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'Walking Dead' recap: Last men standing

March 12, 2012 |  6:25 am

"The Walking Dead"

Remember that final showdown between Rick and Shane that's been brewing for a few episodes now? Well, it finally happened in Sunday night's episode of "The Walking Dead," "Better Angels," and if you haven't watched yet, this would be your cue to stop reading right now.

Faithful fans of Robert Kirkman's comic had a good idea that Shane would end up on the losing side of that fight, of course, but watching the standoff between the one-time partners unfold in a barren field under the light of the moon still made for one of the series' most memorable, most compelling scenes, which is really a testament to the talent of actors Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal.

Both have delivered smartly nuanced performances week in and week out, the simmering tension between their characters erupting in bursts of violence before, but nothing like this: an all-out faceoff that seems to end with Rick stabbing his former friend to save his own life but, in fact, culminates with Carl shooting Shane in the head to save his father after Shane has come back as a walker. Which is really a lot to process.

Shane's death and unlikely resurrection is solely of his own making. At the outset of the episode, the group is planning to move inside Hershel's farm house to take shelter from the elements, with the nights growing colder as the sweltering Georgia summer heat begins to fade. To honor Dale's memory, the survivors have decided to honor his wishes, returning to their original plan to transport Randall some place far away and drop him off with enough provisions to survive, a plan that, naturally, Shane doesn't support.

Shane goes to the barn where the young man is being held with plans to shoot him before Rick and Daryl can drive him away from the farm -- until he hits upon a better idea. Shane frees Randall and they set off into the woods, with Shane telling Randall that he's no longer a member of Rick's group and is ready to join up with the other camp. Randall insists that he'll be a good fit with the guys he knows, that they're sort of a rough crowd.

But Randall doesn't make it back to safety. In a split second out of frame, Shane breaks Randall's neck. He then headbutts a tree to bloody himself and turns up back at Hershel's with a wild tale about how the boy got the drop on him and escaped.

No one quite believes Shane's version of events, but Rick, Glenn, Daryl and Shane head out into the woods to search for Randall anyway. It's Daryl and Glenn who find him: new zombified Randall comes tottering out of the night and attacks them. They take him down, with Daryl noting that Randall has no bite marks anywhere on his body (just like the walkers Rick and Shane encountered a while back), begging the question of how, precisely, he managed to turn into a walker.

Rick and Shane are their own two-men team, but as they reach a moonlit clearing, Shane makes plain his vision of the future: one without Rick. He draws his gun and prepares to shoot Rick, but it's Rick who comes out alive -- he convinces Shane to lower his weapon just long enough to give Rick the chance to step forward and surprise him with a blade to the abdomen.

A few moments later Carl turns up, and Rick desperately struggles to explain to his boy what transpired. Carl pulls out his own gun -- the same one that he took from Daryl's bag, the one he confessed to Shane that he'd taken, the one that Rick insisted he learn to use to protect himself -- and fires, taking down Walker Shane, who'd been advancing toward an unsuspecting Rick.

With Shane gone, the broken group just might be able to find cohesion again; there is no longer an instigator to question Rick and Hershel's more pacifist, humanist leanings. But in the world of "The Walking Dead," rarely do things get better. Rather, they typically go from bad to worse. Given that, wonder what's ahead for the season finale...

What did you think? How's the series likely to fare without Jon Bernthal? Will Shane be missed? Please leave your comments below.


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-- Gina McIntyre

Photo: Shane (Jon Bernthal) in Sunday's episode of "The Walking Dead" -- before he becomes a zombie. Credit: AMC