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Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 2.3, “Save the Last One”

I don’t know if I want to live. Or if I have to, or if it’s just a habit.

It seems a bit redundant to mention that on a show about the survivors of the zombie apocalypse that this week’s episode was all about survival, but it was and not in the base mechanics of doing it. It’s about the ethics of survival and the morality of the new world order, what we do and how we do it in order to keep living. “Save the Last One” is lightyears from the clear-cut right and wrong of season one’s early episodes. That’s because the focus swung from Rick, who has a definitive idea of morality, to Shane, whose guidelines have been steadily progressing from “murkily defined” to outright “survival at any cost.”

What happens with Shane is obviously the juicy topic for discussion, so let’s get our B-plots out of the way first.

Sophia is still missing. The survivors who are not at the farm have decided to spend another night at the highway before moving on. Daryl is trying to sleep, sandwiched between Carol crying to herself and Andrea angrily loading and unloading a clip. He gets up and decides to go looking for Sophia again. He says it to Carol to get her to stop crying, he doesn’t bitch about heading out in the middle of the night. He recognizes that Carol is in pain and does what he can to alleviate it. Most importantly, he’s not trying to be the hero.  Andrea joins him on the walkabout because if she doesn’t, then we wouldn’t have any more Daryl scenes for this episode.

 They come across another suicide tent ““ this one comes with a handy rhyming note and a now-zombified camper hanging from a tree. Andrea and Daryl discuss their lives BZ and the ethics of checking out of the world. They don’t find Sophia.

Lori and Rick are struggling with the meaning of surviving as well. Carl’s condition is deteriorating ““ they have a very small window of time they can wait for the medical supplies to arrive. After that, they need to operate and the odds of Carl surviving it without a respirator are very slim. In a quiet moment, Lori asks if it’s right to save her son’s life. This isn’t a world of infinite possibilities anymore ““ all he has to look forward to is a hard scrabble life that will either end in the arms of a walker or at the business end of a gun. But Rick ““ honorable, hope filled, Rick ““ reminds her that in the brief moment Carl was conscious, he didn’t ask about the zombies, he talked about the deer he saw right before he was shot. Something beautiful, something living, Rick says. If that’s what Carl is remembering about this world, maybe there’s some hope after all.

 Maggie and Glen exchange a few thoughts on the place of God in this new world. There’s something brewing between them ““ and why not? How many potential romantic partners are you liable to meet in this world?

 And so we come to Shane.

The episode opens up with Shane in the bathroom at the farmhouse. The shower is running, his bloody clothes are stripped off, and he’s unearthed a pair of clipper to shave his head down with. As anyone who has ever watched any TV show ever knows, shaving your head is an indicator of Character Development. Things Have Happened. Changes Are Made. We just don’t understand how ominous these clippers are until the end of the show.

Otis and Shane are chased through the high school by the horde, finally ending up trapped on top of the closed bleachers. They agree to split up, Otis trying to draw the zombies towards the locker room while Shane takes the medical supplies and makes a break for some windows at the top of the gym. The first part of the plan goes off hitchless ““ but Shane takes an unscheduled, zombie-prompted fall from the window, wrenching his ankle in the process. When he is backed up against a fence, walkers on all sides of him, Otis appears to save the day. The two of them hobble their way towards the truck, the walkers swarming behind them.

 Things look bleak. They trade off taking shots at the horde until Otis mentions he’s down to his last bullet. “Me too,” Shane says. You can see Shane running the mental gymnastics in the seconds he take to stop, look at this man who just saved his life, and shoot him in the leg. I don’t really give him any consideration for uttering “I’m sorry” right before he does it.

It’s important to underline the exchange that happens because “down to my last one” means more than just being out of ammo. In this world, you save the last bullet for yourself. It’s come up over and over again in the course of the series (and is practically zombie-movie canon at this point) ““ dying isn’t the worst thing. It’s becoming one of them that is untenable. The last bullet is meant for the brain pan, so you don’t come back, don’t turn on your friends and family, don’t shamble around for eternity as your body rots away. It’s your last chance at dignity.

Otis and Shane each have one bullet left. Shane uses his to shoot Otis in the leg so that the zombies will be distracted by feeding. And it has to be a non-lethal shot for the distraction to work ““ Otis needs to be screaming and alive. Shane struggles to get the other pack away from Otis before the horde reaches them, causing Otis’s gun to go off harmlessly and getting scratched up and hair pulled before finally wrenching the supplies away.

