TV Review: The Walking Dead: 18 Miles Out

I always love it when a show’s cold open is a scene from the finale, and then we spend the rest of the episode getting to that point. Structurally, I think it makes things pretty damn interesting, especially when we really want to see the end results of the tease. This week’s Walking Dead manages this trick quick well, but there are some issues with the episode.

The Walking Dead: Miles Out

Let’s start with the biggest issue for me; one that really took me out of the episode. No, not the fact that the events of tonight’s episode didn’t seem to really matter, or the fact that it may have been a lot of wheel spinning despite loads of zombies. No, my biggest issue with 18 Miles Out is that the producers of The Walking Dead seem to think that the human skull is made out of something with the strength of balsa wood. While I really like that the characters have finally realized that ammunition is a finite resource, and that they should probably preserve it, it’s downright idiotic to think that you’re going to drive a three-inch folding knife through someone’s forehead.

When Rick first introduced the idea of taking out the zeds with knives, I was pretty excited. I always love when characters in zombie stories are stuck using improvised, hand-to-hand weapons versus firearms. It’s dangerous and visceral, and every fight feels like its had the stakes raised. I thought that, in order to off  a zombie with a relatively small knife, these guys were going to have to go for eye sockets, or maybe the temples. But no, the producers of The Walking Dead apparently think driving a knife through a human skull would be a relatively easy affair.

Maybe that’s just me being nit-picky, but it really bothered me.

Luckily, 18 Miles Out packed enough action to help detract from its weaknesses. The episode begins with Rick and Shane driving Randall – the kid who impaled his leg on a fence post – eighteen miles out of the camp to let him go. Shane thinks this is idiotic, and that Rick is simply trying to maintain an outmoded and dangerous level of civilization, but it seems like the two characters have let this argument lie, at least for the time being. Instead, they finally dive into the Shane/Lori issue that’s been bubbling under the surface since the second episode of the series.

It’s an interesting moment for the show. Rick talks, and Shane listens. There’s little back and forth, at least at this point. Shane gets to say his piece at the end, and we’re left with a flimsy sense of finality. The fight is over, for now anyway.

When the group finds a place to dump Randall, things look suspicious. We see the remains of a survivors’ camp. There’s trash from supplies everywhere, burned corpses, and even a car seat inside the school bus, which appears to be where the survivors were living. Shane and Rick dump Randal here, and he screams and pleads, finally letting slip that he knows Maggie, and by extension the farm.

The fight that was completely ignored at the beginning comes to a head, and soon to blows, as Rick and Shane beat the tar out of each other while Shane tries to kill Randal and Rick tries to stop him. Their fight, of course, unleashes a horde of zombies and then the fight is really on. This culminated with Shane trapped and unarmed in a school bus, and Rick and Randal walking away. A ballsier show would have ended the episode there, letting us all speculate for a week about whether they’d really left Shane. But of course they’re riding in to the rescue in the next scene. Way to spoil the tension, show.

Back in the camp, we get a very limited amount of characters. Only Lori, Maggie, Andrea, and Beth. Beth, we discover, wants to kill herself, and Lori and Maggie are trying to stop her. Andrea takes a different approach: leaving her along to make her own call. The result is Beth slashing on wrist and then immediately realizing that she wasn’t quite so invested in killing herself as she may have thought.

The real drama isn’t with Beth, of course, but rather with Andrea and her place in the community. Andrea wants to focus only on survival, choosing to stand watch rather than cook and clean like the rest of the woman. This, naturally, rubs Lori (and we presume others) the wrong way. The two have a heated argument, during which Andrea blasts Lori for not having sacrificed anything. Oh, and for banging Shane on the side.

I found the structure of Rick versus Shane and Lori versus Andrea just a little too convenient, but I’m ultimately curious where this is all headed. I wish the show was better about writing female characters, but I’ll accept it for what it is, and I can believe there would be a bit of ill will between Andrea and the other women.

18 Miles Out packed in a fair amount of action, but in the end not a whole lot happened. Conflicts weren’t resolved, but they didn’t really feel built upon either. Thankfully, there was enough zombie mayhem to help offset this silliness.

Grade: C

Other Notes: Why is it in movies and TV shows that, whenever anyone needs blood for something, they always cut their hands and fingers? I know they tend to bleed a lot, but you also kind of need your hands for shit. