Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Gathering Darkness

I know many of you were hoping for another Daryl-centric blog post. Until the second half of this season begins, however, I feel like there isn’t much to say about Daryl that I haven’t already said. So for this entry I decided to focus on the character I have come to view as the "anti-Daryl": Shane. I call him that because of the obvious contrasts between the two characters during the first half of the second season. Daryl became (for the most part) calmer while Shane lost control. Daryl began to find himself while Shane began to lose himself. Daryl’s actions allowed him to connect with others while Shane’s actions further isolated him. Daryl became a better man while Shane became a lesser man.

I doubt Shane ever saw this coming. Sure, we could see that he was probably always a little hot-tempered, but we thought and he knew that he was a good guy; he took every step he could to keep safe those whom he was charged with protecting. His sole mission once the world went to hell was to save his best friend’s wife and son from the horrors that surrounded them. But circumstances got the better of Shane and he started doing things that maybe a “good guy” wouldn’t do.

From the beginning, Shane’s comfort level as a big fish in his small pond stood out. Prior to the outbreak, he’d been a figure of authority in his community. Of course he should lead this band of survivors. He held no doubt in his mind about that fact. When Rick returned, however, he replaced Shane as top dog. The group immediately turned to Rick and rejected Shane as a leader. More importantly to Shane, Lori also rejected him as her mate.

Had Shane really fallen in love with Lori in the, oh, four or five weeks that passed since the outbreak? Perhaps he cared deeply for Lori for years but knew, as his best friend’s girl, she was unobtainable. More likely, the intensity of the situation and his deep desire to protect her and Carl caused Shane to feel what he thought was a deeper connection to Lori, obviously much more than she felt to him. Yet it was obvious once her husband showed up, that Lori was 100% Rick’s.

Shane’s veiled hostility grew as rejections by the group and Lori continued to pile up. We saw red-tinged anger cross his face when Rick’s back was turned. Although Rick was his best friend, Rick also invaded his territory and took away his power. Lori’s rejection? Just icing on the proverbial cake. Every time Shane was rejected in one form or another, particularly by Lori, we saw a little more of the darkness in his soul creeping toward the surface.

Unable or unwilling to lash out at Lori after she told him that her family was “off-limits,” Shane instead beat Ed to a bloody pulp after Ed struck Carol. As a lawman, Shane would have been trained to keep a cool head in such situations, but he threw his training to the wind and took out his frustration over the situation with Lori on Ed.

Shane tried unsuccessfully to convince Lori to back his plan to go to Fort Benning instead of Rick’s plan to go to the CDC. Not long after their discussion, Shane sights his rifle on Rick in the woods and we wondered if he would have taken the shot were it not for Dale’s interference.

While at the CDC, Lori rejects Shane’s advances and we all remember his reaction. Forcing himself on her was the action of a desperate, lonely, and drunken man who would do anything – even sexual violence - to get what he wanted. It gave us foreshadowing for other repulsive acts Shane would also willingly commit. This scene was also the turning point for many fans and their opinion of Shane’s character, because it showed what he was capable of doing and made us realize just how dangerous he truly was.

Shane’s acrimony toward Rick’s leadership increased as the first half of Season 2 progressed. He argued about every decision - particularly the one to continue searching for Sophia - and in doing so challenged Rick as the alpha male. It was never clear to me whether Shane’s growing contentiousness was simply because he genuinely disagreed with Rick, because everyone else looked to Rick instead of him for leadership, or because he couldn’t have Lori.

Shane bounced back when Carl was injured, being a true friend to Rick when he needed one most and a good guy again, but this was short-lived. Shooting Otis to ensure his own escape from the walkers showed a man who’d lost his humanity. Fans view this act in two distinctly different ways: 1) “He did what had to be done” or; 2) ”How could he do that?” I suppose including that example here makes it obvious I lean toward the second view. I understand that people will do anything to save someone they love - especially a child. I still view Shane’s action as nothing less than cold-blooded murder. At the point he choose to shoot Otis he lost, to me at least, the last shred of what made him human to begin with.

As Season 2 continued, Shane’s leadership continued to be rejected by the group. Although there are no direct examples of this, when Carol told Lori that she was, as Rick’s wife, the de facto “first lady” of the group, it indicated the general feeling among the others as well. Shane would have picked up on these feelings, even if no one directly spoke the words to him. Lori openly rejected both his leadership skills and feelings for her when she asked if he would willingly leave behind a lost little girl in order to keep her and Carl safe. His silence on the matter spoke volumes. These were additional blows to Shane’s fragile ego.

