On tonight’s The Walking Dead, “18 Miles Out”, the survivors dealt with philosophical questions of life and death. When is it ethically permissable to kill the living? And when is taking one’s own life an act of freedom and courage instead of cowardace and weakness? Needless to say, it was a pretty heavy episode. Read on for a run-down of the highs and lows of “18 Miles Out.”
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. ALL OF THEM.
When the curtain rises on The Walking Dead the odds are against them and the situation is grim. With little preamble, we are thrust into the middle of a desperate fight for survival between Rick, Shane, Randall, and a whole passle of walkers. From there we back up a bit to figure out how our erstwhile heroes found themselves in such a pickle.
More than any other episode of The Walking Dead, “18 Miles Out” is definitely divided along gender lines. It is also one of the more cerebral episodes of the series, dealing directly with questions of life and death, murder and suicide. It pulls no metaphorical punches, and it certainly doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation.
At the farm, young Beth has finally left the catatonic state she entered when the zombie who used to be her mother was stuck through the head with a scythe. But she’s not sure she wants to live. Lori, Maggie, and Andrea all take different approaches to Beth’s suicidal ideation.
Lori, pragmatic maternal unit that she is, simply stops Beth from slitting her wrists and tells her that it’s worth hanging on. Sister Maggie does a little more than that, entering a shouting match with her little sister to beat a will to live into her head.
Enter Andrea, who not too long ago was having suicidal thoughts of her own. Andrea, who realizes that in a world gone to hell, where none of them will ever see the future they wanted for themselves, knows that it’s not important whether Beth lives or dies. To Andrea, what’s important is that Beth has the choice: To go on living in a world of horror and death, or to make it all stop.
In the end, Andrea’s right, as she leaves Beth an opening to attempt suicide. In the attempt, Beth realizes she doesn’t really want to die. It doesn’t make Andrea any more popular with Maggie and Lori, though.
And speaking of Lori: Can we have a moment to talk about internalized misogyny? In this episode more than any other, Lori speaks her mind about what she thinks a woman’s place is in the zombie apocalypse when she berates Andrea for taking the role of camp sharp-shooter instead of washing laundry like the rest of the women. What. The. Brains. This scene left me dumbfounded and shocked more than, y’know… all those scenes with extreme zombie mayhem.
Let us move on to the extreme zombie mayhem.
We all knew a confrontation was coming between Rick and Shane. The two former partners have a lot of baggage between them. At the end of the day, Rick is clearly the better man. But in the zombie apocalypse… does that matter? And when they do finally decide to fight––about Lori, about the baby, about Otis’s death, about Shane’s brutal tactics for survival––it’s in the worst place possible.
When they try to drop off Randall (aka the Wrong Place, Wrong Time Kid) eighteen miles or so from the farm, he lets on that he knew Maggie from school, and could probably find his way back to the farm if he tried. Well, we can’t have that! And thus enters our second philosophical question of the episode: Do they kill Randall to protect the rest of the group, or do they leave him to fend for himself?
The ensuing fight leads to the release of a flood of hungry walkers. Our Zombie Kill of the Week goes to Rick, who, while lying under the corpses of two walkers, shoots a third through the open mouth of the first. Any who doubt Rick’s bad-assery may see me after class.
And it is in this crisis that Rick proves he is a better man than Shane. As Shane is pinned down in a bus, he watches Rick and Randall run away. The scene is comparable to when Shane left Otis to save himself in a similar situation. But instead of escaping with his life, Rick returns in the car, distracting the zombies and rescuing Shane in the nick of time… regardless of the fact that Shane’s death probably would’ve saved a lot of trouble for everyone.
While Greg Nicotero and the special effects team definitely deserve props for the brilliant zombies in tonight’s episode (especially Rick’s triple kill), there was one image that stuck out even more than the grisly pack of zombies and the varying carnage. As the men are driving eighteen miles out, Shane spots a zombie shuffling slowly through a field of high grass. When they make their return to the farm, the same zombie is still shambling along. It hasn’t changed course. It hasn’t slowed down. It just keeps on going on.
Just like us all.