Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "18 Miles Out"

Non Spoiler Review:
18 Miles Out picks up the pace as Shane and Rick take Randal far enough from the farm to set him on his way. The journey brings out all the issues stewing between the two best friends. Back on the farm, Beth's emotional breakdown causes a crisis (plus a philosophical debate) and brings out some additional underlying issues between Andrea and Lori.

This was a good one, and a welcome change of pace from the last couple, advancing some major stuff with Rick and Shane. But one thing that was clearly evident was the budgetary restrictions. I could just imagine the discussion in the writers room about the expensive zombie sequences and cutting back half the cast who were absent this week. Despite the small cast, the two storylines were really compelling—both Shane and Rick hashing out their issues, and Lori, Maggie and Andrea fighting about everyone's respective roles in their post-apocalyptic world. Hopefully this marks a change in direction as we near the end of the season, and events will continue to accelerate.

Spoilers Now!
Shane and Rick drive to a remote spot on the road 18 miles from the farm. They're going farther, but Rick wants a moment to talk, starting with what really happened to Otis. Surprisingly, Shane comes clean and admits only one of them was going to make it out of that school. Being the good guy doesn't mean he gets to live. Rick counters that he's not the good guy anymore and makes it clear he gets what happened between him and Lori, but he didn't confront him about it, and that wasn't a sign of weakness. Shane doesn't love Lori, even though he thinks he does, and the only way they go forward is for Shane to accept everything he's said. 

Shane doesn't reply to that, but instead recounts how he tried to get Rick out of the hospital and eventually had to leave him behind. Lori and Carl kept him alive, not the other way around. He never looked at her before that moment, and he'd take it back if he could.

They return to the car to check on Randal, who is tied up and blindfolded, and get back on the road. They arrive in Mert County and find a fenced in police department that will give him a fighting chance to survive. While there, Rick decides it's best they start using knives as much as possible over the guns, and kill two police officer walkers. They take the opportunity to salvage for supplies, and Shane notes that the two they killed don't have bites on them. Just scratches (important plot point?). 

They leave Randal, who pleads for them to take him with them. Rick tosses a knife to him so he can free himself when they leave. Randal shouts out he went to school with Maggie, though she didn't know he existed. He knows who her dad is. He's not like the guys he was with. 

Shane is furious at this new bit of information, meaning he knows where the farm is and decides to kill him, firing off a shot that Rick foils. Rick wants a chance to think about it, so decides to bring him back. That sparks an argument and Shane accuses him of backing down whenever he's put to the test and doesn't think he can keep them safe. They get into a big old fight as Rick tells him he won't let him make the calls anymore.

Shane throws a big wrench at him, through a window, which just happens to be a building full of undead that pile out in a swarm. They see Shane first, so Rick hides as they go after him. Shane takes refuge in a bus, while Randal, tied up and dragging himself along the ground, attempts to get to the knife. He manages to get his legs untied and escapes a walker that comes after him.

After barely escaping his own attackers, Rick catches up to Randal. Randal wants to leave Shane and wonders why Rick still wants to save him, so asks for a gun. Rick decides to go, and Shane, trapped in the bus and barely keeping out the zombies, watches them leave. 

Rick goes back to the two dead police walkers and seems to have second thoughts when he's reminded of his friendship. He drives back in the car shooting zombies and Shane gets out the back door, and they make their escape. 

Back on the road, they tie up and blindfold Randal again. Rick tells Shane he probably will have to kill Randal, but he wants to think about it, because it can't be easy to kill someone, even in their harsh world. If Shane's going to be with them, he has to trust him and follow his lead.

Meanwhile...Maggie confided in Lori about Glen freezing in town, but Lori thinks it will all work out. Beth seems to be better, but extremely morose about everything. Lori tries to cheer her up, then notices Beth took the knife from her dinner. She gets it back, but Lori's in a panic she's suicidal. Maggie confronts her sister and the two debate continuing to live given all the death around them.

Andrea and Lori listen to the two of them fight, and Andrea suggests Lori did the wrong thing by taking the knife away, because Beth needs to find her own reasons for living. Lori tells her Maggie and Beth don't need her help, then happens to add that Andrea isn't pulling her weight with the cooking and cleaning, and instead sits on the RV working on her tan. Andrea counters that Lori's the self-centered one and takes her pretty nice life all for granted. Everyone else has piled up their losses while Lori plays house and just looks out for herself. Husband, son, baby...boyfriend. 

Beth proposes she and Maggie should kill themselves together before it's too late. She just wants to go in her own bed with Maggie beside her. Andrea comes in to let Maggie have a break, so tells Beth the pain doesn't ever go away, they just need to make room for it.

Beth then locks herself in the bathroom, forcing Maggie and Lori to break down the door. Beth has cut her wrists, but hasn't done anything permanent. Maggie and Lori are furious, while Andrea says Beth has made her decision to live. Maggie forbids her from ever setting foot in the house again. Lori doesn't want to admit Andrea was right, but does comment Beth has made her choice and they don't really need to worry about her.

The Verdict:
Getting back to some old fashioned zombie craziness was welcome. The scenes between Shane and Rick really worked, too, and I was wondering if Rick would actually abandon him in the bus. In fact, he would have, it seemed, had he not come across those two police walkers. What happens now? Is Shane castrated or will it just all explode again?

With Otis' fate outed, Rick still didn't connect the dots yet about Sophia being in the barn all this time due to Otis dying. Hopefully that will be addressed next week.

Another great scene was Andrea and Lori. I found myself agreeing with Andrea's philosophy, as tough love as it was. Lori really needed a smackdown, given how she's marching around like the First Lady of the survivors, and she's the only one who still has her entire family. She really has nerve lecturing others and bitching that Andrea's not helping out with the woman's work

As I mentioned, the obvious budget constraints really made for a concise episode—two plots, with no extraneous scenes among the survivors (who all must have been hanging out by the RV all day). It worked, though, because what we got were two very well-written plots, even if it did feel a bit small.

I was curious about all the attention to the cops that had no bites—just scratches. Is that another means of infection? Did anyone get scratched? They left that hanging, and has me wondering if it's all going to tie in to Jenner's whisper at the end of last season that will provide some additional information about the plague.

Some additional goodies—Rick's musings about winter slowing down the walkers and all the plans they need to make to ready for the cold weather. Plus the shift to stabbing the zombies and saving ammo. All nice call outs to the graphic novel.

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