The concluding seconds of Season 2 leave us with a glimpse of an abandoned prison – this setup can only mean one thing – Rick Grimes is the new warden at Shawshank. This being the case, Rick shouldn’t be surprised when Rita Hayworth posters start showing up as décor for the cell walls.
The season finale leaves us with a new (and not necessarily improved) Rick. While I previously identified Shane as the catalyst for Rick and Carl’s downward spirals, I would like to rectify that statement and place blame where blame is deserved – Lori (aka, Lady MacGrimes). Lori gets what she wants by challenging the masculinity of Rick and Shane (Carl’s behavior comes into play as well, but Lori impacts his character development on a different level). Thus, the three men who end up in the standoff in the field are all there because of Lori. She has mindfreaked her captive audience to such a degree that they turn on themselves while simultaneously turning on each other. Is Lori’s beguiling intentional, or are the pregnancy hormones to blame? She seems a bit too crafty to be completely blameless here; in fact, the hooded stranger with the two leashed zombie men does draw a nice parallel to Lori’s hold on Rick and Shane.
While Carl does seem to be on the upward swing in terms of normal human boy behavior, his previous deterioration can be credited to Lori’s superb (please note the sarcasm) parental skills. She allows Shane to completely step into Rick’s role as husband and father – sure, she thinks that Rick is dead, but she seems to get through her grieving period with exceptional speed as she moves on to bachelor number two. Carl, in the meantime, clearly develops a fondness for Shane and begins to look up to him as a paternal role model. However, just as Carl is warming up to Shane, Rick returns and Lori demands that life return to normal immediately. Shane is to steer clear of Carl and vice versa. The impact of this is visible as Carl struggles for acceptance from either father, sometimes lashing out against one in an attempt to gain favor from the other.
As for Rick and Shane, their turn against each other is clearly condoned and often instigated by Lori. Through warning Rick of Shane’s potential danger while simultaneously appealing to Shane for forgiveness, Lori gives both men hope – but any hope of being with Lori hinges on the destruction of “the other man.”
Through strategic tactics and manipulation, Rick does her bidding in the end – and it is here that her malicious nature truly comes to light. Rick confesses his crime – a crime encouraged by his wife – and she rejects him. She has driven her husband to murder his best friend and her former lover, and now she is appalled by what he has done. Her reaction can be interpreted in a number of ways – did she expect Shane to murder Rick? Did she not actually believe that Rick would do it? Is she disgusted that she prompted this act? Regardless, Lori has proven herself to be less than trustworthy, but with Rick’s unveiling of the untold CDC knowledge, one is left to wonder if he has changed, or if now his true colors are showing.