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The Walking Dead ‘18 Miles Out’ Recap and Review

This week, The Walking Dead finally grew up a bit, and started taking steps towards being the show that we all know it can  be.  And how did it do this?  By stripping away most of it’s gigantic cast, and telling us an actual story over the course of it’s forty-something minutes.  One of the show’s big problems is it’s fanatical devotion to plot over character, it’s feeling that it needs to be constantly pushing the story forward, and when it does slow down to do character development, it tends to just be people standing around talking about how sad they are.  In ‘18 Miles Out,’ however, we got a stripped-down story centered on just a few people, as they deal with very specific situations, revealing things about their character along the way.

The only people that we saw this week were Rick, Shane, Randall, Maggie, Maggie’s sister Beth, Andrea, and Lori.  Everyone else took a break to go do whatever it is they do on that farm all day.  Picking up a week after last week’s episode, Rick and Shane take Randall out to set him loose, while the ladies back at the farm each deal with Maggie’s sister’s attempted suicide in a different way.  It was refreshing to see The Walking Dead embrace it’s episodic nature, and give us two self-contained stories, neither of which moved the primary plot forward much, but both of which were entertaining while they provided some much-needed character moments.

One of the other things that made this episode so strong is that it actually knew what it was about.  ‘18 Miles Out’ was a story about Choices, whether it be the choice to end your own life, or to end somebody else’s.  In the world our characters live in, none of the choices are ever easy, and this episode really hammered that message home.

I’ll start with the farm story, since it’s the one I liked less (Big surprise, right?).  We’ve gotten a lot of scenes in this show where people talk about how the new zombie-infested version of the world isn’t even worth living in, and we got some more of that in this story, after Lori caught Maggie’s sister with a knife, which which she planned to kill herself.  My one big complaint about this storyline is that I still feel like I have no idea who Maggie’s sister is, even after getting a whole story devoted to her.  Rather than use this opportunity to develop her at all, she becomes a cipher onto which Andrea, Lori, and Maggie project their feelings.

On the bright side, we got to see those three ladies handle a situation in wildly different ways, rather than drift about aimlessly bemoaning their fate.  Maggie believed in keeping her sister alive at all cost, while Andrea believed in letting her decide for herself, and Lori fell somewhere in between.  Once again, this storyline was all about Choice. 

We also got a scene in this story that I liked where Andrea and Lori argued over the roles of men and women in their camp, which is something that I’m surprised hasn’t come up more.  Lori chastised Andrea for standing guard and fighting zombies, as opposed to cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry.  I gotta say, this scene didn’t help me like Lori any more, as she came across rather narrow-minded and old-fashioned.  What I did like, however, was the fact that our characters were even having this conversation, because I feel like it’s the sort of thing that would come up in a zombie situation, while it also contributed to the story’s theme of Choice.  Why should anybody get to tell Andrea what role she is supposed to fill?  In a post-zombie world, we are all free to make our own choices, rather than simply fall into the roles that have been prescribed to us. 

And now to the Rick/Shane stuff, the real meat of the episode.  A full-on fight between these two has been a long time coming, and in ‘18 Miles Out’ we finally got it.  On their way to drop off Randall, Rick has a few words with Shane, essentially telling him to back off Lori, or to get the hell out.   He also calls him out for what happened with Otis, shaming him for the choices he’s made. Shane doesn’t react all that much, but it’s clear that this doesn’t sit well with him.

Once they get to the weird school-bus place where they decide to drop off Randall, sh*t really hits the fan.  Randall reveals that he went to school with Maggie, which means that he might know how to get to the farm.  Shane decides that the only sensible thing to do is put a bullet in his head, which of course Rick refuses to allow.  It’s at this point that all of the tension between these two finally boils to the surface, and they start kicking the crap out of each other.  I really liked the staging of this entire fight, as it felt brutal, real, and painful.  I mean, Shane pushed a motorcycle on top of Rick.  That’s hardcore. 

And then the zombies show up.  Shane tosses something at Rick, clearly intending to bash his brains in, and instead smashes a window, out of which pores countless walkers.  The majority of this episode was Rick, Shane, and Randall struggling to stay alive against the onslaught of zombies, and it was pretty awesome.  I’m really glad that this half of the season has been more action-packed, and that the action has been as good as it has.  There’s a scene in this episode where Rick struggles to shoot three zombies as they all fall on top of him that was totally thrilling to watch, while also being kind of hilarious.  We need more of that.

Shane gets trapped in a school bus, and Rick’s immediate instinct is to take Randall and leave him.  Once again, it’s all about the choices we make.  Shane sees Rick leave, and assumes that he’s all on his own.  I mean, after all, Shane did just try to kill him, and Rick has to know that the whole camp at the farm is going to be better off without Shane.  Unlike Shane, however, Rick never leaves a man behind, and decides to come back and rescue his former best friend. 

As they drive back to the farm, after throwing Randall back in the trunk, (I gotta say, I feel really sorry for that guy.  They are treating him like sh*t.)  Shane spies a lone walker shambling through a field, the same one he saw on their way out.  This could just be a reminder that the walkers are everywhere, or maybe it’s symbolic of how Shane feels: alone.  Either way, it was a great shot.

At the end of this episode, nothing has really changed.  Randall is still an issue, and Shane is still alive.  But the tension between Rick and Shane has increased, and it is now crystal-clear where each them stands in relation to the other.  The gloves are off, and from here on out, things aren’t going to be pretty.

I know I didn’t have much negative stuff to say about this episode, but I think it was my favorite Walking Dead yet.  By focusing on just a few characters in a very specific situation, it stripped away many of my issues with the show, and resulted in a tense, interesting, action-packed hour.  Good job, Walking Dead.

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Eric Zipper Eric Zipper is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. When he's not making you laugh, playing video games, or watching movies, he's probably sleeping. Follow him on Twitter @erzip
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