Ron Moore, eat your heart out. This show definitively earned its dark survival spurs this episode, bit by carefully laid bit.
We open with someone shaving his hair as a shower runs in the background. Not sure who it is until they finally reveal it to be Deputy Shane. Not sure when it is, either, after the flashback that started last week’s episode. But by the end of this episode we know—it’s heartbreakingly today.
Last episode, Shane and Otis went to find the medical supplies that Veterinarian Hershel needed to try and perform life-saving surgery on Sheriff Rick’s son, Carl. They found them at a FEMA camp at the local high school. But they were subsequently trapped by a horde of zombies. Now we see Rick and Otis racing down the dark high school halls with a ravenous horde in close pursuit. The voiceover is Sheriff Rick telling his wife Lori about some wild stunt Shane pulled in high school. As we fade to them watching over Carl, Rick concludes: “Shane’s going to make it back.”
Back on the interstate, Woodsy Darryl wakens to the sound of Sophie’s mom quietly sobbing. He decides to get up and do a walkabout at night to look for the little girl. Andrea goes with him.
Shane and Otis are trapped at the top of the closed bleachers in the high school gym. The zombies are being their usual surly selves below. Shane figures the only chance is to break out a window and risk a 20-foot jump to the ground outside. And then we get another of this show’s real-life vibes about best laid plans as Otis points out he’s too fat to get through the windows above the bleachers.
Plan B: Otis will go for the larger windows in the locker room. Shane covers Otis with gun fire while Otis jumps to the gym floor on one end of the bleachers. Otis hurts himself jumping. So Shane has to cover him longer than planned, which is unfortunate because the zombies have found the stairs to a mezzanine that can reach the top of the bleachers. Shane breaks the window and throws the medical supply bag into the bushes below. He climbs out and is hanging by the ledge, aiming for the bushes himself, That’s when a zombie reaches through the window to grab him. Shane pulls a pistol from an ankle holster and shoots it through the head, but then falls uncontrolled. He twists an ankle pretty bad in the landing.
T-Dog and Glenn, the utility infielder Asian guy who always finds a way to chip in, arrive at Hershel’s farm. The women there tell T-Dog that Merle’s antibiotics for the clap probably saved his life. They clean and sew up T-Dog’s injured arm. Back at the interstate, Darryl tells Andrea that Sophie could still be alive, that he was lost in the woods for nine days as a boy. That leads to a very brief aside indicating just how dysfunctional Darryl’s family was (i.e., no one was sufficiently sober or out of jail to look for him). It’s a wonder he turned out as well as he did.
Shane’s limping toward the car as quietly as he can. But he’s spotted by a stray zombie and the others are after him again. That’s really bad because he’s not much faster than they are with his bum ankle. But wouldn’t you know it, fat old Otis did find a way out of the locker room. They link back up and shoot their way out the moment.
Back at the farm, Lori tells Rick that if Carl dies, that’s it, maybe the CDC guy was right. Maybe it’s time to lie down. Rick refuses to accept that. He feels vindicated when Carl wakes up and starts talking about the deer. Then Carl goes deathly quiet, and for one brief moment I think they’ve fooled me and Carl is actually dead. Lori looks horrific. Next moment, they fool us again as Carl goes in to horrible convulsions. Hershel says the brain isn’t getting enough blood flow, that another transfusion may kill Rick, but dad steps up to the plate anyway.
Our comic relief for this episode is Darryl and Andrea finding a zombie who hung himself while alive. Of course, he resurrected and is just hanging there snarling helplessly in mid-air. Andrea implores Darryl to use his crossbow put it out of its misery, which he finally does. And he does so with typical woodsy pithiness: “Waste of a good arrow.” Cuz’, you know, he can’t reach this one to pluck it out of the head.
Shane and Otis are continuing to have the worst night imaginable. Shane’s leg is slowing him down something awful. Otis can’t move very fast, either. Shane tells Otis to leave him behind, and you remember that. Otis says there’s no way he’ll do it, and you damn well remember that, because little Carl is dead if one of them doesn’t get back. They stand and start limping away, maybe ten shots left between them, while in the background we see zombies closing.
Hershel says they can’t wait any longer. Rick and Lori have to make a decision. Carl is going to die without an operation in the next half hour. Carl is probably going to die anyway, in terrible pain, if Hershel tries to operate without the supplies. He can’t make that decision for them. Rick points out to Lori that when the delirious Carl woke earlier, he talked about the deer he’d seen. He talked about something alive, something wonderful, and that’s why they can’t give up. Lori tearfully tells Hershel to operate.
Right as they’re about to start, Shane drives up with the supplies looking dead tired and kind of wild. He says Otis didn’t make it. Hershel says they can’t tell Otis’ wife right now because they need her to help with the surgery. Later, Hershel emerges from the house to say Carl is stable. Rick tells Lori to go to Carl while he and Hershel tell Otis’ wife the sad truth. Hershel’s daughter gives Shane some fresh clothes while Otis’ wife wails in the background. Lori thanks Shane and tells him to stay with the group, that he shouldn’t go away on his own as he’s talked about before.
In the bathroom, with the shower running, Shane looks at himself long and hard in the mirror. He notices a little rip in his scalp. We’re trained to think “Oh, no, zombie bite!” But it’s worse than that. Shane flashes back to him and Otis limping as the zombies closed in. You remember that Shane told Otis to leave him, and Otis wouldn’t. Well neither of them looked like they’d make it, so Shane used his last bullet to shoot Otis. He took the supplies while a desperate Otis grabbed at him, snatching some hair from his scalp.
Shane escaped because the zombies converged on Otis. Carl survived because Shane shot Otis. Should Shane have just run back toward the zombies himself? Would Otis have let him? Would fat old injured Otis have made it himself? What calculations and self preservation instincts go through a person’s mind in a moment like that. Hopefully, none of us will ever have to find out. But like Rick said in the opening voice over, “Shane will make it back.” And they were all so grateful, and Shane looked wilder and more lost with each thank you.
Absolutely brutal, and very well crafted.
Will Conservatives Like This Episode?
Anyone who believes in the dual-edged sword of human nature should appreciate it. I think conservatives do, since it’s why utopia is a fool’s errand.