Monday, October 31, 2011

Shaving your head won't save your soul

Shane gives himself a haircut in "Save the Last One."

Last night's episode of The Walking Dead exhibited all the show's usual problems. There were way too many boring conversations, the women were painfully useless, and the script decided to bang the viewer over the head with symbolism. As EW.com's Darren Franich pointed out, Rick and Lori's conversation about the deer and the beauty of life was the equivalent of Hamlet constantly explaining that his fascination with actors and plays is representative of the absurd falsity of his surroundings. It's painful.

However, the episode was absolutely redeemed by the final scene. After coming back from the overrun high school carrying the medical supplies that could save Carl and telling a sad story about how Otis had sacrificed himself in order to save the Grimes boy, Shane escaped to the bathroom. While Shane shaved his hair in order to hide a missing patch of hair, a flashback showed that Shane, down to his last bullet, had shot Otis in the leg, escaping while a horde of walkers feasted on the poor EMT.

I'm a huge fan of this development. I hate Shane. He is just the worst. Watching the show trying to make him into a sympathetic character was painful because it just didn't work; there was nothing relatable about him. However, the turn into full-on darkness suits Shane well, because it seems like a completely logical move for his character. The man tried to rape Laurie at the CDC, after all; it's too late to make him into anything less than a villain. I also think this could be a good development for Rick, who has been awfully passive as of late. Pitting him against Shane could give Rick the kind of concrete goal that he hasn't had since the disastrous ending of the CDC mission, something the character sorely needs.

As far as the rest of the episode was concerned, there were ups and there were downs. I enjoyed the Daryl and Andrea storyline, largely because Daryl's tough, no-nonsense demeanor kept the worst aspects of Andrea's selfish whining in check. That hanging zombie was pretty cool too. Carol was, as usual, a useless pile of hysteria, and I am way past the point of caring about Dale and Andrea's fractured relationships. On the other hand, the scene between Glenn and Lauren Cohen (who may be named Maggie on the show, but who will always be The Vampire Diaries' Rose to me) was beautifully underplayed, and was also the most that Glenn has gotten to do this season.

The Walking Dead continues to be a frustratingly uneven show; when it's good, as it was during the Shane and Otis scenes, there are few other shows that are better, but it frequently grinds to a halt so that the characters can have a painfully obvious conversation that saps the story of any suspense. If things keep going like they did tonight the show could finally start living up to the potential of the pilot. Of course, this being The Walking Dead, there's every possibility that next week will return to the deadly dull status quo, but I'm hoping that the newly villainous Shane will breathe some re-animated life back into the proceedings.

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