The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 10 - "18 Miles Out"

Spoilers ahead. . .

Although the teaser for this episode was a bit of a cheat -- a flash forward to the heart of the action in a later sequence -- the beating heart of "18 Miles Out" was a return to the central question of this second season: Who is going to be the leader of the RV Gang -- Rick or Shane?  Rick is the lucky one: spared the initial waves of the disaster, reunited with his wife and son, a child on the way, and somehow still able to provide an image of leadership.  Shane is the cursed one: Machiavellian in his approach to most things, ruthless in his application of violence to the end of his own survival and the survival of his (now imagined) adopted family.  For Shane, the ends justify the means, whatever they may be.  For Rick, there's something to be gained from thinking it over, if only for a moment, a day, or however much time he can manage.

"18 Miles Out" starts up the plot engine in the first act as Rick and Shane are taking their prisoner from the Bar Shootout to a safe distance where, like an unwanted hound, they'll release him and hope he can fend for himself -- as long as he doesn't follow them home.  On the way, the script has the two friends/rivals stop at Symbolism Junction -- a remote crossroads somewhere in Narrative County.  There, Rick and Shane have a steely-eyed, rather obvious, but somehow satisfying grumble-and-growl which Rick wins with his, "If you're going to stay with the group this is how it's gonna be," approach.  Lori is his wife.  The baby is his.  Rick is in charge.  Now let's get back in the car.  Judging from Shane's silent contemplation of the Lone Walker in the Field, he's got his own ideas.

Once they're 18 miles out, Rick and Shane locate a school -- empty, apparently -- and leave their prisoner to his own devices.  Check that, they toss him a knife so he can get out of his bonds once Rick and Shane have driven away.  But before they're out of earshot, the stranger reveals that he knows the location of the farm, that he was a schoolmate of Maggie Green's.  The deduction:  He might lead his old posse back to the Hershel's farm -- you remember Curious Dave and Fat Tony?  Shane, of course, wants to kill him immediately, whereas Rick, you guessed it, wants to think it over.

And suddenly we're in the midst of a fight -- a really good fight, painful to watch, mostly because of how much the two mean have really meant to each other over their lives, and partly because Rick almost completely loses his shit.  Almost, but not quite.  Leave that to Shane, who picks up a giant plumber's wrench and hurls it at Rick, missing him, but smashing open a school window, releasing a whole crapload of zombies.  I mean a very large number if zombies.  Now, it's every man for himself -- Rick, Shane, and the stranger.  What follows is a series of excellent lessons in characterization-through-action.  Rick survives as much through brains as brawn, and by trusting the stranger;  Shane fends for himself but ends up trapped alone in a school bus.  In a callback to Shane's betrayal of Otis, Rick appears to leave Shane behind.  "Have fun, walker-bait!"

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Morality Play carries on, this week with a refreshing if overdone blast at Lori, who complains to Andrea's face about how the latter isn't doing her fair share of the "woman's work."  When Andrea cuts loose about Lori's playing house and her insensitivity at how lucky she's been, you sort of want to cheer.  But then again, do we need the dialogue?  Why not have Andrea simply walk out, take up her lookout post, and snipe a walker from 200 yards.  That's as nonverbal a telling-off as I would need.  Also stilted was the debate over Beth Green, who's lost the will to live, only to have Andrea leave the door to the bathroom open so that Beth can slash her wrists -- not too deep, though, so we have a sign that the child wants to live.  These developments on the farm would be fine were it not for the dialogue that continues to appear, commenting on the significance of the action.  We get it guys!

Rick, of course, has not left Shane to die, and in a rousing rescue reeking of badassery, comes back to smush a bunch of zombies and provide cover for Shane to slip out the back of the bus.  "That's how you do it, dumbass!"  And so the three men return to the farm, Shane cut down a few pegs for the time being, with Rick in possession of the reins and with another episode to think about what he's going to do.  It's a mixed bag, as it often is, but The Walking Dead seems to be finding its sea legs when its characters do less talking and more of simply surviving.

Zombie Kill of the Week:  Rick, firing through a downed walker's mouth to kill two more.
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (a major herd): 8

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