After discovering that Lori is pregnant in Pretty Much Dead Already, Shane tried to convince her that she should be with him instead of Rick. He implied he was better suited to protect her and her unborn baby than Rick, saying that Rick wasn’t cut out for their new world and he, Shane, was the one who saved her life repeatedly. He finally told her he knew he fathered her baby. When Lori replied “Even if it is yours, it’s not gonna’ be yours. It is never gonna’ be yours,” she delivered what should have been the death blow to Shane ego. By denying even the possibility that Shane fathered her child, Lori rejected Shane totally and completely.

Later, after Shane returned with the guns that he found Dale hiding in the swamp, Lori again delivered a swift kick to Shane’s ego and reinforced his place in the leadership pecking order when she told him “Rick said no guns. This is not your call. This is not your decision to make.”

During his drill sergeant routine at the barn doors, as he stomped and screamed “If you wanna’ live, you gotta’ fight for it,” questions about his motivations flew through my mind. Did Shane feel compelled to force this confrontation with Herschel right then and there in order to openly defy and challenge Rick? Was Shane’s lack of concern for the consequences his behavior would have on the rest of the group because Lori wouldn’t acknowledge her baby could be his? Or was he just utterly convinced that his way of handling the situation was the best way

Motivations aside, Shane's actions put everyone in danger when he busted open the doors and let the walkers out. I will leave the debate about whether or not Shane did the right thing to others. Suffice it to say my thought on the subject is that although Shane may have been right in demanding the barn walkers be put down, it should have been handled in a more controlled manner. As Shane did it, the entire group was put in a position of unnecessary risk. Those with dark souls seldom care how their actions affect others.

Yes, Shane took charge of the barn situation, but in the end all he really did was show his inability to truly lead and just how little of a hero he really was. When Sophia stumbled out of the barn, now a walker herself, he just stood there. A real leader, as Rick showed in this scene, would have done what needed to be done and put down Sophia. Shane was only able to make easy choices - as Lori pointed out previously - such as simply abandoning Sophia, but he was incapable of making the truly hard ones. Has he never been capable of hard choices or has he become unable to do so because of his slipping sanity and inability to see beyond his own wants?

Shane is the character we most love to hate and actor Jon Bernthal does an excellent job making us do so. He seems to effortless display the physical mannerisms of someone on the edge of losing control, his body language painting a frighteningly clear picture of Shane's mental state. The modulation in his voice and emphasis on just the right words makes us believe that he will snap at any moment. And like Norman Reedus's portrayal of Daryl Dixon, Bernthal's facial expressions often tell us more than his dialogue in many scenes. He makes us believe that yes, Shane is one dangerous dude.

Will Shane ever leave the group or will he remain and continue wrestling with Rick for leadership? I suspect in the second half of Season 2 we will see Shane continue challenging Rick’s status as alpha of the group. Too much has happened for Shane to back off now. He will still no doubt think that he - not Rick - was right about everything. The bigger question, the answer for which I can't predict: Will anyone other than Dale - whom Shane on two separate occasions not so subtly threatened - ever see the growing darkness in Shane?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Ride, Daryl, Ride

As we pick apart all things TWD, let us not forget important questions such as what kind of bike does Daryl ride and is that the best choice?

All we know is that Daryl is riding his brother Merle’s bike. It has a lightning-bolt SS insignia on the tank. The saddlebags contain, among other things, all sorts of legal and illegal drugs including prescription antibiotics and painkillers. (I, for one, find these completely believable given Merle’s alluded-to background.)

But let’s back up a bit; I’d like to point out that someone riding a motorcycle would be a valuable asset to a group of apocalypse survivors, be it the zombies, the Russians, or even the Republicans that are the root cause of the recent misery. Motorcycles are good for scouting ahead, checking on stragglers, seeing if the group is being followed, and delivering messages between vehicles in a convoy. They also use less fuel - always a good thing when resources are limited – and can get to places four-wheeled vehicles cannot.

To be fair, motorcycles have limitations. They do not carry a spare tire. They must be balanced like a bicycle. They offer the rider no protection from the elements, zombies, or Republicans. They generally require all four extremities to operate.

Now, back to Merle’s/Daryl’s bike ...

