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Review #3098: The Walking Dead 2.3: “Save the Last One”

Posted on the 01 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

This episode is primarily about resolving the threads left hanging after the previous episode’s cliffhanger, and it does this reasonably well. Of course, pretty much everything in the episode is overshadowed by the twist ending, which may be one of the most shocking scenes on television, period. This may be an exaggeration, but it’s hard to remember something that compares with this scene’s combination of disturbing blood and gore and starkly brutal human drama. The scene is a visceral punch to the gut and the kind of thing that uncomfortably sticks in your mind for days after seeing it.

Review #3098: The Walking Dead 2.3: “Save the Last One”

I think what made the scene so effective is that there was a strong camaraderie developing between Shane and Otis. There was absolutely no hint at all that Shane would take this course of action. The title of the episode “Save the Last One” strongly hinted at the long-standing zombie trope of saving one last bullet to kill yourself with, which turned out to be clever misdirection, as Shane had a completely different intention for his last bullet. On the surface, Shane’s actions feel incredibly cold and almost psychopathic. But when you think about it, Shane really only had two options: Let himself, Otis, and Carl die, or let Otis die and save himself and Carl.

Of course, from an audience perspective, it’s still difficult to sympathize with Shane’s decision. Personally, I wouldn’t have been that bothered by Carl’s death. But in only two episodes, Otis had become a very likable, sympathetic character. Seeing Otis being eaten alive by zombies is bad enough (I was expecting Otis to die anyway), but what made it truly disturbing was the sight of Carl practically having to beat Otis into submission to get him to let go of him so he could escape.

The closest thing I can compare it to is AMC’s other flagship show, “Breaking Bad”, which involves similar situations in which the characters are forced to make incredibly horrible decisions. But the combination of extremely graphic violence and the human drama made this scene feel more shocking and disturbing to me than anything I’ve seen on “Breaking Bad” (though, I have yet to see most of season 4). Perhaps it’s just that I’ve come to expect that kind of thing on “Breaking Bad”, but this type of scene was fairly unprecedented on “The Walking Dead”. It certainly helps that Jon Bernthal’s acting is pretty strong throughout these scenes with Otis and in the aftermath back at the farm.

Still, “Breaking Bad” remains a stronger show, overall, thanks to its consistently great writing and acting, which is something “The Walking Dead” continues to struggle with. Much of the drama between Rick and Lori feels sub-par, and Rick’s drawn-out monologues continue to be annoyingly pretentious. The big problem with a lot of the drama on “The Walking Dead” is that it feels too forced, like it’s trying too hard. The human drama on “Breaking Bad” feels authentic and effortless in comparison. There’s still a lot to be said for the writing and acting in “The Walking Dead”, which generally has more hits than misses. But even with the exceptional ending, this episode only qualifies as average.

The amount of progress made in the subplots is a bit more gradual, but still noticeable. The search for Sophia continues, but nothing really comes of it. The progress I refer to is in the character development. Daryl is still remaining remarkably likable. When he wakes up to hear Carol crying, I half-expected him to be annoyed. But all he does is head back out to look for Sophia. Originally, I thought that Daryl might have just been trying to keep morale up, but apparently he really does believe that Sophia could still be alive. He must be the only character in the show who still thinks there’s some hope of finding her alive. Daryl takes Andrea with him for the patrol, and the two get some minor bonding time that doesn’t amount to a whole lot at the moment, but could certainly be setup for a more prominent relationship in the future.

Also, Dale does his best to try and make amends with Andrea, which does seem to make things at least a little bit better between them. Dale hasn’t had much to do lately except sit on the top of the RV, but he’s an interesting character and I wish they’d do more with him. The show has been focusing a lot more on Rick, Lori, and Shane than Dale, Daryl, or any of the others lately. But there are enough episodes in the season that I’m not too worried about this. Glenn has been a pretty thankless character since he first appeared, but this episode had a heavier focus on him than usual.

This is probably a minor issue, but how do they still have electricity at Hershel’s farm? I don’t really know how it all works, but at a rural farm like that I would imagine them being able to get water from a well drilled on the property (that’s how it works where I live). But running water and lights still require electricity. Is the power plant supplying electricity to their grid still active? I didn’t see any solar panels on the roof, so I’m guessing they’d have to be running off the public power system. I suppose, in the time-frame of the show, it hasn’t been quite as long as it seems. But still, I hope they discuss this electricity issue soon.

The first phase of the season has wrapped up enough to pave the way for a new direction, and there are some lingering issues that will likely factor into the next phase somehow. Dale, Daryl, Andrea, and Carol are still back at the highway, waiting for Sophia to show up, and the rest of the clan are all at Hershel’s farm now. Carl lives, thanks to Shane’s sacrifice. But the cost to Shane’s psychological state looks to be pretty high (and that earlier reminder of Shane’s blowup back the CDC suggests that Shane was headed in this direction already). T-Dog seems to be in a pretty bad place as well, but I suspect he’ll pull out of it. Shane, on the other hand, might do something stupid at any moment. It’s really not clear what’s going on inside his head yet. I like not knowing where things are going, but I hope they can maintain the momentum of the first three episodes throughout the season.

Rating: 7/10

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