“You can’t be the good guy and expect to live.”
Let’s talk math.
Shane’s new life is a numbers game. There’s the number of the group, the number of the useful people in the group, the people who are important to him, and himself. This is the math that rolls about in his head. This is the logic that comes out of his mouth. All season long, this has been the major tension.
1 missing girl is less important than 10 or so survivors.
1 stranger’s life is less important than 1 small boy’s, or his own, depending on which variables you use.
1 woman + 1 potential child is more important than 20 years of friendship.
No one’s life is more important than (his) survival.
If you’ve been watching the show, none of those equations are a surprise.
Randall is his new equation. Somewhere between the end of the last episode (+ 1 week) and this one, Rick’s managed to get his way, driving the miraculously healed captive (+ Randall) “18 miles out.” Shane goes along, fuming, quietly, in his head. They find a promising site, some place with a modicum of protection and resources, where you could dump someone while convincing yourself that maybe, just maybe, the guy you’re dropping off here could survive. Rick uses the opportunity to show Shane some of his logic, his math: bullets (aggressive, blustering force) versus knives (clever, plotting, thinking) for 2 fewer zombies.
Rick has moved away from his absolute morality. We knew this when he took off his Sheriff gear and when he killed the two drifters from Philadelphia. We see it again when he drops a tied-up Randall on the ground and a knife some distance away and walks off – there’s just enough possibility, just enough tinge of hope to satisfy the man he once was and the realities of the new world order. When Randall opens his mouth and reveals he knows Maggie and the farm, the equation changes.
Everything is out on the table now. Shane and his brutal world view. Rick and the truths he juggles, trying to stay human in an inhuman world. The fight that had been simmering bursts out, the two former friends beating each other, and seemingly ready to kill one another. Until Shane, impulsive as ever, releases a waterfall of bottled up zombies. At least they have the walkers to unite them.
Shane finds himself bottled up, alone, inside a school bus. Outside, Rick finds Randall and the two slip away during the chaos. But Shane sees them.
Here is the reality of his viewpoint. When the odds are against you, you cut your losses and run. Shane never thought about being on the wrong side of those numbers, and the way his face crumples meant he always believe Rick would come save him. He was the one above his own worldview. He was the special one.
And there is a moment, a deliberate moment, where it seems like Rick is actually going to walk away. Why not? Shane did just try to kill him. He admitted he wants to take Lori and Carl and the baby away. Ugly math. It would be hard to find fault with him if he did, but of course he didn’t – Rick figuratively rides in on his horse to save the day, shooting a pistol, whooping it up, getting Shane out of the mess he got himself into. He might not wear the hat anymore, but he’s always the Sheriff.
They take Randall back to the farm.
On the farm, the stakes are more intimate. Maggie’s sister is out of her fugue but unwilling to live. Lori tries to murmur words of comfort that sound hollow but aren’t meant to be. Maggie berates her and tries to guilt her into staying alive. And Andrea, poor, damaged Andrea, whose approach is as well-meaning but as poorly delivered as anything Shane has ever said, says she should be allowed to kill herself if that’s what she wants. Andrea even walks off when she’s supposed to be protecting the girl and is no where to be found when she’s slitting her wrists in the bathroom.
In between, Lori and Andrea argue over their own new world order. One where Lori tries to bring stability and a sense of normality, and Andrea on the other side, liberated by her gun and her possibilities. Andrea doesn’t think washing clothes is productive. Lori thinks Andrea is shirking responsibility by hanging out on top of the camper keeping watch over a farm that has only been under threat when Shane is off the leash. Neither of them are wrong, not exactly, because they have to eat, they have to be clothed, and they have to be safe, but neither of them have pushed their logic past old boundaries. There’s no longer “women’s work” and “men’s work,” there’s just survival, and every single person on that farm needs to be contributing in every sphere. Someone just needs to wake the fuck up to that.
The girl chooses to live, ultimately, or is just too scared to die, which Andrea seems unable to differentiate. And she’s banished for her viewpoint, kicked out of the domestic sphere, out to the wilds. It’s no small thing that the last shot we see is of her is Andrea walking away, while Lori goes back inside, Angel of her new house.