This post contains spoilers through the Oct. 30 episode of The Walking Dead.
I have to admit that I’m getting sort of exhausted by The Walking Dead, especially now that the cast is settled in and around the farm. Every week, people have debates about whether life is worth living in a zombie-infested wasteland. Every week, shambling hordes provide a gross-out moment that our heroes, such as they are, escape only by the skin of their teeth. If the show is going to provide an actual conflicting worldview, there should be miraculous things that happen, moments like the deer that aren’t interrupted by disasters like Carl getting shot. There needs to be an argument that the world is, if not better, different in ways that justify continuing on, argue for it, show that it’s possible to build new things, and new ways of interacting.
Otherwise, Lori’s nihilism, her sense that “Maybe this isn’t a world for children anymore…maybe this is how it’s supposed to be,” seems pretty convincing. There’s something sickening about Rick’s optimism in general, his insistence in the absence of any evidence that “It isn’t all death out there. It can’t be. We just have to be strong enough after everything we’ve seen to still believe that…He talked about the deer, Lori. He talked about the deer.” There’s a fine line between having the sensibility to see beauty in horror and being deeply in denial. And when it comes to Shane in particular, Rick’s denial is glaring. “What you said before, you’re right. Shane will make it back with what the doctor needs,” Rick tells everyone at the beginning of the episode.
But he doesn’t see the price of that return, the man Shane has to kill to distract the zombies that would otherwise kill them both, the bloody patches on his scalp and shoulder, the torture of Lori refusing to let him go. Is Rick’s extreme goodness a luxury that the others have to make up for? Or is he the only thing keeping them elevated above the beastliness everyone else fears they’ll descend into?