Episode Title: "18 Miles Out"
Writers: Scott M. Gimple & Glen Mazzara
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
At a vehicle depot, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) is unarmed and pursued by several walkers. He barricades himself inside a yellow school bus, but the horde is right behind him. In the same area, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is attacked by another walker while a bound Randall (Michael Zegen) crawls towards a knife to free himself. Flashing back to just a few hours before, we see Rick and Shane together in a car with Randall in the trunk as they pull over on an empty road. To Shane's surprise, Rick wants to talk about the lingering issues over their heads… including Shane's affair with Rick's wife, Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies).
Rick gets Shane to admit that he killed Otis at the school to survive and to get back to Rick's son, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). Shane also questions Rick's willingness to do the same, but Rick insists that his family comes first. He tells Shane that the only way that they can move forward together is if Shane accepts that Lori, Carl and their unborn baby belong to Rick only. They get back in the car and continue driving, as Rick tries to make small talk about their plans for the future. But Shane is largely lost in thought as he stares at a lone walker in the nearby field.
Back at the farm, Lori brings a plate of food to Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), the daughter of their host, Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson). Beth seems physically better, but she morbidly questions whether Lori should bring another child into the world. More troubling is the way that Beth steals a knife from the plate before Lori realizes what she's done and confiscates it. Back on the road, Rick drives a little further out to a vehicle depot to give Randall a better chance to survive on his own. Before he does that, Rick and Shane scavenge the area and notice that two walkers were turned without any apparent bite marks.
Rick and Shane drag Randall out of the trunk and leave him tied up with a knife nearby so he can free himself eventually. As they turn to walk away, Randall pleads with them to let him stay at the farm and he mentions that he went to school with Maggie. This stops Shane and Rick in their tracks. If Randall knows who Maggie is, he more than likely knows where the farm is. Shane pulls out his gun to execute Randall, but Rick hits his arm and narrowly throws off the shot. This sets off a grueling fight between Shane and Rick, as Randall starts crawling towards the knife.
Rick gets the upper hand in the fight, but Shane throws a wrench at him to punctuate his unwillingness to yield. Unfortunately, the wrench goes through the window of the depot and a wave of walkers come out after them, bringing us full circle to the teaser. At the farm, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) berates her sister for even considering suicide, but Beth seems set upon dying on her own terms and she asks Maggie to die with her. Downstairs, Andrea (Laurie Holden) suggests to Lori that Beth has to decide for herself if she wants to live. This sets off a verbal throwdown between Lori and Andrea before they part on bad terms.
Back at the depot, Randall gets free just in time to take down a female walker that comes after him. Rick is almost overrun by three walkers before he grabs his gun and narrowly shoots them. Rick soon finds Randall, who urges Rick to give him a gun and run away with him. Rick spots Shane barely surviving in the bus and he decides to leave with Randall, much to the dismay of Shane who witnesses his departure. Back at the farm, Andrea volunteers to spot Maggie and watch over Beth while she rests. But once Maggie has gone, Andrea tells Beth that the pain never goes away, and she leaves the room.
Soon after, Maggie finds Beth's room empty and Beth apparently locked in the bathroom. Lori pries open the door and they discover that Beth has shattered the mirror and cut one of her wrists. But Beth stopped before she could get too deep and she decided that she wants to live. When Andrea returns to check on Beth, Maggie orders her to stay out of the house for good. Back at the depot, Shane is pretty much done for… until he spots Rick approaching in the car while Randall drives. Rick picks off a few walkers with his pistol while Shane runs out the back of the bus and onto the car.
Randall is initially overjoyed, as he assumes that this has earned him a place with them. But Rick and Shane soon dump him back in the trunk again. Rick tells Shane that he will need more than just a wrench if he intends to kill him. But Rick says that they can live in peace if Shane accepts that Rick's family doesn't belong to him. Shane accepts his gun back but he doesn't verbally reply. And on the trip back to the farm, Shane once again stares silently at the lone walker stumbling through the field.
After last week's fantastic episode, "The Walking Dead" settled comfortably back into park this week. "18 Miles Out" certainly had some high points as well as a few terrific sequences, but it was also an episode where the story seemed to be needlessly stretched out just to keep the season-long arc from advancing too far.
The idea that this new world could drive a person to suicide is worth exploring and it seems very plausible. The problem is that this episode focused on Beth, who has barely had any screentime during this entire season. As a result, the only Greene daughter that the audience has any emotional investment in is Maggie. We care about Maggie because she's been a key part of the season. If Maggie was the one who was thinking about killing herself, it would have resonated in a more meaningful way. As it was, the only true horrifying moment of that subplot was when Beth suggested that Maggie should die with her.
Beth simply didn't have the gravitas to pull off this turn. Nothing against the actress, Emily Kinney; but it's asking too much of the audience to suddenly care about someone who has been a glorified extra up to this point. Laurie Holden's Andrea is also becoming more objectionable, but I'm not sure if it's because of the script or Holden's performance. Either way, Andrea was extremely unlikable in this episode. And while Andrea was certain that only her method could help Beth, it almost led to Beth's death. Lori has a lot of faults of her own, but at least she seemed to genuinely care whether Beth lived or died.
It also seemed like half of the cast was missing in this episode, including Dale, Hershel and Glenn. Given the rumored budget battles over this show, I can accept a few cast-light episodes if it means more zombie action. And this episode delivered the goods with the attack at the vehicle depot. Rick's shot through the mouth of the walker was a particular highlight. But putting Rick and Shane through that while they were almost unarmed really helped amp up the tension.
"18 Miles Out" excelled when it came to making Rick and Shane face their issues with each other. I loved the smaller touches like Shane's unwillingness to look at Rick when he heard the things that he never wanted to hear. What Rick did here is very admirable. His wife basically urged him to kill Shane because he was becoming a threat. Instead, Rick is going out of his way to keep Shane alive and reengage him as his comrade and friend. For better or worse, Rick and Shane are practically brothers and we get the sense that they've known each other their entire lives.
However, I think that we can infer from Shane's silence that this conflict isn't as over as Rick would like it to be. Rick may have reasserted himself as the alpha in that relationship, but Shane simply can't turn off his feelings and slink back into the corner. Shane even admitted in this episode that having Lori and Carl around him during the early days of the walker outbreak kept him alive. Without the hope of a family for himself, Shane doesn't have a lot to live for.
For viewers who haven't read "The Walking Dead" comics, I should note that the two walkers who turned without being bitten may become a major plotpoint in upcoming episodes, if the show keeps to the source material. It was actually a very good way to foreshadow a key revelation.
As for Randall, I don't have a very strong opinion one way or another. He's more of a mcguffin than an actual character and Randall functions best as a source of tension between Rick and Shane. I'm actually curious if Maggie would remember Randall from school… and if Randall's gang contains more than one person that the Greene family is familiar with. From the news last Friday, we know that The Governor is coming next season. So, what we are witnessing now with Randall could become part of a larger battle in the future.
"The Walking Dead" can be a great show when it wants to be, as the Rick and Shane sequences proved once again. But sometimes it seems like the writers don't realize that the endless farm-capades simply aren't engaging and it is dragging down the rest of the series.
Crave Online Rating: 7.8 out of 10.