The Walking Dead 204 Cherokee Rose: Burying Otis and The Truth

Otis before Shane worked his magic. (AMC's The Walking Dead)
Otis before Shane worked his magic. (AMC's The Walking Dead) /

Otis has been buried during episode 204 of The Walking Dead titled “Cherokee Rose”, but we can bet the past is not buried with him on Hershel Greene’s farm.

In “Cherokee Rose” (episode 4, Season 2 of AMC’s The Walking Dead), we see the usual group of survivors begin to develop normal relationships with the Greene family. Striving for normalcy is still tough to do, even when there aren’t a lot of zombies creeping about. That’s right: This episode is largely zombie free, though not totally so. Death still prominently looms over the group, and normalcy is a hard-won battle.

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The most obvious sign of regained normalcy is Carl Grimes, who is recovering from taking a bullet intended for a deer. Unfortunately, normalcy has a price, and sometimes it is honesty. It is difficult to be honest and normal at the same time. This is why, when Carl asks his father Rick if a missing girl named Sophia is okay, Rick feels compelled to tell him she is alright. Of course, she is not known to be alright. She may even be dead in the woods somewhere, partially devoured by savage zombies. However, Rick just could not delve into such possibilities with the young, recovering Carl. Lying to a child is a little morally ambiguous, to be sure.

Brighter possibilities seem to exist with the Greene family, however, as Dale, Daryl, Carol and Andrea join the larger group at a funeral. That’s right: One of the least uplifting aspects of this episode (and perhaps of the whole series) is the moment where Shane is convinced to eulogize Otis — the man who Shane had secretly sacrificed to walkers, to save himself instead and get much-needed medical supplies to Carl. It is a moment where the group bonds powerfully and without judgment, and where Shane seemingly shows plenty of humanity. However, he lies by omission in the process. As he tells the attendees that Otis saved both his and Carl’s lives, there is every indication of sincerity in his voice, but he certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

There’s a hint of fear in Shane’s voice and mannerisms — fear of saying the wrong thing. How could he come forward about what he did? How could he even begin to justify his actions to the crowd of Otis’s mourners? Shane is absolutely put on the spot here.

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Fortunately for him, the gang is too busy mourning to be particularly suspicious. Even under normal conditions a eulogy can be awkward, but it must be tougher when you killed the guy and have to hide it, and feel a little torn up as a result (though not feeling literally torn up, as that was left to poor Otis). Essentially, the situation makes Shane both executioner and eulogizer. It is almost a punishment for Shane’s murder of Otis, though his apparent genuine emotion insulates him from suspicion and harsher punishment (such as physical retaliation). In other words, he’s a good liar.  On top of that, what if he were to note how Otis put them all in this mess to begin with?  Technically that’s true, even if it was just a hunting accident.

With death being the great equalizer, a funeral sometimes offers a sense that time cures all, which the group desperately needs in order to cope with the world. However, it is most certainly a false hope, for good feelings tend to go away very fast in this world. Still, everyone wants to feel strong and optimistic. If they can cope with death every single day, perhaps they can cope with anything. So Shane’s lies were not only his own, but necessary for the group. They were a security blanket, if you will.

This highlights a powerful truth about the world, that not everything we do wrong is simply wrong. It is something of a false truth, but the sort of thing people must tell themselves in order to retain sanity in a world of moral conflict; We perhaps need to do wrong sometimes, and live, learn and lie from it. It’s simply a matter of degree.  Right?

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So, yes, a funeral may seem sad on the surface, but beneath there is a sense of being cleansed and redeemed. As we bury a person, part of the past is buried with them — and often we very much hope that’s true. Differences are put aside out of respect for the dead, and the living can at least pretend to be normal and respect each other. The problem is, it just doesn’t work for long. The truth almost always comes out and exposes us as liars, or we make the truth come out ourselves. In contrast to Shane’s holding onto a lie, Rick eventually tells his son the truth about Sophia, and even comes to give Carl his Sheriff’s hat, as if signalling Carl’s growing maturity.

But, at this point, one can reasonably assume such poignant, stabilizing moments will face a good deal of rebuttal further down the road. Similarly, when Daryl tries to give hope to Carol, we can respect it as a heartfelt moment, but we know it can, and probably will, be rendered almost meaningless in the future. On top of that, Rick’s wife Laurie privately learns she is pregnant, and presumably may not know if Rick or Shane is the father. Oops! Here’s another secret that threatens to unbury itself, no matter how much dirt was thrown over it.

Next: Episode 5: Chupacabra

The episode of The Walking Dead also gives us seemingly random events like the infamous well walker and Maggie’s belittling of Glenn after their fling together. However, they happen for a reason, as suggestions of what is to come (plus, everyone watching at home wanted — no, needed — to see more zombie guts).