Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
"I’m down to my last one."
The first sign that last night’s episode, “Save The Last One,” wasn’t going to disappoint: For its foreshadowed cold open, The Walking Dead bit a page out of the old Breaking Bad playbook. Shane (Joe Bernthal) is standing in front of a bathroom mirror, the room cloaked in steam, and he’s buzzing his hair off—which clearly is a look into the not-so-distant future, since the previous episode, “Bloodletting”, ended with Shane and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) trapped inside the local high school after their medical supplies run went awry. The menacing, unhinged gleam in Shane’s eyes hints that something went wrong on his way back to Hershel’s (Scott Wilson). And where the hell is Otis?
He’s a pile of table scraps in the high school parking lot. As the episode’s final moments show, in flashback form, Shane, walking on a busted ankle after falling out of one of the school’s windows, and a winded Otis were nearing their truck as a herd of zombies followed closely behind; combined, they were down to their last nine bullet rounds. Shane, more worried about the pouch on Otis’ back than the man himself, unloads one of his last slugs into Otis’ leg, a real son-of-a-bitch move considering that, moments before, Otis saved Shane’s life earlier by blowing a walker’s brains out. But Shane’s not exactly appreciative; as if shooting Otis in the leg wasn’t bad enough, Shane also beat his face in with the butt of his shotgun, leaving the big man as an all-you-can-eat-buffet for the zombies. The walkers, never ones to pass up a free meal, feast on Otis with the gory vigor and wonderful nastiness of the best George A. Romero Dead money-shots.
Back at the farm, Shane gives Rick (Andrew Lincoln) a ruse about losing Otis during their mad dash to the truck, which is fine by Rick and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) since Shane brought back the respirator and meds necessary to save Carl (Chandler Riggs) from his bullet wound. Though, Hershel and his kin understandably sob and grieve over the loss of Otis, thinking that he died valiantly while trying to do right by the little boy he accidentally shot—not that Shane basically murdered him to save his own ass.
And Shane’s not about to get caught, either. Before Shane took off and left him to become walker cuisine, Otis managed to rip a chunk of Shane’s hair out, hence why Shane has to shave his head—better to not have to explain why he’s suddenly got an empty patch on his dome. Of all the show’s characters thus far in Season Two, Shane has been the most interesting, starting off on his “I’m leaving the group” kick, then realizing that Rick and Carl need him, and now owning up to his dark survivalist impulses. Sitting by a stabilized Carl’s bedside, Lori tells Shane to “stay,” and Rick is no doubt feeling the same way.
One can look at Shane’s saving-Carl’s-life heroics as his official, long-desired penance for sleeping with his best friend’s wife. And Otis, who was carrying the bag full of Carl’s meds, was an unfortunate sacrifice for that. But did Shane really need to kill Otis? Or is he just losing his mind? Based on his Taxi Driver-like glares into the bathroom mirror, let’s go with Option No. 2.
"Maybe this isn’t a world for children anymore."
It’s good to see some characterization for Lori, after watching her do little more than flirt with Shane and pledge love for Rick throughout The Walking Dead’s first season. With Carl’s life hanging by a thread early into “Save The Last One,” she displays signs of giving up, asking Rick if Carl would actually be better off as a corpse instead of spending his youth running away from zombies and experiencing horrific shit.
Rick, unsurprisingly, isn’t about to let his son die; to answer Lori’s question about one good reason as to why Carl isn’t better served in death, Rick tells Lori about Carl’s pre-bullet-ingestion encounter with the deer, which is the first thing a briefly awake Carl talks about before suffering a seizure. Instead of saying, “Mommy, please don’t tell me there are any fucking walkers outside,” Carl immediately talked about the one positive thing he’s seen amidst the zombie apocalypse. Thus, there is hope.
Whenever Shane and Otis weren’t mowing down walkers, “Save The Last One” was heavy on at times overdone and schmaltzy dialogue, from Glenn (Steven Yuen) asking cutie Maggie (Lauren Cohan) if she believes in God (after Maggie interrupts his first-ever attempt at prayer) to Lori and Rick’s debates over the value of life in an undead-infested world. Per usual, not all of the dialogue worked, but “Save The Last One” continued The Walking Dead’s modus operandi in Season Two: picking one central storyline and seeing it through. The slight verbosity might’ve distracted from the episode’s zombie quotient (which, you have to admit, was quite badass), yet, really, what’s wrong with that? If The Walking Dead was only about undead kills and carnage, it would’ve lost its appeal after the first season’s appropriately titled “Guts” episode.
"Dumbass didn’t know enough to shoot himself in the head."
Leave it to Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) to offset The Walking Dead’s preachy nature. In an otherwise Shane-heavy episode, Daryl and Andrea (Laurie Holden) share a little bit of quality screen time, even if they’re forced to once again investigate the woods in search of Sophia (Madison Lintz). Daryl tells Andrea a story about how he was once lost in the woods as a kid, and how he had to wipe his ass with poison oak; the butt-cleaning capper is amusing, sure, but Daryl’s back-story does a fine job of painting everyone’s favorite crossbow-user as the product of one truly shitty childhood, one in which his dad was often drunk and his older brother, Merle (Michael Rooker) established permanent residence in juvenile detention centers.
Being that he’s a lifelong survivor, Daryl doesn’t take too kindly to “cowards” who take the easy way out, via suicide. So when he and Andrea stumble upon a zombie hanging from a tree, Daryl sees a suicide note and puts two-and-two together: The guy tried snapping his neck with a noose but failed to realize that he’d just turn into a zombie. And that his dangling legs would be eaten by passing walkers. When Andrea weasels Daryl into killing the hanging ghoul, Daryl coldly reasons that he just wasted an arrow.
And speaking of Merle, each of Season Two’s three episodes have found ways of bringing his name up over and over again—obviously he’s on the verge of a Walking Dead comeback. Hopefully Merle reemerges after Sophia is found, whether she’s dead or alive; the whole “find the missing girl” plotline is getting a wee bit repetitive, serving no other purpose than give random characters long walks in which they can share personal stories and flesh themselves out at The Walking Dead’s writing staff’s convenience.