This week's Walking Dead sees as much eating of words as it does noshing of brains. Remember when I said that Shane was “the heart of the show?” and essentially a better leader than Rick? Well this week, all that goodwill and more is undone in the space of five minutes, leaving our Bloodletting review looking awfully silly. Thanks a lot, Shane. Bastard.
Sophia is still missing, Carl is still dying, Daryl is still awesome and there's a zombie up a tree. At Hershel's farm, Rick and Lori sit at Carl's bedside debating whether he'd be better off alive or dead. Save The Last One is a very talky episode for much of the time, save for the action with Shane and Otis in the school. It's cracking zombie action, right up there with the Dawn of the Dead remake and the first Resident Evil movie. It's a nice counterpoint to Rick and Lori's mortal angst. Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Wayne Callies shoulder the emotional stuff well, but it makes for depressing viewing when everyone else is utterly miserable too.
Well, almost everyone else. There's some neat comic relief in Daryl and Andrea, whose midnight sojourn into the woods results in a fun anecdote for Daryl and leaving Andrea looking a little less uptight. Their discovery of a zombie in the most unexpected of places is a highlight – this series it seems as though the writers are really pushing themselves to provide something memorable for the gang to stumble upon every episode. Last week it was a gore covered baby seat in a car – in Save The Last One, it's a zombie dangling from a tree with an accompanying poem. Between this, Merle's VD saving the day (his return can't be far off, surely) and stories of Daryl's itchy arse, Save The Last One brings some surprisingly poignant humour to the table. The same table upon which Carl is prepped for a surgery he probably won't survive. Swings and roundabouts.
Elsewhere, things are finally looking up for Glenn, getting the glad eye from one of Hershel's daughters. It's a sweet if mildly predictable subplot, with plenty of furtive glances being exchanged and possibly the most dialogue from Glenn since episode two of series one. Dale too, breaks out of his rut to leave his beloved RV and go for a walk. Now if only we could convince him to get rid of that bloody potty hat... His attempt to reach out once more to Andrea doesn't go as well as he might have hoped, as he goes about it in the most condescending manner possible.
Save The Last One feels like the first of this season's filler episodes, more concerned with building character than horror or action (although Shane and Otis find plenty of both in the school). Not that this is a bad thing. We're at a stage where we need to start caring about the characters. Certain members of the group remain unbearable (Dale) while others seem consistently useless (T-Dog, Carol) but others are finally starting to gel.
Shane's actions here are terrible, but John Bernthal and the writers show us enough regret to still feel for him, despite everything. He's a conflicted man whose motives remain to be seen – is he genuinely trying to make up for his betrayal of Rick, or is this simply an attempt to get back into Lori's good books? Either way – and however bad his behaviour is destined to get – there's little doubt that Shane's character arc is to be the most compelling of Series Two.