It’s impossible to screw up a road-trip episode. Put a few of your main characters in a car – with nothing to do but talk about their issues– is an immediately compelling situation even on the worst shows. It shakes up the status quo – the Simpsons are going to Delaware! – but it can also bring the characters into sharper focus. Removed from their usual context, we learn more about who they really are. The Sopranos pulled this trick a few times – its first road-trip episode, “College,” is still considered one of the series’ best. Battlestar Galactica was really just one long, gloriously miserable road-trip episode. And who can forget that one Beverly Hills, 90210 when Brandon and Dylan hopped on motorcycles, got in trouble at an Indian reservation, and wound up sharing a moment in a sweat lodge?
Last night’s Walking Dead focused mainly on a day-long road trip taken by hateful BFFs Rick and Shane. They agreed to drive Randall the captive eighteen miles away from the farm. But first, Rick had something to say to Shane. He stopped the car at a crossroads – I believe it was at crossing of Metaphor Avenue and Thematic-Significance Lane. He told Shane that he knew what really happened to Otis. Shane explained the situation – either Otis died or Carl died. Rick seemed to accept that reasoning, possibly just because the Otis thing was just a prologue to the real revelation: He knew about Shane and Lori.
At certain points of this season, Shane has seemed a little bit like a mustache-twirling villain. (Example: Pretty much every conversation Shane has with Dale.) So it was nice to see the guy look genuinely ashamed. He swore that he’d never looked at Lori before the Zombie Apocalypse. Rick accepted that, too. But he told Shane straightaway: “You don’t love her. You think you do. But you don’t.”
This is brave new territory for Walking Dead: Characters are actually confronting each other with dramatic situations, instead of just sitting around in a pass-aggro depressive haze. Even better: Because of the episode’s road-trip plotline, this was the first episode of Walking Dead since the series premiere that focused on just a few key characters. (Which is to say: This is the first episode this season that featured zero scenes with T-Dog, Carol, and Andrea hanging around in the background.)
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