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TV Diary | The Walking Dead: “18 Miles Out”

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TV Diary | The Walking Dead – Episode 2.10 – “18 Miles Out” – Original Airdate: 2/26/12

Episode Grade: B

Unquestionably, the main focus of The Walking Dead since it returned from its midseason hiatus [1] has been the Rick/Lori/Shane triangle. We’ve seen the continuing devolution of Shane to the point where I speculated in my review of “Triggerfinger” that he’s unlikely to emerge from this season still alive. What “18 Miles Out” did – in uneven fashion – was have both Rick and Shane lay their cards out on the table and get all of their issues out in the open. Shane tells Rick that he can’t expect to be able to simultaneously play the good guy and survive the new world order while Rick informs Shane that he needs to forget any feelings he’s still harboring for Lori and rein in his destructive streak if he wants to remain a part of the camp. Two men who were once as close as brothers have been put into a situation where it’s becoming increasingly evident that one or the other isn’t going to survive and, most likely, the one who doesn’t is going to die at the other’s hands. It’s yet another example of The Walking Dead proving that life in the middle of a zombie apocalypse is pretty damn bleak and hopeless. But, while it accomplished that, it did so in uneven fashion, hearkening back somewhat to the up-and-down episodes that pockmarked the middle of the first half of this season. While the narrow focus of the episode has been praised by some critics [2], I didn’t feel that the set piece in the parking lot following Rick and Shane’s argument was as effectively tense as other similar sequences this season have been. Granted, the in media res opening of the episode is possibly my most despised narrative device [3] so things got off to an inauspicious start, but once “18 Miles Out” headed into linear territory the discussion between Rick and Shane that I referenced earlier got things back on track as did yet another example of Rick’s decent-hearted nature [4] flying in the face of the group’s safety. Rick also brings up the need to move away from using firearms as much as possible when subduing walkers both from a ammo scarcity-standpoint as well as from a need to be quieter tact as well. So, of course, he and Shane later get into a knockdown, drag-out fight that leads to Shane chucking a wrench at Rick that ends up going through a window in an abandoned building housing a shitton of walkers, all of whom awake and set Rick, Shane, and Randall in their sights. In the midst of the chaos of struggling to survive yet another walker overrun, Randall blurts out that he actually knows Maggie which causes Rick and Shane to reconsider whether keeping him alive is still possible since the chance that he could draw his own camp back to the farm is now in play and, indeed, in the end Rick did seem to come to the realization that Randall has to die for the betterment of everyone else. It also raised some interesting new questions that I’ll address in the Miscellany section, so at the very least a longer view was served. Still, their escape from the walkers was strangely devoid of much suspense and took the air out of the episode more than a little but the forward movement in the Rick/Shane conflict was still presented well enough as to not drag the episode as a whole down too much. The narrower scope of the episode was a welcome one and, so long as the show’s writing staff learns from some of the mistakes “18 Miles Out” made, future attempts in this vein should prove to be very effective.

[1] If not the entire season, for that matter.
[2] And while I don’t necessarily have a problem with this approach, The Walking Dead’s writers are kind of new to this kind of storytelling as the regular characters that we saw in this episode were Rick, Shane, Lori, Andrea, and Maggie. Randall – the dude with the metal peg through his leg – and whatever the hell Maggie’s sister’s name is were literally the only other tertiary characters besides the walkers who were seen in “18 Miles Out.” Less is definitely more sometimes and I wouldn’t warn The Walking Dead’s writing staff off of episodes like this in the future, but they’re going to have to be more effective in doing so.
[3] Because it’s incredibly, incredibly lazy and overdone. Find a smarter way to hook your audience, writers.
[4] The plan was initially to drive Randall 18 miles out – hence, the episode’s title – from the farm and leave him on his own but, after reaching the 18-mile mark, Rick decides spontaneously to try to find a more agreeable spot to drop Randall. Shane, unsurprisingly, wasn’t pleased.

Miscellany:
*Meanwhile, “18 Miles Out’s” B-story unfolded back at the farm and much of it was forgettable. The problem was that it wanted us to invest in Maggie’s sister Beth – whose name I only know because I just looked it up – and the fact that she’s now apparently suicidal. If any attention whatsoever had been given to this character in the past other than her just collapsing all of a sudden back in “Nebraska” maybe the storyline would have landed but – and not to sound like a harsh asshole – I really didn’t care if she killed herself or not. It would just be, “Goodbye, tertiary character whose name I had to look up on Wikipedia. I really hardly knew you.” When Andrea tells Lori, “This could have been handled better,” that assessment clearly applies to this entire plot thread. The only real item of consequence to come out of it was that someone finally called Lori on the carpet as Andrea pushes back when Lori basically tells her that she should be hanging with the rest of the women doing laundry and kitchen work instead of being out hunting with the menfolk. So… did I miss that The Walking Dead turned into Mad Men somewhere along the line? Again, the less that’s said about all of this, the better.
*Back to Shane – what’s the purpose of the foreshadowing looks at the lone walker out in the woods? There were two separate instances where this happened. The first time, Rick is laying out the plan for the coming winter as Shane, barely paying attention, is looking out the car window wistfully at a lone walker and making it clear that he wants nothing to do with that type of future. Then, as the episode concludes, he seems to be looking out again at the same walker in the woods while possibly weighing the merits of staying with the larger group versus going out on his own. Not to beat a dead horse, but I see no chance that Shane’s back in season three. None.
*The other very intriguing thought to come out of the Rick/Shane storyline is Shane’s observation that the walker-ized security guards at the building where he, Rick, and Randall ultimately end up don’t seem to have been bitten yet have been zombiefied. What does this mean longterm? Is the walker virus or however you want to characterize it mutating to the point where bites are no longer necessary? And, if that is indeed the case, what are the implications of an open wound around walker blood as seen here when Rick and Shane both slice their hands to use their blood as bait for the walkers? This has Chekhov’s gun all over it. Why would Shane mention this at all if it wasn’t going to prove to be significant. Keep an eye on this in the coming weeks.
*Though the effectiveness of the tension the show creates was down a notch this week, I continue to love the way this show uses silence. It’s one of the most effective weapons in its arsenal, in my opinion.
*This week’s Walking Dead Extreme Gore Moment: Rick cuts his finger to lure a walker and then stabs him in the brain with his pocketknife.
*This week’s Walking Dead Extreme Gore Moment #2: Randall hacking into the back of the head of a walker with a knife.
*This week’s Walking Dead Extreme Gore Moment #3: Rick, under a stack of walkers, sticks a gun barrel through a walker’s mouth in order to shoot the one behind it.
*This week’s Walking Dead Extreme Gore Moment #4: Randall, while driving Rick’s car, running over the head of a walker in graphic, melon-splattering fashion.
*”When I found out about you and Lori, I wanted to break your jaw, let you choke on your teeth.”
*”He’ll be locked up in the barn. Unless you bust it open.”
*”There are no rules, man. We’re lost.”
*”If you wanna kill me, you’re gonna need to do better than a wrench.”
*”I don’t think you can keep them safe.”

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Written by jeremylikestv

March 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm

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