Death is death: Reflections on The Walking Dead 208 ‘Nebraska’


In “Nebraska,” characters on The Walking Dead see their worldviews called into question (again). Will they ever piece things together (again)? Probably not.

In “Nebraska,” many characters on The Walking Dead  have their worldviews called into question (again).  As the world breaks down, so does much of what we think, regardless of how well constructed those beliefs are, and how comforting they made us feel.

Hershel Greene feels he has lost virtually everything, including control of his land, the well-being of his family, and every sense of hope surrounding his previously comforting worldview.  In fact, after Rick’s group has killed all the barn walkers, Hershel’s worldview now gives him the exact opposite of comfort.

Hershel now feels it mocks him, makes him a fool. In a sense, then, it’s almost fortunate that Hershel isn’t alone in foolishness, as Shane actually claims Hershel knew Sophia was in the barn. Not only is this paranoid of Shane, but actually rather unrealistic. Hershel would have had no good reason to knowingly take Sophia and put her there. In fact, there is scarcely even a bad reason for doing so.

Also, it would suggest that Hershel had an incredibly elaborate, sadistic plan to inflict pain on the very same group he went out of his way to help. What would the end goal be in such a scenario? To make everyone angry and potentially defend one’s self against their accusations, and possibly their physical retaliation? Shane, however, does not think of this.

Andrea does some TCOB. (AMC's The Walking Dead)
Andrea does some TCOB.(AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

Shane just rattles off his paranoid beliefs like they must be true. In his mind, everything he says is true, and everything he does must be for the good of everyone.

For obvious reasons, Carol is going through similar feelings as Hershel. She refuses to attend Sophia’s memorial service, emphasizing that the barn walker was not Sophia. She has anger over the loss. Not only did she lose her daughter, but it seems like life itself played a cruel joke on her, and deliberately crushed her hopes.

Being perceptive, she no doubt also feels the mission to find Sophia jeopardized the security of the group, and fueled division. Sometimes doing the right thing produces bad results. That’s a hard lesson to take, especially when the loss of a loved one is involved. When Shane encounters Carol, he feels he has to defend his actions to her, telling her he had no idea Sophia was in the barn. The irony, of course, is that he had just accused Hershel of knowing Sophia was in that barn.

While Shane could use this moment as a learning experience, we know that Dale is essentially correct in his fears about Shane. He is not someone who quickly learns the errors of his ways. Instead he acts without much thought, and always defends his actions as the right thing, or shifts the blame elsewhere when things go wrong. Before long, we see this attitude possibly taking shape in Carl Grimes, as Carl calmly tells his mother that he would have killed Sophia himself.

This isn’t to say little Carl is a monster, but, at least to Lori,  he doesn’t seem to understand the possible consequences of such actions, or of making such a statement. He just assumes it is the right thing to do.  Carl’s previous understanding of the world — which was still developing — has basically been robbed from him. He now sees everything in self-defense terms, much like Shane.

While neither Shane nor Carl are 100% wrong about things, how they act and speak without considering consequences will indeed have negative consequences down the line. A brash approach to life always does, even on The Walking Dead.

Shane’s extreme way of proving a point sees Hershel leave the farm, and his daughter Beth falls into a catatonic state. If that’s not enough, it’s revealed that Hershel has started drinking alcohol, which is something he had not done since Maggie’s birth. Rick and Glenn go out to find him at a bar in town.

When Lori asks Daryl to track Rick down, Daryl declines. She makes the bad decision to call him selfish, which basically explodes in her drama queen face.  Daryl responds: “Selfish? Listen to me, Olive Oyl. I was out there looking for that little girl every single day. I took a bullet and an arrow in the process. Don’t you tell me about me getting my hands dirty! You want those two idiots? Have a nice ride. I’m done looking for people.”

Oops! Lori crashes after hitting a walker. (AMC's The Walking Dead)
Oops! Lori crashes after hitting a walker. (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

And so, finally, after a great deal of doing almost nothing, Lori actually leaves to find Rick by herself. While looking at a map in her chosen car, she hits a walker on the road. Her car is now flipped over in a ditch. Oddly enough, it has symbolic value of how things are going for everyone.  Sure, some people make fun of Lori’s crash and find it dumb of her, but it’s really no worse than Daryl’s accident while out Sophia-hunting.

When Rick and Glenn find Hershel in a bar, they have a little talk. Here is where Hershel and Rick deliver some of their best lines.

Moment #1. Hershel Greene: Hope? When I first saw you running across my field with your boy in your arms, I had little hope he would survive.

Rick Grimes: But he did.

Hershel Greene: He did. Even though we lost Otis, your man Shane made it back and we saved your boy. That was the miracle that proved to me miracles do exist. Only it was a sham, a bait and switch. I was a fool, Rick, and you people saw that.

And, for the Oscar, there’s Moment #2.

Rick Grimes: You know what the truth is? Nothing has changed. Death is death. It’s always been there, whether it’s from a heart attack, cancer, or a walker. What’s the difference? You didn’t think it was hopeless before, did you? Now there are people back at home trying to hang on. They need us, even if it’s just to give them a reason to go on, even if we don’t believe it ourselves. You know what? This… this isn’t about what we believe anymore. It’s about them [meaning the people we love and care about].

Quite randomly, two guys named Dave and Tony wander into the bar. After mentioning where they came from, complementing Rick on “walkers” being a better label than “lamebrains,” and saying he got a gun from a dead cop, he asks Rick if he could join everyone at the farm.

As if to emphasize his intentions, Tony urinates on the floor of the bar. Rick refuses to let Dave and Tony join them, telling them “I hear Nebraska’s nice.” Apparently no fan of Nebraska, Dave apparently reaches for his gun, prompting Rick to kill him and Tony with his revolver.

Next: Episode 9: Triggerfinger

As Shane, Andrea, and T-Dog drive over to burn the destroyed barn walkers, one of their severed arms cartoonishly flops off the back of the truck, onto the ground below. Andrea briefly hops out to retrieve it. Though it functions as a light gag, it’s also perhaps symbolic of trying to piece the world back together again. At the same time, we know it’s impossible here on The Walking Dead (and presumably in Nebraska).  You can’t pick up every arm that flops off the truck.