After a three-month hiatus, The Walking Dead finally retuned this week with “Nebraska”. The episode starts off immediately where Pretty Much Dead Already left off, with Rick holding his gun after the reluctant necessity of shooting Sophia. Hershel and his family mourned as if their loved ones’ fates had not already been sealed once they became walkers. The concept of what death truly is for humans and walkers was at the forefront of this episode (although it has been discussed previously in the series) as separate ideologies emerge within the farm.
The first group belongs to Shane, who harasses Hershel as he returns to the barn in melancholy. Shane, who believes that he has saved the lives of everyone by taking out the walkers in the barn, continues to look for a fight as he boasts to Dale—he insults the fact that he did not have the audacity to stop him. Audacity is, in the end, what Shane is all about; he believes that one needs to be willing to act at a moments notice, or be killed in hesitation. Andrea shows herself to be part of this belief in her defense of Shane, as well as by using a scythe to take out one of the remaining walkers in the barn. Perhaps the use of the scythe is a way of foreshadowing Andrea as a reaper of death for what she and Shane see as the greater good of survival.
Hershel is part of the second, waning group who believe that there was something to be salvaged in the walkers. In his grief, he turns to the drink and takes off to a bar in town. The grief is still apparent in Hershel’s family, as his daughter passes out. Carol, on the other hand, comes to accept the death of her daughter—the key conclusion she makes is that the moment Sophia died was the moment she became a walker.
Rick seems to be trying to find a middle ground between Hershel’s passiveness and Shane’s aggressiveness. This leads Rick to seek out Hershel in order to buy more time at the farm for his (or perhaps Shane’s) coming child. The result of Rick’s Mexican standoff in the bar was showing that he’s got a bit of Shane in him. Rick is not only the delegator, he is willing to kill for the greater good, and for the benefit of getting on Hershel’s good side by protecting his farm. The encounter with the men at the bar also introduces the notion that walkers are not the only threat to the survival of the main characters. There is now potential for other humans to combat the heroes in their quest for safety. The question to ask for further episodes then, is what makes main characters like Rick heroes whose lives are more valuable than the people they kill?
There was a purely aesthetic joy in the conclusion of the episode. The crosscutting between Rick holding his gun in the bar like Clint Eastwood and Shane and T-Dog burning the pile of walker bodies gave Rick a heroic image that has not been seen since the beginning of the series. On the opposite end of the spectrum, watching Lori crashing the car on the side of the road was incredibly frustrating. The crash has no real purpose other than make the audience wonder what will happen next. It’s a problem that has no character motivations behind it, and seems like a weak justification for continuing the narrative of the series.