Thursday 5 January 2012

The Gathering Darkness

Shane Walsh aiming his shotgun at Rick in Season 1 of The Walking Dead
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 shaving his hair in season two of The Walking Dead
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 chooses 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?


  1. Shane might have once truly cared about protecting others, before and after the walkers came. But deep down, he was always interested in what was good for HIM. Now, that's becoming less disguised. He will protect the rest of the group, if it's in his best interest. And if he can do something that's absolutely in his best interest and wrap it up in the sheep's clothing of being "for the group," he's all the happier. He's dangerous, and a total loose cannon at this point, in my opinion.

  2. As always, great post! I agree with you 100%. You think just like I do, but are better at putting it into words.


  3. That was an exceptional read! You covered my thoughts on Shane down to a tee. He really is a complete nutter now, but yet I still can't help but love him...

  4. Oooo!! Another good Blog and very thought provoking!I readily admit I don't really like Shane and never warmed to him from the start. He seems a man desperate to be in charge, even when he and Rick were police officer in the world before the ZA.
    I think he was always jealous of what Rick had and he desired Lori and Carl as his own.He knew
    Rick & Lori were having problems before the ZA happened and as Rick's partner, Rick would of shared this with him.So I think when Rick was shot that was BINGO, he had his chance to have what he always desired.He was a lucky son of a bitch as Rick getting shot coincided with the world going to rat shit. I really don't think he see's Rick as a friend, he sees him as a pain in his butt and if anything happened to Rick. I don't see Shane sheding any tears unless their crocodile ones!!

  5. I think you hit the nail right on the head! Shane was under Rick's command before "the world went to shit" and now after, he sees all signs of compermise as weakness. The others are lucky Rick is in charge or they would all be picked off one by one.SusanG45

  6. Another excellent blog! Your observations about Shane are right on target. While Shane may have been considered a 'good guy' prior to the ZA, there is no doubt that his true character is coming out now. He is only out for himself. He may have had feelings for Lori all along, then he saw his opportunity to take Rick's place. His actions at the barn put the entire group at risk but he didn't care. He is losing his grip on himself and its showing in his every action.

  7. Excellent blog once again Lisa. I totally agree & appreciate you giving credit to Jon Bernthal for making the character of Shane so believable. He does an outstanding job as do you with your blogs! Keep them coming please.

  8. Am I the only person that actually likes shane? He MAKES the show in my opinion! If it wasn't for him it would be extremely boring!

  9. Of course you once again put your genius tendency with words to good use: GREAT BLOG! From the moment Shane appeared on screen there was just something about him- his lack of direct eye contact while speaking or his constant weight shifting or how when he does make eye contact it's an eerie stare- that set me on edge. I've watched, as we all have, him slowly slip further into a demented, self-serving, psycho save a few moments with Rick and Carl. While the acting is fantastic and I appreciate that it adds a new layer of drama to the show, I cannot wait for someone to take Shane out. In the graphic novel he's already dead- which, as we know, means nothing for the tv show. I'm hoping that instead of Carl taking him out that Shane finally pushes Daryl to the edge and that it's Daryl who removes this barely concealed threat from the group before he causes any more damage. Can't wait for February 12!!! And no to Anonymous above: my sister likes him as well. I think I know where there's a padded cell big enough for the 3 of you...too bad it'll end up being Shane by himself.

  10. "Anonymous said... Am I the only person that actually likes shane? He MAKES the show in my opinion! If it wasn't for him it would be extremely boring!"

    While I point out in this post just how dangerous I think Shane is - even to those he claims to "love" - I do undertand his importance in the show and the importance of his dynamic with Rick & Lori. You must have conflict and drama to make a show like TWD work and Shane brings a healthy dose of both to the table!

    While I dislike the character - I think we're SUPPOSED to do so - I like the fact that he is there. You're right - the show would be much more boring without Shane.

  11. Eh-hem...Daryl makes the show thanks to the (insert positive adjective) Norman Reedus!!! :D

  12. Back when he beat Ed, I could see that the Zombies weren't the only danger on this show. The People were just as bad. And at that point Shane wasn't seen as obviously bad, like Merle and Ed were. His constant badgering of Lori, and when he set his gun sights on Rick showed this was going to be a theme that would continue and if he didn't make the decision to let things go, it would get even worse.

    He actually chose to let it go in a way that was some kind of dramatic sacrifice that showed he still only cared for himself, as the group needed another good shot to protect from the walkers. He did help Rick out when Carl was shot and I liked the team he and Otis made on the mission and he had to go and shoot him. He continued to be selfish and wanted to give up the search for Sophia.

    What I liked best is that Carl got up the nerve to stand up to him twice about that. First telling Shane "I know you want to give up looking for Sophia and you think she's dead,. Well, that's BullSh*T!" She missed the point and sighted the kid's language. And later he boldly told him: "Shane we have to stay!" As someone who had to stand up to someone who was just as wrong when I was young, I thought that was very believable and cool that Carl stood up to Shane.

  13. I agree much with what you said. I think also, there is a "spoiled child" aspect to Shane. He as lost almost nothing due to this apocalyptic event. He even got to continue to womanize. Indeed, this had become Shane's World. He was top dog, got to kill things without recourse.

    I have no misconception that Shane does not have his good points. He has from time to time done "right". However his "wrongs" are so often and of such huge proportions, that it is far beyond "one oh-shit wiping out ten attaboys".

