Moral degeneration is a consistent theme in recent weeks of “The Walking Dead,” and this week is no exception. Shane fails at his murderous rampage (the carnage is halted after only Randall, although Randall is clearly intended as nothing other than collateral damage to lure in Rick). For Rick, a man so concerned with maintaining justice and order, stress and pressure have clearly taken their toll (revealed in Rick’s slow but steadily increasing nonchalance towards murder). Rick’s disintegration as a man is essentially manifested in his son, Carl. In a complete mirroring of Rick’s progressive fall, Carl loses his grip on morality and justice – however, the striking difference is the rapidity of Carl’s turn. While Rick struggles to accept the new rules of “Zombie Land,” Carl embraces them. Their turns are simultaneous, but Carl lacks the moral struggle that haunts his father. Their downward spirals begin with each getting shot, and culminate in the murder of Shane – Murder 1 brought to you by Rick, while Carl neatly (and more efficiently than Rick’s original efforts) disposes of Walker Shane. Beautiful and tidy writing here reveals Shane’s function as the catalyst for the fall of both Grimes men – well, maybe the combination of Shane and an all-encompassing Zombie Apocalypse.
While it is fascinating that both Rick and Carl are responsible for killing Shane, it must be noted how their Shane murders are different – it is variation that this parallel strives to enhance. Rick kills Shane after being provoked and threatened for weeks – sure, this is motive enough for self-defense; however Lori’s pregnancy and the unclear paternity additionally eat away at Rick– justifiably so since Maury Povich does not exist in this brave new world. Revenge, protection – whatever the true reason – Rick murders his former best friend – a man who tried to help Rick once upon a time, and who did save Rick’s wife and child as the world collapsed around them.
Carl, on the other hand, is in a situation in which he is never held accountable for his actions. He is reassured that Dale’s death was not his fault; he steals Daryl’s gun and is encouraged (twice) to keep it. He has clearly changed after the shooting – but the fact remains that Carl vanquishes – ok, a little melodramatic but that word needs used more often anyway – VANQUISHES Zombie Shane. This is not committed for shits and giggles, and not in the arguably needless way that Rick murders living men in the bar, but Carl shoots a walker to save his father. Both men arrive at this point while following a similar path – however, the act itself seems to be driving them in different directions. Carl chooses to save his father, although the option to kill Rick does cross Carl’s mind. Regardless, it seems that Rick might be the one moving into the role of loose canon.