I could tell right off this bike isn’t a Harley as it lacked the distinctive V-twin motor and both exhaust pipes exit the front of the engine, not a Harley design. Many non-riding viewers might expect Merle to ride American iron given his personality, but he’s riding a British bike. In my nearly six minutes of research, I found that consensus on the Internet seems to be this bike is most likely a Triumph Bonneville 650 originally built anywhere from the mid-60s to 1971. The Bonneville was cherished and heavily modified by hardcore riders nearly as often as the more ubiquitous Harley product; many are still being ridden today.

Although a cool and truly badass ride, a vintage Bonneville isn’t the best choice for post-apocalyptic transportation. Oh, it can do all the things I mentioned above fairly well including go off-road (but only in extreme circumstances); however, the bike has three large strikes against it: age, noise level, and range of travel.

Old-school choppers may be easier for a shade-tree mechanic to work on, but finding parts is more difficult than for newer or more commercially popular bikes. Replacement parts for a newer-model bike would be easier to, ah, “acquire”.

In a world where noise attracts walkers, the far-reaching powerful throb of an un-muffled motorcycle engine is sure to announce one’s presence to every walker for miles around. Daryl prefers a crossbow to a rifle because of noise concerns, so why would he ride this bike?

Another of the bike’s limitations is the small gas tank – referred to as a “peanut” tank – that generally only carries 2-3.5 gallons of fuel. When removing all the non-essential parts of a bike - “chopping” - a small gas tank is used to reduce overall weight to increase its speed. However, in any post-apocalyptic scenario, a larger tank that allows more miles between fuel stops would be preferred, at least by me.

A much better motorcycle for Daryl would be one classified as a dual-sport, meaning it can be ridden on-or off-road. Like any hybrid, a dual-sport isn’t the best in either category, but rather has characteristics of both. It isn’t as comfortable and won’t carry as many supplies as a big road hog like the Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide or Honda Gold Wing. Also, it won’t be as rugged as bikes designed for off-road use only, such as Suzuki‘s RMX450Z or Kawasaki’s KX450F. Dual-sport bikes are heavier and will not have as much suspension travel for overcoming obstacles.

While not as quiet as street-only bikes, they are designed to not shatter the quiet of wooded riding areas. Additionally, their fuel tanks can hold up to twice as much fuel as a peanut tank. As most major motorcycle manufacturers still have dual-sports in their offerings, parts for these would be easier to scavenge.

So, with all these marks against it, why does Daryl stick with Merle’s bike and not find something more appropriate? Simply put, it was Merle’s. Daryl rides this bike in honor of and in tribute to his big brother; it’s the one tangible thing Daryl has to remind him of Merle. To remind him of all that they were to each other, good or bad.

I can easily imagine this bike was Merle’s one true love, all his time, energy, and spare cash put into making it his perfect “sled” - customized motorcycle. Bikers express their personalities through their rides and these creations are seen as personal declarations, much like heraldry for knights of old. Bikers don’t want “cookie-cutter” sleds that look like all the others on the road. Bikers want their bike to be immediately recognized as theirs. There’s no doubt this particular bike belonged to Merle Dixon.

The biker in me understands this completely and will shout with a raised fist in support of Daryl as he thunders by.

Monday, 12 December 2011

It's Hard To Say I'm Sorry

An apology is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an as admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” provides a more detailed definition: “a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.”

The act of apologizing, however, goes far beyond these barebones definitions. In their book The Five Languages of Apology, authors Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas call apologizing “a cry for reconciliation restoration of the relationship.” Dr. Claude Steiner, Ph.D. offers an expanded explanation of this concept in his paper Apology; The Transactional Analysis of a Fundamental Exchange. Steiner writes “When, in the course of everyday life, one person injures another in minor or major ways, almost always in the form of some sort of violence - emotional or physical, subtle or crude - an apology, with amends if necessary, is a powerful transaction which can deliver peace of mind and healing for all parties involved.”

Both theories share a common element: We don’t apologize so much because we feel regret; we apologize because we know we have damaged our relationship with the other person and we wish to repair it. I view such a reconciliation motive as Daryl’s primary reason for apologizing to Carol. Daryl isn’t exactly the kind of guy who regrets any of his actions or words; he’d have to apologize in every other sentence if he did. Apologizing to Carol demonstrated that he cared about the connection between them.

