As tonight’s episode was the second to last of the season, I figured we were in for a fair amount of build up leading into the season finale. Sure enough, the episode ended up with a nice little cliffhanger, and of course, there was yet another major moment, which played out by the light of the moon just as last week’s big (horrifying) scene did.

There’s a lesson to be learned from the stand-off between Shane and Rick, and the living are about to learn it the hard way. Firing guns late at night is probably the zombie equivalent to sending up a flair. Of course, didn’t Land of the Dead teach us that actual flairs and fireworks are great for distracting zombies? That’s neither here nor there. The point is, since people can’t get along, even when bonded by a common goal not to be eaten by dead people, they should at least consider playing out their double-crossing schemes when it’s light out... and away from the woods. Shane should have known better, but it makes no difference to him now. Shane’s dead. He got himself stabbed and then shot properly by Carl, who showed up out of nowhere to save his father’s life.

Dale likely would have approved of how his death affected Rick. The episode began with Rick saying the eulogy, which focused heavily on Dale’s message about keeping a grasp on their own humanity. Fittingly enough, the funeral cut back and forth with a scene that had Shane, Andrea, T-Dog and Daryl brutally slaughtering walkers. Granted, this is work that needs to be done, but the way they were doing it revealed the rage in all of them. Humanity is definitely slipping among some people.

Andrea did have a moment with Glenn over the loss of Dale. As both were close with him, it was good to see a human connection between the two characters as they grieve Dale’s passing. Meanwhile, everyone else was busy moving into Hershel’s house. It’s about time they all gave up the camp-out. Sure, it’s good to have people on the look-out but it’s silly to be sleeping in tents when there’s a perfectly good, giant farmhouse nearby with actual walls and a roof.

Rick’s plan was to let Randall go, and everyone was on board with that, except for Shane, who had his own plan. Things seemed to fall into place pretty easily for him. Carl gave him Daryl’s gun and confessed about the encounter with the walker that inevitably killed Dale. Shane used that as a distraction for Rick, giving him the gun and the information, presumably knowing that, just as he did when he was about to execute Randall, Rick would once again put his son ahead of his group obligations. And so he did.

The one sort of positive thing I can say about Randall’s death is that he barely saw it coming, which is quite different than the execution-style death he nearly got in last week’s episode. But I still felt bad for the kid, whose limp was practically a skip when he thought he was going to live. Shane cut Randall loose and walked him into the woods, then told him he wanted to join Randall’s group. That actually would have been the reasonable thing for Shane to do. Leave this group, go find another group and move on with his life/survival. He could start fresh, and Randall might have been right in saying he would fit in with them. But that wasn’t his plan. He wants this group. He wants Lori and the baby, and Carl. And he wants Rick out of the picture. So he snapped Randall's neck, then broke his own nose, which he would use as part of his story of how Randall escaped.

Shane underestimated two things when he plotted to kill Randall and Rick. The first was obviously Rick’s willingness to do what needed to be done. Though I doubt he’ll be celebrating his own craftiness later, Rick played Shane perfectly. Maybe he really did want to get Shane to lower his gun. Maybe some part of him hoped they could return to the farm together and figure out a better solution. Regardless, he was prepared to kill Shane, and he did this by talking his way closer to Shane, acting like he was going to lower his gun and eventually getting close enough to grab Shane’s gun with one hand, and stab him in the stomach or chest with a knife in the other. I’m thinking it was the chest area, considering how fast Shane died.

The other thing Shane underestimated was Daryl’s ability to track and find every single clue possible. Seriously, if he could have dusted for prints somehow, I bet he would have. From the blood on the tree where Shane broke his own nose, to the blindfold, to the footprints, which he knew indicated that Shane and Randall were walking together, Daryl pretty much figured it all out, and all by flashlight no less. And then they found walker-Randall with his neck broken and no bite marks. If it had been Shane that returned from the woods without Rick, he would have had some serious explaining to do. But that’s not the case. It will be Rick who returns, and at least Daryl can attest to the fishy circumstances surrounding Randall’s escape. But that might be an issue left to discuss another time, since it looks like Rick and Carl are going to lead a herd of walkers right back to the farm. Good thing they’re all stocked up and set up in the house now. That’s convenient.

On a related note, given that both Shane and Randall became walkers without being bit, I guess it’s safe to assume that this walker virus, is airborne. It also explains the people Shane and Rick found back when they were first supposed to release Randall, right? It seems like the rule is, if you die, you become a walker, even if you aren’t exposed to their black mouth-goo.

As I understand it, in the comics, Carl kills Shane. I guess Carl shooting walker-Shane sort of brings the story around to that. But I think the bigger issue will be how Rick deals with this. Not only did he have to kill yet another human, but it was his old partner and friend. I really don’t think Rick needs defending in this circumstance, as it was self defense, or as close to it as it gets. But it seems likely that the decision will affect him deeply.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Lori actually opened up in to Shane earlier in the episode, and admitted that she doesn’t know who the father of the baby is. She also apologized for how things worked out. It’s not enough to make me like her (yet), but having an honest moment with him does show strength of character on her part. I’m not sure if that was supposed to be the catalyst to Shane’s plan to kill Rick and Randall, or if he was planning to do that all along (I’m leaning toward the latter), but it did serve as some decent closure between the two characters before Shane met his demise.

Also, did anyone else thing Rick looked a bit peaked in this episode? Lack of sleep and stress? Or is something else going on here?

One more episode to go and it looks like they’re in for a serious walker attack when Season 2 closes out next Sunday night.

Watch the preview for next Sunday's season finale here.

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