Going Down to the Barn: Characters of the Walking Dead

It’s been a very long time since I’ve talked about anything remotely close to a television series, but I had a random thought this morning to write a bit about The Walking Dead on AMC.  I’ve been watching the show since it first began last year; while I haven’t read any of the comics, I have wiki’d myself some insight into the plot.  The current season has primarily centered around two things that haven’t really changed: Hershel’s farm and Sophia’s well being, neither of which has really moved forwards.  But for tonight, I wanted to write about something specific: not just Sunday’s “mid-season finale” episode, but a particular scene.  If you’re a fan and you haven’t seen the episode, you probably shouldn’t read any more of this.

The scene in question is the final scene in this episode, in which several of the group pretty much set up a firing range with Hershel’s barnful of walkers as the target.  If you saw it, then you have a couple of months to mull over what exactly the scene means for the plot (Will they be able to stay at the farm?  Will Shane continue to be a giant ass?), but what I wanted to look at was how this scene really portrays the characters involved in it.  I don’t know if it’s any real contribution to a conversation about these characters, but the scene summed up some questions I had, even if it made me ask a few more.

Let’s begin with Shane marching on over to the barn.  He’s raging, and he’s arming people as he launches into a tirade about safety.  Enter Rick, holding a walker at pole’s length.  What Rick has done is shown that he is willing to do anything, even handle walkers as if they were people, in order to secure a safe haven for his group.  Shane, meanwhile, has the strategy of militantly convincing Hershel to let them stay.  And so Shane kills one of Hershel’s neighbors-turned-zombie before lecturing everyone on you have to defend yourself with guns and not barricades.  By now Shane is understood as a man with nothing to lose, putting himself in danger and finding solace in killing the undead.

As Shane begins to fire bullets at walker heads, Andrea is the first to step up, pistol drawn.  This act seems to firmly place her on the course she wants: to be in control like Shane.  She has eschewed the victim role that Dale placed on her and struggles to say in control of everything the same way that Shane does, with brute force and power.  She has her gun back, and she hasn’t faced any repercussions for her first foray into trigger-happy situations.  She has a chance to unleash and gain control – in the Shane sense.

As T-Dog and Daryl join in with their guns, taking their places as gun support.  Daryl is the one to grab Carol when her daughter appears, which is important to note.  But I think that relationship was already pieced together in earlier scenes.  The other interesting thing is Glenn’s actions.  Earlier, Glenn explained that he always followed orders to do dangerous things because he wanted to help his friends, but he has also shown that he cares a lot about Maggie.  This relationship, however secretive, is the tie between the two groups.  In asking her if it’s okay to shoot, Glenn acknowledges that he cares more for Maggie than for following his group.  In the aftermath of this scene, it will be interesting to see where Glenn and Maggie fall if the visitors are no longer welcome at the farm.

And as the guns die down, we see Sophia appear.  The long, slow footage of the undead version of the missing girl ends with one telling point of this whole group of traveling survivors.  No one can shoot Sophia.  After declaring that all of Hershel’s family and friends had to die, Shane cannot bring himself to deliver the same fate to one of his own.  In the end, his inaction forces Rick to step forwards.

Since Rick’s return, Shane has been displaced – from his place in the group and from his place in relation to Lori and Carl.  During their stay, Shane has been trying to a pull a power grab over guns, Sophia, and their departure.  He finally made a bold move in this scene before immediately slinking back because he can’t make the tough decisions.  Meanwhile, Rick continues to assert himself as the rightful leader who will do anything to make sure the group is safe.  He is willing to treat walkers as monsters or as ill, whichever will earn his group a safe haven.  And so the end of the scene demonstrates that Shane’s sheer force will forever be sidelined by Rick’s ability to act, but that Andrea has staked her claim to power while Glenn has put in his lot with the Greene family. Now I’ll have to guess what happens next until February.  And I might watch Hell on Wheels too.

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