There are arguments to be made that Shane is making the “right” choice here. Otis dies so that Carl can live. Otis is paying for the predicament he put Carl in. But while Shane will tell himself that he did this for Carl’s survival, I don’t buy it for a second. Shane crippled Otis for Shane’s survival. Saving Carl is a happy happenstance. Worming his way back into Lori’s graces is even better than saving Carl, but luckily, saving Carl is his way back into Lori’s graces. The mental math that Shane did all comes down to Shane coming out on top ““ survival + medical supplies = hero.

And so we get back to the head shaving scene, which could be read as guilt or remorse on Shane’s part. While I don’t dispute that Shane looks hella guilty at the end of the episode and practically has a breakdown on the front lawn, it’s important to note what Shane was doing before he pulled those clippers out. He was checking himself for wounds. Shane shaved his head to cover up the patch of hair Otis pulled out in their fight. He’s covering his ass.

How long it stays covered is anyone’s guess. I’ve pretty much given up guessing what direction the show is headed ““ but next week’s preview hints that Shane’s mental state continues to deteriorate. I’ll bet that his affair with Lori comes out way before anyone finds out what he did at the high school.

By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com.

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

4 replies on “Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 2.3, “Save the Last One””

Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but at one point, didn’t Shane fall or something, prompting him to tell Otis to take his bags and go on without him, but Otis picked Shane up and refused to leave him behind? I’m not arguing that Shane is perfectly sane and pure of motive, but when I remembered that, it sort of changed my perception of what he later did to Otis. I think that Shane was going to make sure the medical supplies got there one way or the other. He tried sacrificing himself so that Otis could go on, and when that didn’t work, he sacrificed Otis for the cause.

I’m crossing my fingers that the Sophia plot proves to be purposeful, because otherwise, yeeearrggghh!

Even though Daryl had a small part in this episode he still managed to come off better than anyone else. He’s not sentimental but he has a kind heart. I think he’s a better person without Merle. He adores his big brother and I think much of his bad behaviour was to impress Merle and not because he’s really like that.

I was very sorry to see the end of Otis. Pruitt Taylor Vance elevates any character he plays and it was a shame to say goodbye to him so soon.

Also, Glenn has been largely invisible this season. What the heck happened there? Glenn was fantastic in season 1 but this season it’s like they don’t know what to do with him.

Aaaah OK I was really shocked by what Shane did. I actually assumed the shot at the beginning was a flashBACK, but that’s because I’m dumb and didn’t pick up on the clues. (I think part of what threw me off was his irresponsible waste of HOT WATER! Possibly more of a dick move that shooting Otis.) I think it was extra-jarring because we’ve been spending so much time with a group of really altruistic survivors. When I think about where this show can go, dramatically, one of the things I think about is increased violence and desperation on the part of the survivors.

I totally agree that for Shane, sacrificing Otis wasn’t about saving Carl. But don’t you think he wants to absolve himself for his crimes against Rick, too? Despite everything I think their friendship is one of the only things Shane still cares about. But I could be wrong about that, especially since I didn’t read the comics.

Last thoughts: they need to GO somewhere with the Sophia plot. At first I enjoyed the slowed-down plotting after season 1’s frantic pace, but three whole episodes (including one 90 minutes long) based around the device of looking for Sophia? Time to move on, at least thematically.

SlayBeau and I were also completely surprised by Shane’s actions — I actually gasped outloud. I’ve been writing about Shane’s mental breakdown since season 1, but I was thrown off by his behavior in the last episode. I thought maybe he had made his turn around.

I agree with you. Shane’s motivations are very complicated. I believe that he really loves Rick — I mean, there’s obvious concern in the way he handled Rick last week, wiping the blood off his face. But when push comes to shove, he’s in it for himself and his wants and needs.  Rick will sacrifice everything for everyone else’s survival, even his own life if that’s what the will serve the greater good. Shane will make exactly the other choice.

When I think about where this show can go, dramatically, one of the things I think about is increased violence and desperation on the part of the survivors.

I read a piece of academic analysis of zombies movies that’s forever influenced how I view the movies: zombies movies are never about man versus monster. They’re about man versus man. We’re the danger.  So I agree, I think that’s where the show is going to be heading. We can’t meet that many more altruistic survivor groups.

And, seriously, the Sophia storyline needs to be wrapped up. 4 episodes is a lot to be spending on a story that has no developments to it. From the previews, I assume that we’re going to find out what happens to her next week.

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