Review: The Walking Dead - "18 Miles Out"

As good as last week's episode, "Trigger Finger" was, this week's "18 Miles Out" has managed to surpass it. Ever since the mid-season hiatus, The Walking Dead just keeps getting better and better. It is honestly the best it has ever been right now. I cannot think of a single dull moment in this entire episode - stellar drama, intense human conflict, and tons of gory zombie kills. In a word: perfect.

Rick and Shane drive the newcomer Randall out to an abandoned building to release him, but their differences finally come to a head. Meanwhile, the ladies back at the farm struggle to deal with a now-awake-but-depressed Beth. 

**Spoilers ahead - stop reading here if you have not seen the episode**

The episode begins with a Breaking Bad-style opener, then moves backwards to show us what lead to this moment. Rick and Shane actually have an open conversation about Lori and the former finally puts his old partner in his place. But once we learn that Randall has a connection to Hershel's family (one of many "Oh, shit!" moments this episode), the peace between Rick and Shane shatters. The Randall situation is the perfect scenario to showcase the difference between Shane and Rick. While Rick tries to be a humane diplomat, Shane prefers the aggressive, "take no prisoners" approach.

The subsequent fight scene is AWESOME, and culminates in an epic pipe wrench shot and a "zombie waterfall" (typical Shane, unleashing zombies AGAIN). Not only is the scene full of bad-ass machismo, but we see the ruthless side of each man - Shane going for Rick's gun, and Rick leaving Shane to fend for himself. Plus we get abundant walker kills, including Rick's epic zombie four-some. And in the end, that walker's head mashed by a car tire! Fucking awesome!

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Beth is awake from her mini-coma and has decided she does not want to live. While Lori and Maggie fight to keep her alive, Andrea basically says, "Let her choose." This leads to a Lori-Andrea confrontation that kinda parallels the Rick-Shane scenes. Andrea totally calls Lori out on her holier-than-thou attitude and defends her own role in protecting the farm. She also says that living or dying is Beth's choice and not Lori or Maggie's. This is actually the most I have liked Andrea in a long time. For once, she has a point. But much like Shane, she has the right idea with the wrong execution. The discussions on suicide are very interesting and an important topic for this story. This is the kind of hard-hitting dialogue Kirkman wrote in the books. While suicide may seem inherently selfish, in a world this fucked up, who has the right to tell her she must live until the day a zombie rips her guts out? It's a fascinating subject matter and they covered it well this episode.

Another interesting thing about "18 Miles Out" - it has a very small fraction of the TWD cast in it. There was no Hershel, Daryl, Glenn, T-Dog, Dale or Carol anywhere. And it worked so well! Plus it's beautifully directed - the window shot after the pipe wrench was so cool, and the shots of the lone walker in the field are just beautiful (symbolic of Shane feeling ostracized perhaps?). Even the music has been great these last few episodes - Clutch's "The Regulator" two weeks ago, now Wye Oaks' beautiful "Civilian."

Finally, something that must be mentioned - the two walker cops. Firstly, they are a cheeky metaphor for Rick and Shane, but also, Shane pointed out a lack of bites (and probably scratches, too). What the hell does that mean?? Has the virus (?) gone airborne? Or something else? What will this mean for future episodes? Hmmmmm.

My only complaint for this episode (it's a petty one) is how Rick tells Shane to cut himself to draw the zombies in for a knife kill. Why risk getting an infection like that when a simple whistle will draw the walker over? It was obviously set-up for the bus door scene, but I think it should have been dropped altogether. Not to mention Shane re-uses the knife he killed a walker with to cut his hand but we've been down that road before (Daryl's arrows) - it's just petty fanboy whining.

One last note - I cracked a smile when I heard Randall refer to the zombies as "roamers." His friends at the bar did the same last week and I loved that - not just hearing a familiar term from the books, but I love the idea that different factions of survivors come up with their own terms for the undead. Just one of those clever little details you might have missed.

Here is a scene from next week's episode, "Judge Jury, Executioner" where Daryl beats some answers out of Randall:

So what were your thoughts on "18 Miles Out"? Do you side with Andrea or Lori on the suicide issue? Is Shane still a threat to Rick and his family or was the situation diffused?

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