“The Walking Dead” continued along its slower Season 2 pace last night, giving viewers plenty to contemplate as the ragtag group from Georgia continue to splinter on a number of fronts, both practical and emotional.
The episode begins with Shane (Jon Bernthal) in the farmhouse bathroom; considering we left him and Otis at the high school last week, about to be overrun by walkers, we’re not sure if this is after he gets back safely or not. What we do know, though, is that he’s not OK: he shaves his head, then looks in the mirror with one of those “what did I just do?” looks that’s bound to send any character teetering on the edge.
The same scene comes at the end, but in between, we realize that Oits and Shane were in a no-win situation at the high school, with walkers all around, the pair running out of ammo, and Shane with what’s likely a broken ankle. When Shane comes back from the school alone, we have a feeling what might have happened, but not until we return to the bathroom, and Shane is reflecting on what he just did, that the truth comes out: Shane shot Otis in the knee to disable him, leaving him to the walkers and allowing him the time he needed to escape. Yikes.
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We knew Otis was a goner, but we just figured his relative girth would slow him down, not Shane throwing him to the zombies. Shane has been portrayed as the group’s leader, but there was always a bit of a dark side to him, as we saw with the affair with Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) — a topic that we haven’t really heard about much this season, by the way — and this will likely haunt Shane to the point of madness. He was a cop, after all, and he had to make the ultimate choice to survive. Knowing he was able to do that and may have to do that again will send him — and the show — off into some interesting new directions.
The entire group was contemplating their place in this new world order, though, with Glenn (Steven Yeunn) praying for the first time, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) telling him that her faith has been shaken, and Lori actually voicing why she thinks her son Carl (Chandler Riggs) might be better off dead than alive. This is where the show is at a crossroads, especially for fans who might not have followed the graphic novel this series was based on. If you think that the show is spending too much time on the existential stuff and should just show the gang running from bloodthirsty walkers, then you’re likely not going to enjoy the direction the show is going in.
But to the fans who expect AMC to continue its high standards in drama, this is a welcome sight. Sure, things might end up going too slow; for instance, Sophia (Madison Lintz) is no closer to being found at the end of this episode than she was at the beginning. But for those of you dissatisfied by the shallow characterizations of the compressed first season, this is a good sign that you’re going to see something more than just a bunch of caricatures waiting to see who the next person is to get torn apart.
We’re hoping it doesn’t go down the path where nothing happens over the next ten episodes. But like the best AMC shows have proven, sometimes a slow burn and a spectacular finish isn’t such a bad way to lay out a season; just ask everyone who’s still reeling after the spectacular “Breaking Bad” finale, almost a month later.