In interviews, actor Norman Reedus has often explained that connection as an example of how “damaged people are drawn to other damaged people.” There is no doubt both characters are deeply damaged. Daryl has just begun to build relationships of ANY kind and when his outburst undermined the first one in which he has invested, an apology was imperative to saving it. If Daryl had not done so, the delicate link between these two damaged souls may have been irreparably severed. That he would make such an effort to preserve that bond shows how important it is to him.

We’ve seen many small examples this season of Daryl’s tentative steps toward bonding with others in the group. Yet the final scene of Pretty Much Dead Already demonstrated the depth of his bond to Carol. Just as Rick had to be the one that put down Sophia, Daryl had to be the one that held Carol back. No one else had earned to the right. Daryl held out hope for Sophia the longest and he was the only one who could protect Carol from herself and truly comfort her when the hope they shared dissipated like mist in the morning sun. And it was a move of comfort as much as protection. He held onto her long after she stopped struggling. Perhaps in the face of lost hope, he needed the human contact as much as Carol did. This scene draws me back to the same question I always ask myself when analyzing this character: would the Daryl of Season One have done the same thing?

Some fans have viewed his growing tendency toward bonding as somehow a violation of Daryl’s badassedness. (Yes, I made up that word.) But as the writers have written him and Reedus has portrayed him, being a badass is only part of why Daryl charms us. From the beginning we’ve seen his obvious tough exterior, but we’ve starting to see a gentler side of Daryl. We’ve seen that he’s not just fending for himself; he’s also capable of expressing himself and connecting with others in the group. A friend tells me that he thinks Daryl has always been capable of these things, they were just things he’d never done because of Merle. This is very possible, but without more back story we’ll never be able to say how much Daryl held his true personality in check because of Merle and how much was an actual change in Daryl’s personality.

Looking forward to the second half of Season Two, how will Daryl react to Sophia being lost forever? Any theory I may had was negated when Reedus said in a recent MTV interview that losing Sophia pulls Daryl back into himself and away from his developing relationships with the others: “It sets him back in certain ways, in that the hope's gone. That little girl that he's looking for, if she's one of them, he doesn't really give a crap anymore...So you find out that Daryl sort of separates himself a little bit. He reacts violently to anything emotional revolving around that story line.” It appears the kinder, gentler, Daryl is going bye-bye and there will be a return to the angry country boy full of piss and vinegar.

Daryl’s return to pure badassery (yes, I made up that word, too) will be welcomed by many viewers. I’m somewhat torn. I love the badass Daryl, but I also see his giving up hope as a huge step backward for the character. I’ll accept it though, because it is believable for Daryl. As much as I want my characters to experience growth and change for the better, I want even more for them to react like real people would if they were in the same situations. (As consumers of fiction, we can only truly suspend our disbelief about bigger things like the dead walking the earth because the characters still act in believable ways.) It’s good that the writers are doing this, especially since I’ve openly complained that they were not doing so with other characters. It will undoubtedly be entertaining to watch and I’m confident the best part will be watching Reedus show Daryl’s regression while still giving us the small hints of his humanity that still lie beneath it.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Roots Of Anger

So why exactly did Daryl fly off the handle and call Carol a “stupid bitch?” I got into a silly, but rather heated, conversation on Twitter about the subject just after Pretty Much Dead Already aired on 11/27/11. That exchange sparked me to look more closely at the causes of anger and examine why Daryl became so angry at someone who was expressing concern for his well-being.

Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.d. writes a blog for Psychology Today called "Evolution of the Self." In his July 2008 entry, What Your Anger May Be Hiding, he describes anger as a “double-edged sword: terribly detrimental to relationships but nonetheless crucial in enabling many vulnerable people to emotionally survive in them.” Selzer goes on to discuss Stephen Stosny’s book Treating Attachment Abuse, writing “symptomatic anger covers up the pain of our ‘core hurts.’ These key distressful emotions include feeling ignored, unimportant, accused, guilty, untrustworthy, devalued, rejected, powerless, unlovable—or even unfit for human contact.”

Stosny describes anger as a self-soothing emotion because of the chemical process of the human brain. Anger releases the amphetamine-like epinephrine, the hormone that creates the “adrenaline rush” in a fight or flight situation. But it also releases the analgesic-like norepinephrine, which numbs the anger. This combination of hormones is seductive to the human brain, Seltzer says. “A person or situation somehow makes us feel defeated or powerless, and reactively transforming these helpless feelings into anger instantly provides us with a heightened sense of control.“ (Read Seltzer’s full blog entry at

Many interpersonal relationship experts believe anger is the result of a myriad of core causes and deflected emotions. Those most relevant to a character study of Daryl include fear, frustration, pain (emotional or physical), and bruised pride, all demonstrated by him in multiple ways.

