development episodes. I get it, they had to set the stage for the Shane melt down, plus whatever future plans for Glen and Daryl. But why are most of their audience watching the show? I'm gona guess it is not for the drama. A lot of their audience is watching the show because they like to see how people react to the zombie apocalypse. They want to see what happened to Fort Benning. They want to see zombie action! The only zombie action in this episode was told in flashback. The first three episodes of this season has not seen them progress from the damn traffic snarl that started it. Little has changed. The girl is still lost, Shane is on the edge and the group is still fragmented. They are no closer to Fort Benning and the zombies are even less of a fixture and more of a plot twist.
Want another example of a show that lost it's viewers in such a way? The original Battlestar Galactica any one? The show had the same premise as The Walking Dead. A group of survivors making their way against the odds and an unending opponent to an eventual end. The viewers tuned in to see what was going to happen. But week after week the story arch got bogged down with sub plots and character twists until it was cancelled before it's time. That was why with the new BSG, while they spent a lot of time doing character dev, just about every episode also included a bit of a push into the story arch. The new BSG remained on task, thus it maintained it's incredible popularity. The Walking Dead runs the risk of becoming bloated with too many episodes about nothing. The need to keep the balance or risk losing their fans.
Next week we can look forward to watching Shane squirm, Glen hook up with the hottie, and the blonde sulk. More to come!