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One of the interesting things we’re seeing on The Walking Dead this season are some excellent character-defining choices from the lead characters. The AMC drama is a story of survival and decisions have to be made, one of which is whether or not survival is even worth the price that needs to be paid to achieve it. Read no further if you haven’t watched last night’s episode of The Walking Dead!
First, this is not a recap of last night’s episode. If you’re interested in that, check out Nick’s write-up here. It’s a good read! What I want to talk about is the meat of last night’s episode, which revealed that Shane shot Otis while the two were coming dangerously close to becoming walker-food. We can probably chalk up Shane’s choice to use his last bullet on Otis to the fact that he decided that because he was limping and Otis was out of shape, they didn’t stand much of a chance of out-running the hoards of advancing walkers. So he shot Otis in the knee, took the stuff Otis was carrying and made it home alive.
I’m seeing a lot of differing opinions online, much of which has me thinking people were already fairly divided on Shane to begin with. While some will argue that Shane made the best play he could to survive, and that he did what he had to to bring back the supplies, which may or may not prove to be life-saving for Carl, others will argue that it was a cold move and one that reveals Shane’s true nature.
I’m actually on both sides of the fence on this one. Did shooting Otis in the knee save Shane’s life? Probably, although a head-shot would’ve been more merciful. Judging by the state of the legs on the suicide-walker we saw hanging from a tree during last night’s episode, hungry walkers don’t necessarily discriminate against dead meat. Otis’ body would’ve been warm and ripe for eating whether or not he was alive or recently dead. Shane shooting him in the knee seemed exceptionally heartless in that respect, especially after watching Otis scream as a walker bit his ear off.
What’s interesting about Shane’s choice was that it was one of a few other especially character-defining choices we’ve seen so far this season. Rick’s choice to search for Sophia, for example, shows that his natural instinct to help others and do what’s always been expected of him as a lawman is still intact, though that could prove to be his undoing as a leader. When a little girl goes missing, he organizes a search party, just as he would have before the walkers arrived. In doing so, he inadvertently put Carl's life in danger.
Last night, when Lori suggested that Carl might be better off free from whatever horrors his future might hold in the grim world they’re living in, Rick seemed to have a hard time wrapping his mind around her logic. In his mind, a living Carl is obviously better than a dead Carl. But Lori, like Andrea, seems to be struggling with hope and faith that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. As Carl’s mother, she wants her son to grow up to a bright future, but right now, all the future appears to hold is fear, pain, and walking dead people.
Season 2 of The Walking Dead is tackling some fascinating angles on how people would react in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. I haven’t read the comics, so I can’t comment on how well the story is sticking to the original work thus far, but I can say that the character development is progressing nicely this season. Shane’s choice to kill Otis seems to have drawn a line for him in terms of what he’s willing to do to survive. Whether or not his decision was fueled more by saving his own life, or saving Carl’s, it’s hard to say, but we now know he’s not above murder if it’s a means to an end.
Meanwhile, how long will Rick be able to maintain his heroic outlook on life? He seems less governed by ego and a need to be the savior as he is simply a natural leader, law enforcer and giving person. And finally, whether or not Carl lives, Lori’s admission that he might be better off dead could end up haunting her relationship with Rick. Whether or not it was a passing thought, it’s out there now, and I can’t help but wonder how it might affect their relationship. I'm also excited to see how Shane's decision affects him, if it does at all, and whether he admits what he did to anyone.
What did you think of Shane's choice?