The most basic of these causes for Daryl’s anger was that he was compromised by injury and in physical pain. Pain alone is enough to make anyone cranky. For guys like Daryl - guys who grew up having to prove their toughness - injury and pain create not just physical issues, but also emotional ones centered on feeling powerless. Feeling “useless” or “damaged” makes them feel lesser than everyone else. They get pissed off when people tell them they need to slow down or take it easy because they see the need to do such things as signs of weakness. (It’s that damned “John Wayne gene” that most men seem to have.)

Daryl, as we saw during his ordeal in the woods, also feels as if the others don’t respect him or the skills he brings to their survival; he feels devalued. Shane’s rant at Daryl near the barn at the beginning of this episode did nothing except reinforce this view. Finding Sophia was a way to prove his worthiness and value to the group. In the first episode this season, when Sophia went missing, Rick publicly put his trust in Daryl when he told the group that he’d asked Daryl to head up the search. Giving up that search would’ve been admitting he had failed at the task he took on, that he was unworthy of Rick’s trust.

Guilt and fear are other possible factors. Sophia was Daryl’s substitute for Merle. He looked for her because he couldn’t look for Merle. Daryl never really got the chance and, as his hallucinations in the woods showed, he felt guilty about that. As much as he spouted off about how Merle would shit nails if you fed him a hammer, deep down Daryl likely feared his brother was dead. Finding Sophia alive would’ve quieted that guilt and reinforced his faith that Merle was still alive. Giving up the search for Sophia would be the equivalent of giving into his fears about Merle.

Another significant factor in his meltdown with Carol is his hope. Daryl - a man who would not easily or quickly do so - let himself hope Sophia was still alive. Early in the search he was focused on the task at hand; he wanted to stop talking and start searching. His comment that "hopin' and prayin' is a waste of time” illustrated that he was a man of action, not of hope. But as the search went on and he found what he thought were clues indicating she may still be alive, he began to experience hope. When Sophia’s mother - the woman who should have held out hope the longest- told him that continuing to hope was misguided, it would have made him doubt himself and feel foolish. Was he wrong to ever have had hope? Did he miss something what other people saw? Just as physical injury is seen by men like Daryl to be a sign of weakness, so is being wrong. If Daryl was wrong about being able to find Sophia, if he had to admit that fact, he feels weak and therefore powerless. If he was wrong in this hope, how bruised is his pride?

The combination of these factors would lead to frustration and be enough to set off many people; such an outburst makes perfect sense for Daryl’s character. We’ve seen it before. In previous blog posts, I’ve discussed that the Daryls of the world often use anger as their coping mechanism. Moments after Daryl’s first appearance, when he heard Merle may be dead, he stifled his tears and quickly shifted his pain to rage and attacked Rick. Later, when returning to Atlanta to free Merle, Daryl doesn’t tell T-Dog “I hope Merle’s still alive up there; I’m afraid he’s dead.” Instead, with a menacing voice and a veiled threat he tells the other man “He best still be there. That’s my only word on the matter.”

Where does this sort of emotional disconnect come from? Why do other emotions often manifest themselves as anger? Conditioning. It is an idea first researched by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov in the 1890s when he conducted his famous experiments involving dogs, food, bells, and salivation. In 1938, psychologist B.F. Skinner expanded on Pavlov’s work and coined the term “operant conditioning.” Basically, this is a way of changing behavior by using reinforcements for the desired response. Skinner’s research involved reinforcements given to animals, but the concept is often applied to reinforcements - physical and emotional, negative or positive - given to humans as a reward for a desired behavior. Imagine a young Daryl being picked on at school and coming home in tears. Even if Mr. Dixon didn’t do it, surely Merle would slap him upside the head and call him a pussy. So what does young Daryl do the next time a bully taunts him or someone calls him poor white trash? He becomes angry and violent, stomping the offender into the schoolyard dirt. This time, Merle is proud of him for being such a little badass. It is easy to see how the repetition this kind of event would lead Daryl into responding to most situations with anger over all other emotions, no matter what emotion he was truly feeling.

