AMC”s The Walking Dead series is one of the better things to happen to television since Star Trek. It’s the story of a small band of survivors who are trying to cope with and through a post apocalyptic zombie outbreak outside the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area. It is based on the graphic novel of the same name developed by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. It stars Andrew Lincoln as former Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes. It also stars Jon Berthal as Shane Walsh who also was a deputy and reports to his good buddy Rick. Rick and Shane were childhood friends. The two went to college together for police administration and became sheriff deputies at the King County Sheriff’s Department.
When the zombie outbreak occurred, Rick was in the hospital recovering from a near fatal gun wound. Shane was in the hospital sitting at Rick’s bedside. Zombies were everywhere and when the National Guard stormed the building and started to kill every person on site, Shane made the decision to abandon Rick for his own safety. Later Rick recovered and woke to a world in chaos. The hospital was a wreck and outside was no better. In a severely weakened state he walked home in his hospital gown only to find his family gone. But with luck he was found by another survivor. He was nursed back to health and left to find his family, confident that they survived. And he does. Rick’s wife Lori, the school teacher played by Sarah Wayne Callies, and his son Carl, played by Chandler Riggs, are alive and well with Shane who was originally leading the group of survivors. Rick finds them, but not before Lori developed a sexual relationship with Shane.
I wish I could go through more details, but time and space are limited. Needless to say tensions develop between Rick and Shane. When Rick shows up at the camp the relationship between Shane and Lori stopped. The group of survivors is naturally inclined to follow Rick’s lead to Shane’s dismay. And the biggest difference between the two men is the fact that Rick practices a philosophy that drives him to do whatever he has to keep anybody in his group safe, while Shane’s personal philosophy of cut your losses.
When Merle Dixon, the racist survivalist redneck played by Michael Rooker, was left behind when T-Dog, played by IronE Singleton and is the only African American in the show even though it’s supposed to be the black capital of the South better known as Atlanta, Georgia, dropped and lost the key to the handcuffs holding Merle to a pipe when the group was forced to run from a zombie invasion, Rick made the choice to go back for him with the help of some of the others in the group who volunteered to help. They made that rescue attempt only to find out that Merle had escaped on his own by cutting off his hand. The only result of the rescue was that Glen, the young Asian American who delivered pizzas in his other life and played by Steven Yeun, was kidnapped by another group of survivors. It was Rick who made the decision to rescue him with the help of others in the group. Rick went to get Glen back at all cost. When Sophia, the youngest member of the group played by Madison Lintz, disappears into the woods that run beside the abandoned highway they were on, it was Rick who made the decision to stay until they found her. Shane agreed for a while, but it didn’t take long for he started suggesting that the group should cut its losses and move along.
While searching for Sophia, Rick’s son Carl is shot by Otis, played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, a survivor of yet another group who was in the woods hunting a deer. Carl is rushed to the farmhouse where Otis stayed to get medical attention from local veterinarian Herschel Greene played by Scott Wilson. Carl is losing blood and Herschel has to operate, but he’s going to need medical supplies from the local high school. Rick stays so he could donate blood to keep Carl alive so Shane volunteers to go to the school and Otis volunteers to go with him.
The school is swarming with zombies and Otis and Shane get cornered in the gym. Otis runs one way and Shane goes the other way. Shane jumps from a second story window and injures himself. He started to hobble away. But he was in pain and moving very slowly. After hobbling a short distance he slumped down against a chain linked fence ready to give up when Otis suddenly showed up, told Shane they could make it, helped Shane to his feet, and the two scampered away together. The zombies were relentless. As they hobbled back to the car the zombies followed close behind. Shane turned to Otis, told Otis he was sorry, and shot Otis in the knee cap. Shane hobbled away using Otis as a sacrifice to keep the zombies busy. Shane told everyone that Otis voluntarily sacrificed himself to save Carl. But eventually the truth came out that Shane murdered Otis.
In this past weekend’s episode, things between Rick and Shane came to ahead. In the parking lot of an abandoned facility about eighteen miles from the camp, Shane says that Rick doesn’t have what it takes to keep Lori and Carl safe. Tired of Shane’s opposition and friction Rick takes a swing at his old friend and the two start to fight. Shane throws a heavy meter long pipe wrench at Rick’s head. Rick ducks and the wrench goes through a window of a nearby building shattering it. What was mistaken to be corpses inside the building react to the glass shattering. It reanimates them and a horde of zombies come pouring out the glass. Weak from the fight Shane limps away while Rick hides. The majority of the zombies follow Shane.
Shane ends up trapped in a school bus, fighting to keep the door closed against the horde of zombies outside. Through one of the bus’ windows he sees Rick make his escape. And the man who advocated leaving others behind was, through an ironic twist of fate, himself left behind.
But lucky for Shane, that was not the way Rick operated. Rick went and got the little sport utility vehicle they drove up in. While shooting a number of zombies, he indicates to Shane to run to the backdoor of the bus. By the time Shane got there, the little truck was there and Shane jumped through an open window and the little truck sped off. The man who advocated cutting losses, through an ironic twist of fate, is rescued by someone who refused to leave him behind.
It was easy for Shane to say cut your losses and leave people to their fate. He rarely left the campsite that served as the group’s base so he never thought that he would ever be in a situation that would require someone going out of his or her way to save his ass. And when he did leave, he always made sure he had a gun to blast a hole through anybody or anything that might impede his escape. But it was only a matter of time before the shoe wound up on the other foot. Luckily for Shane he wasn’t depending on Shane to rescue him. It’s easy to say we don’t have to do anything to help anybody when we can’t imagine ourselves ever needing help.
For the brief moment Shane found himself trapped in that school bus it must’ve felt like an eternity. After he saw Rick leave he probably prayed, begged whatever Supreme Being he believed in for a miracle. But the miracle he needed for himself is the miracle he would deny others if given the chance. The miracle Shane wanted in his moment of need, someone coming to help, was the same miracle so many other people wanted and needed from him. It was really easy for him to say no and deny other people the miracle they needed in their moment of need. And when Otis tried to be the miracle that helped to keep Shane alive, Shane repaid that miracle of kindness with fatal treachery.
After watching last night’s episode I went straight to bed. As I lay there waiting for sleep to consume me I thought about the competing philosophies of Rick and Shane and how they were so polar opposites of each other. As Rick and Shane struggled I was hoping that Rick would put one of those choke holds on Shane and put him in his place. When the zombies broke loose, I was hoping Shane would get his. Shane was a murderer and a pain in the ass and was totally misguided about a lot of things. The way he wanted to leave people behind, the way he killed Otis, Shane was no one I wanted to be burdened with.
On the other hand I would like to think I would trust someone like Deputy Rick Grimes. When I saw Rick making his escape while Shane was in the bus I knew Rick would come back for him as soon as he could. And sure enough, when I saw that Rick made the decision that Shane was worth saving, I didn’t like it, but I thought that was Rick’s call and if I was there I would like to think that I would follow his lead. That’s one of the things about true leadership. You would get people to follow you whether they really wanted to or not.
But equally important I saw a philosophical difference between somebody who felt that people were worth saving no matter what compared to somebody with a personal philosophy who would be willing to cut their losses at somebody else’s expense at the drop of a hat. As much as it would be nice to think that the majority of us are like Rick Grimes, too many of us think like Shane Walsh and are too wrapped up in total selfishness to extend a helping hand to the next guy. All too often too many of us will see someone in need and will think we can’t save everybody. We can only save the people that we might care about. And even then we need to make sure we come out ahead even when it means somebody else has to pay the price with his or her life.