by Samantha Rullo
This week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” had two main conflicts, besides the usual “humans against walkers” problems. Though different, the conflicts worked well together because they each followed themes that have been brought up throughout the season and still needed to be addressed. It was also set up in way that “The Walking Dead” hadn’t been recently, opening with a scene set slightly into the future, and then going back to show the build-up to that moment—leaving the viewer with suspense and keeping the audience hooked until the plot finally catches up to that moment.
The always-brewing tensions between Shane and Rick finally mounted to confrontation as each man voiced their concerns to the other about what’s best for the group, with Rick standing up for himself to say that Lori and Carl were his family, not Shane’s. This conversation and the men’s attitudes towards each other showed that despite their many disagreements, they did still care about each other as friends. Jon Bernthal gave a great, subtle performance during their roadside conversation, as Shane actually seemed vulnerable and upset, while barely saying anything at all.
The second conversation between Rick and Shane went in a completely different direction, as the anger and resentment the two felt for each other was instead brought out violently–something that has been building for a while. Even though they both attacked, Rick’s greater sense of morality still shone through, as Shane seemed to have gone to much further extremes.
After their fight was broken up by a sudden swarming of walkers, it seemed that Rick had finally had enough of the trouble Shane was causing as he shockingly decided to leave him completely surrounded. Shane himself seemed genuinely shocked as well– he had just been criticizing Rick for being too weak, and yet he was counting on that same goodness to bring Rick to his aid. But all it took for Rick was to change his mind was two conveniently placed dead bodies, dressed in police uniforms. The earlier mention of the bodies was confusing at first, a seemingly random thing to address at the time, but their relevance quickly became clear as the realization of what he was about to do hit Rick.
As Shane and Rick fought over the best way to stay alive and help others survive, Lori, Andrea, and Maggie fought over whether life in this new world was still worth living. Andrea rehashed her previous issue with Dale–stopping her from committing suicide– and felt that everyone was entitled to the choice, something much in line with her character’s constant insistence on total independence.
The fight between Lori and Andrea wasn’t very surprising, as the two have very different personalities and reactions to events. However, it was surprising that this feud led to a conversation on gender roles, which had previously only been implied. Lori made it quite clear that she believes the men are fine protecting the camp, and Andrea would be more helpful taking care of the domestic tasks with her and Carol. The women of “The Walking Dead” have been shown doing laundry and cooking multiple times, but it was never truly addressed until Lori and Andrea confronted each other, and neither held back their true feelings.
This episode kept “The Walking Dead” on the right track that its been following since the mid-season premiere. The pace has greatly improved, and the slowly building tensions has been exploding into central plot points that allow greater character development and exciting scenes. Though the debates between Shane and Rick, and the ideological differences of the women both seem far from over, “18 Miles Out” provided solid developments in the themes that should take us all the way to the season finale.
Samantha Rullo is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.