As we’ve watched Daryl grow as a character, we’ve seen Norman Reedus continue using subtle cues to reinforce Daryl’s development. Leading up to the verbal outburst at Carol, his expression was flat, impossible to read. In that instant, as he stepped toward Carol, I wondered exactly what Daryl was going to do. Would he reach out to Carol? Offer her words of comfort or encouragement? Would he tell her there was still hope for Sophia? For a split second, I actually wondered if he would kiss her. But the writers kept Daryl’s sharp edges that I love so much and Daryl did what Daryl does best: he exploded. He threw the saddle off its stand, called Carol a stupid bitch, and stormed out of the stable.

So…we’ve come full circle and I have to ask: how much of his angry outburst came from Daryl simply not knowing how to express his other emotions? We’ve seen tremendous growth in Daryl’s character this season, but no matter how much growth there has been, he is still struggling with the ideas that he is worthy, appreciated, and valued by the group. We saw Daryl apologize in this episode, something many would never have thought him capable of doing. In my next blog post, I’ll talk more about this and other events of the episode that illustrate his character development and what the loss of Sophia may do to undermine his growth.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sometimes You Gotta' Shoot Your Own Dog

As the final scene played out in the 11/27/11 episode (Pretty Much Already Dead) and Rick was forced to shoot Sophia, I immediately thought of a classic movie I watched years ago. The moment was so reminiscent of Old Yeller that I am afraid this blog post may be telling people what they already know, but I simply can’t not discuss the two and how they relate.

Old Yeller, released by Disney in 1957, is based on the book of the same name by Fred Gipson. Set just after the Civil War, it is the story of a rural family and the dog that wanders onto their property. Younger son Arlis loves the dog. Teenage son Travis, the man of the house while his father is away, immediately dislikes the dog, but ends up developing a close bond with it. Yeller is bitten by a wolf while protecting Arlis and the dog contracts rabies. In what is often described as “one of the most tearful scenes in cinematic history,” Travis must put Yeller down, both to put the animal out of its misery and to protect his family. Travis knows that you have to live up the responsibility thrust upon you and do what needs to be done whether you want to or not. Sometimes that means shooting your own dog. In doing so he leaves behind the boy he was and becomes a man.

Like Travis shooting Yeller, Rick steps up and puts Sophia down. He does what we’re not sure we could do. We all thoughtlessly yammer on about how “I’d shoot every walker; I don’t care if it was my Mother,” but this scene forces us to question whether we’d really have the stones to do it. Could we be that kind of man? Even as the scene brings us to those questions, it shows the kind of man Rick truly is. He feels to blame for Sophia having been turned. As much as it hurts him, as much as he doesn’t want to do what has to be done, Rick shuts down that emotion and lives up to the responsibility thrust upon him. This is the mark of a true leader, of a real man.

He does what Shane talked so big about being able to do while teaching Andrea to shoot. Shane yelled at Andrea to turn off her emotions and take the shot, but was unable to take the shot himself when doing so was crucial. When Sophia emerges from the barn, Shane bows his head and does nothing. Rick, who had been on the sidelines in this scene, moves figuratively and literally from observer to participant. He sets his jaw and casts his eyes sideways, in what appears to be Shane’s direction, seeming to acknowledge his duty. He then steps forward, unholsters his Python, and does what has to be done. He shoots his own dog.

This act is part of what sets Rick apart from Shane. Shane is an immature teenager, trying to get everyone to follow him into action by forcing a confrontation with Herschel and Rick about the barn walkers. Rick is a man, trying to stop Shane’s ill-conceived plan and when that fails, stepping in to clean up Shane’s mess. Shane will never be half the man Rick is.

Andrew Lincoln played the scene well, probably better than any other we’ve seen thus far. Lincoln's shifting facial expression - as Rick steps forward and draws his weapon - emphasizies the enormity of the action that Rick's sense of responsibility requires him to do. The resignation rolled across his face like a storm cloud roiling across a clear June sky. His face showed - more than any dialogue could tell - that Rick was at a turning point. Does this indicate the much hoped-for shift from the overly cautious, often unsure of himself man we’ve seen in the TV show (childhood) to what readers of the graphic novels say is a much more decisive leader (adulthood)? I hope so. I look forward to a Rick who has more confidence in his leadership abilities, but still tempers himself with compassion, maturity, and purpose.