Humanity, and all that's good and bad about it, is on full display here, as The Walking Dead shows off its best episode yet!
I don't know if I want to die, or if I have to. It's just a habit.
Life, death, and humanity. These are the things that The Walking Dead has to be about if it's going to be at its best. Case in point, "Save the Last One," is a sublime episode that accomplishes everything this series wants to do.
It starts with Shane in the bathroom shaving his head, obviously back from his mission to go retrieve the respirator and other medical supplies. We then flash back to the school, where Shane and Otis are still holed up with a giant herd of zombies looking to chomp on them. We get a great fake-out moment where we're meant to think that Otis is going to sacrifice himself so that Shane can get away with all of the supplies, but the two of them reunite and are able to work together to get away from the zombies. The episode cuts back and forth from the school and the happenings with the rest of the group in order to show why it's taking Otis and Shane so long to get back.
Time is something Carl doesn't have. He lays dying, and Hershel is starting to talk about proceeding with the surgery without the respirator. It's obviously not ideal, but what other choice does he have? Lori wonders if that's such a bad thing. She looks around at the world and at the way she and her family have to live in it – running and hiding – and ponders that "this world is no place for children." Maybe Carl is better off dead? Rick of course rejects the idea and Carl briefly wakes up long enough to back him up. Carl says a few words about the majestic deer he saw in the woods before seizing and falling unconscious again. Rick points out that Carl didn't say anything about being shot or about the zombies that attacked them in the church; all he could do was rave about his encounter with the beautiful animal. Even at the lowest point of his short life, Carl still sees the beauty in the world and that there is hope for the group yet. Carl isn't giving up and neither is Rick. The moment steels Rick's resolve and makes him want to keep going forward with his life with his entire family intact.
While that's going on, Glenn and T-Dog show up at the farm so that T-Dog can get his wound stitched up properly. Glenn ends up bonding with Maggie over questions about spirituality and faith, as well as their losses. While Rick is talking to Lori about how Carl is their symbol of life, Maggie talks to Glenn about finding something, whether it's God or something else, worth living for. That's how you get through these hardships. It's a minor moment in the overall sense of this episode, but it is a nice one. This type of bonding is important to The Walking Dead as it's the best way to showcase the pathos and sense of human understanding the show is going for.
Speaking of bonding, Daryl and Andrea do a little of that themselves. Daryl can't stand to see Carol cry herself to sleep, so he decides to take another look for little Sophie in the woods, and Andrea decides to go with him. To Daryl, it's a given that they'll find the girl. There is simply no doubt in his mind, and he's going to do everything he can to get her back. Along the way, he tells Andrea a bit about his life growing up. He once got lost away from home and his family had no idea. "Sophie's got people looking for her," he says. I call that an advantage." In the woods, they come across a zombie hanging from a tree. The suicide note nearby indicates that it started out as some guy who got bit, and decided to hang himself to end it all. He ended up becoming a zombie anyway, and now the poor bastard is left to just swing there for all eternity (the flesh of his legs having been eaten away by other zombies). It's a disturbing, and even hilarious image, but it also shakes Andrea and starts to make her rethink her stance on dying.
As for dying, Carl won't be. Shane gets back to the farm with the supplies, but he's alone. He tells Hershel, Maggie, Rick and Lori that Otis died helping Shane get away from the zombies at the school. In a sense that's true, but we know better. As he steps into that shower, we get a glimpse inside his head and see what really happened. Shane turns on Otis, and basically sacrifices him to get away. While the camera surveys the cuts and bruises on Shane's body, it cuts back to the fight Otis and Shane have before Shane basically leaves him to be eaten. The final shot of the episode is Shane looking at himself in the mirror, thinking about what he had done and what kind of man he really is.
If we thought Rick was unraveling in the season premiere, he seems fine now. He's high on life and ready to be a survivor. Shane, on the other hand, seems to be mentally falling apart a little more everytime we see him. Who is Shane, and who will he be later on?
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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