The Walking Dead “18 Miles Out” Review

The episodes of season 2 roll on, and one would hope AMC’s The Walking Dead might continue in its usual relentlessly tense, nail-biting path. AMC has taken a renowned and award-winning comic-book series and turned it into a gripping, visual, televisionary treat. There have been critics of perceived starts and stops—“pacing issues,” some people claim—but for the most part I have not agreed with them.

Would that I could continue to say that.

The latest episode, “18 Miles Out, ” started out with its usual tenseness—Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) beset by zombies. Scroll back in time and we get the reason for the title in the first place: an 18-mile point away from the farmstead where Rick and Shane can start looking for a place to drop off their wayward, rescued “guest,” and a place they can finally have that… talk.

It was going well. This poor kid probably didn’t know his life was hanging between two very strong opinions. “Reality is, he had no business being here,” Shane snarled, and you already knew what he intended to do. But talk soon turned to the real shit Shane and Rick had between them. “You don’t love her. You think you do, but you don’t,” Rick said.

And you, the viewer, knew he was dead wrong. The difference between what Shane thinks and the actual reality of things are about 18 miles apart.

Good, tense setup. Good place for a showdown too, once they got to it.

I never thought I’d say The Walking Dead was “trigger shy,” but there you have it. This episode did nothing, solved nothing, and moved the overall story absolutely nowhere. Did anyone actually believe Rick would leave Shane to die in that zombie-beset school bus? And does anyone think Shane now feels some sense of gratitude he didn’t feel before?

End result is, essentially, the same complaint a lot of critics had for the middle chunk of this second season: spinning wheels. What can we say has changed? What has advanced, plotwise?

You could literally skip this episode in its entirety and not miss a thing. Never thought I’d say that. So I’m pretty disappointed.

One thing I do like is the fact that Rick’s cool composure around the ‘walkers just keeps growing. It’s almost like he views them as an annoyance rather than a threat any more; he’s much more wary of living threats, almost. Rick teaching Shane (of all people) the “preferred and quiet” way to kill a zombie showed his growth, cerebrally.

By contrast, Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) discussion with Andrea (Laurie Holden) was about choice—and about how completely different they are. I did like how they showed the dichotomy between the two, because one might assume they are both alike in many ways—both hard-talking, no-nonsense, outwardly tough-as-nails women—yet they are clearly different as night and day.

And I can’t say Andrea was wrong. It’s a different world, and the rule these days is “Live or die, stupid, make a choice.”

For all the criticism I found for “18 Miles Out,” it featured some very interesting discussions. (Crazy for a zombie show, right?) Beth (Emily Kinney) telling Maggie (Lauren Cohan) she wanted to die in bed with her was chilling. Amazing that it took Andrea forcing the girl to make a choice, and underlines for me how Andrea is, really, the most sensible woman on the show.

(Well, aside from the fact that she completely believes in Shane’s sanity. Blinded by attraction!)

This was one of those episodes of The Walking Dead that gave me pieces of things I like about the show, but just couldn’t come through in the end. So much happened, yet nothing came of it. And I’m not sure why the writers think they have to keep delaying some of the stuff most of us see as inevitable. Why would you have a reason to take this shit slowly, besides negotiable things like … I dunno, actor contracts? Location availability?

I’m not sure. I usually favor the show over the comic, but AMC really needs to understand that this show is not going to be around for as many years as the comic runs (and continues to run). Television shows don’t generally run past 5 or 6 years. They’re not Cerebus.

My advice to the writers and producers of The Walking Dead is to not be afraid to mix and match some of the future stories, if for no other reason than to keep the damned thing moving. Good acting, fantastic cinematography, great art direction and music…

But please, lord, go somewhere with it.

If you like to just spin your wheels, follow me on Twitter! That’s @Axechucker!