Despite its title, The Walking Dead has never really been about zombies. Sure they are a catalyst for many of the events that happen but they themselves are not where the real horror lies. No, the real horror of The Walking Dead is seeing what the people end up doing to each other in order to survive themselves. The latest episode, Save the Last One, hits this idea it out of the park, possibly more than any other episode save the original pilot.
Carl is still in dire straits as he awaits the medical equipment needed to safely operate on him. Shane, who has said equipment, is trapped in a high school by a horde of walkers. And Sophia is still missing which is heavily impacting her mother, Carol, and in turn the rest of the group on the highway. Unlike the last episode, some of these situations get resolved by the end of the episode, some do not and in the process other issues manifest themselves.
While the events that take place in this episode push the overall plot forward, what this episode does exceptionally well is explore the characters’ inner workings. There are two conversations in particular that really stood out for me, the first was between Rick and Lori as they discuss Carl’s fate and if they should let him slip from this world peacefully or not. The other is between Daryl and Andrea as they traipse through the forest looking for Sophia. Both conversations add depth to the characters and the situations they are in. Daryl in particular has begun to shine as one of the best characters in the series, currently having surpassed Dale as my favorite non-lead.
Much of the episode is spent on conversations but about 1/3 of it is devoted to Shane’s ordeal in the high school. Shane has always been a multifaceted character who was hard to get a grasp on in terms of what his motivations are. At times he is heroic and at others he is callous and does things that ultimately best benefit him. This episode gets the best of both worlds out of him and his character becomes even more dynamic because of the events that take place. Shane is an enigma and a wonderful one at that.
Every show stumbles at some point but what this episode did was show everyone that The Walking Dead can get back up. The production team still knows what makes The Walking Dead so special and that is something to smile at.
5* out of 5