Blame, Pain and Shane: The Walking Dead 212 ‘Better Angels’

Shane Walsh and Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead, AMC
Shane Walsh and Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead, AMC /

Some heroes lose their way. Let’s look back at Shane Walsh’s bitter end in The Walking Dead season 2 episode 12 titled “Better Angels”.

While this episode of The Walking Dead is largely about group cohesion and order, it addresses how many rotten things happen under that banner. In this case, Shane seems hellbent on fracturing the group to save it, and all because he feels threatened by an outsider — a teenager named Randall. Then again, Shane’s motives are most certainly not as simple as that. No, they are probably simpler. Shane is someone who does not wish to be questioned.

In a sense, Shane is somewhat at war with the group, especially with Rick. When people decide not to execute Randall, Shane sees it as an extension of Rick’s desire to out-dominate him. Shane wants to be the dominant one. More importantly, Shane still clings to the idea of Lori and Carl belonging to him. It’s a classic example of someone not taking “No” for an answer, and inevitably paying a price.

In addition to this, there are more walkers appearing around the farm, including “Carl’s walker” which had killed Dale. While Dale’s death seemed to broaden some perspectives, it only strengthened Shane’s current beliefs. He sees it as validation of his “kill or be killed” outlook, and knows it’s just a matter of time before someone will die again. If Shane would relent, he could just end up as walker food, or be killed by an outsider like Randall. Or so he thinks. The reality, of course, is quite different.

Rick and Shane, two men at odds. Whose fault was that? (AMC's The Walking Dead)
Rick and Shane, two men at odds. Whose fault was that? (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

As the story has shown us, most of Shane’s problems are of his own design. In the chain of events, there’s no evidence that Shane’s attitude pays off that well…or ever would. Correspondingly, there’s no concrete proof that Dale’s perspective was particularly wrong. In fact, Dale’s opinions were not even absolute, but conditional. Until it can be proved that Randall (or anyone else) poses a significant threat, they should not be executed. It’s hardly a soft-hearted or soft-headed concept. It’s even possible that Dale would have killed Randall in self-defense, had it come to that. This is what, according to Shane, makes Dale a naïve softie (it’s  a myth that no one could survive The Walking Dead while still having principles).

Was Randall a danger? No, not really. No more than Shane. Daryl or even Rick. As we see in “Better Angels,” Randall is outright murdered by Shane, under totally deceptive pretenses. Not only does Shane take Randall against the group’s will — without their input or knowledge, and contradicting their decision — but he also lies to Randall before killing him. Shane told Randall that he’s there to set him free, and that he’d like to join Randall’s group. Then Shane kills him when he turns his back, by snapping his neck!

Given how simply he does the deed, it’s plausible that Rick didn’t even see him (or even his group) as a significant threat.  On top of everything else, Shane is being very unsportsmanlike here. On that note, Shane piles on more deceit by smashing his own face against a tree, to make it seem like Randall had fought him. This is truly a new low for him. At least when he had killed Otis there was some plausible defense for his actions. He might have been able to say he panicked and acted “in the moment.” But here that moment — whatever it was — has surely passed, and there is a much stronger element of premeditation. It all goes pretty well with Dale’s warnings that Shane will kill again.

Shane lies to Randall before murdering him. Gee, what a swell guy! (AMC's The Walking Dead)
Shane lies to Randall before murdering him. Gee, what a swell guy!  (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

Later that night, when Rick and Shane have left the farm and the cursed barn, we already know that Shane isn’t really out looking for an escaped Randall. Before long, Rick seems to realize this as well. He knows Shane wants him alone in the woods, so Shane can continue down his path of murder and deceit.

Add theft to the list now, too, because Shane essentially wants to steal Rick’s wife and son. The disappointment and betrayal are bad enough, but it should also be noted the Shane isn’t even successful in carrying out this plan. In fact, hardly anyone would be, because of how far fetched it is.

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Rick ultimately kills Shane, not the other way around. But Shane always believed in himself, especially at the expense of everyone else. So much the better if he wins and everyone else loses! Then he has justified his feelings of superiority (though, of course, he’d still have those feelings even if he didn’t feel justified.

In an odd way, it’s fitting that Carl shoots the zombified Shane. It is the ultimate symbol of Shane’s failure as a planner and as a human being. After all the talk of Shane protecting Carl from his father’s supposed weakness, it is ultimately Carl who protects his dad from the re-animated corpse of the know-it-all, macho braggart.

With all this going on, it is a bit fascinating to see people still siding with Shane. While his motives are made clear, and he’s even relatable at times, his character is most obviously flawed and ultimately villainous.

Next: Why did Shane rub his head so much?

There is another interesting thing about Shane: Every time he rubbed the top of his head, you knew something bad was just around the corner.  It’s fitting that, at the end of Shane’s life, we see a walker horde approaching, as a symbol of things people should unite against. Maybe all his head rubbing signified the oncoming undead onslaught. Then again, it could have just been an itchy scalp.