    I come from Portland, OR which has the dubious distinction that it is the city you are most likely to be shot by a cop. And while there are some really good cops on Portland's force that is a statistical fact, and a bad reputation. Shane is so far beyond that.

    I wrote in another post how "civilization" or "morals" are not something to take off or put on at a whim. Yet Shane cast it all off like a useless rag. Reveling in new found power, Shane had convinced himself he was the new alpha dog. But, he is little more than dangerously spoiled.

    Thanks for more thought provoking fodder. Later !

  14. Dave - I had examples of Shane's spoiled child act but took them out as I couldn't tie it in to the descent into darkness like I wanted to do. But I agree with you completely about that point. When he said he'd leave the group, it was the equivilant of a child taking his toys and going home when the other kids wouldn't play the game he wanted to play!

    1. Wow! That's a damn good point. I never saw it like that.

  15. Shane may feel that he needs to act a certain way to survive, as he feels the others will slow him down. This would probs make a boring series, but their best shot at survival would probobly staying beside the farm and stay together as they have been doing. It works alright for them. The number of zombies they have encountered in the farm has been really low compared to season one.

    I pretty sure Hershel will be really pissed at them due to shanes actions. Sure keeping zombies in the barn was not a great idea but shane should have respected his rules and gone about it in a different way.

    I guess what i'm saying is that there best shot at surviving may be gone as Hershel may kick them out.

  16. Sad that I am, I was thinking about this last night and a sudden thought occurred to me!
    Was Lori and Shane already having an affair before the ZA?
    We have seen Lori talking to a friend (before Rick got shot)and the ZA happening that things were not right in their marriage.
    The fact is Lori seemed to get together awfully fast with Shane once the ZA sutuation began. Yes we know she thought Rick was dead and maybe she wanted to be protected and ensure Carl was safe but would you really get together with your husband's 'best friend' and that quickly? And would Shane really be that cut up and so jealous if he was just in the beings of a 'relationship?'
    I think it is more likely they have been seeing each other a while and with Rick out of the picture they could progress their relationship, naturally and without guilt. Then that was blown away when Rick walked into camp.
    That is when Lori realised she still loved Rick,as seeing him again after thinking he was dead and would never see him again, made her wake up and smell the coffee. Love can be a strange thing!!
    This is why Shane is eaten up with jealousy he thought he had it in the palm of his hand but it slipped away as soon as Rick walked back.
    So watch this space as I have this sneeky feeling we will find out Shane and Lori were already doing the dirty behind Rick's back way before 'Rick's death'.

  17. Wow! I really enjoyed reading about how Shane is the "Anti-Daryl"! Daryl was defintely becoming more of a group member while Shane was getting further away in many ways, as you mentioned.
    His facial expressions scare the hell out of me! When he takes the guns from Dale, and how he cuts him off saying "Dale, just shut up" showed me a man "who belonged in this world" as Dale said. He no longer had human values, just animal instincts.
    When Shane broke open the barn doors, making it "a life or death situation" when everything was fine in terms of the group being safe, and the barn being sucure...They had their guns in case and Shane proved he can shoot, as did Andrea. Getting the two loose walkers in the barn would have been keeping the group safe. Then, see how Hershel would have wanted things, which he was clear about... "my farm, my barn, my say". All of the group could have gotten the two walkers in the barn and if not, we saw it wasn't a problem to take the walkers out. If Shane was truly a "good man", he would have helped make sure Rick, Hershel and Jimmy were safe if he doesn't wanna go near walkers. I get that! But Hershel won't be convinced, and instead of seeing Rick making things Right so they can stay, which is Most important, Shane has a cock fight with Rick in front of the group and not only puts everyone in danger with his impulsive actions(not everyone wanted to shoot...Glenn was respectable enough to ask Maggie before shooting Any walker) but also "makes" Hershel understand by killing his Family. "if your going to stay here, that's how your gonna have to treat them"...meaning like people. Rick asked Hershel to rethink asking them to leave and he's actions spoke "yes"...
    After Shane's initiation of shooting walkers or "people" he doesn't know, who pops out in the end...Sofia. Shane froze up with everyone else Except Daryl who Thankfully saved Carol from getting too close to her daughter who's now turned into a walker.
    Rick then shot Sofia, Not Shane. Also, Rick did what he Had To Do. Shane did what he Wanted To Do, not what "Had To Be Done". Now, Lori's pregnant & I'm pretty sure Hershel's not gonna care for that, or the group, as he did for Carl. After all Shane's crap, he showed nothing left of himself... just a madman.

  18. What a fantastic blog! I thoroughly enjoyed reading that, you went into great detail about Shanes character!

  19. Excellent blog!!, i agree with almost everything, and i would like to emphasize all of the comments from above the performance of jon bernthal, incredible gestures that puts his action makes credible scenes, really interprets the despair of borderline situations that may happen to a person, an daryl is the best character and zombie killer. Greetings to all of the blog, from Argentina..

  20. wow finally a real an idea hit me other day as I watched the show. You guys ever see when they build a skyscraper? The foundation looks like 500 feet deep or close lol. Point is just stick a thumper9machine making loud noise) at bottom of foundation and let all walkers fall in and stay trapped.

  21. I disagree on almost everything. It's ALL Lori's fault, not Shane's. Everything that Shane did is for Lori. And Lori treats him like he is some kind of animal. If she wasn't a cold-hearted bitch, Shane would still be alive...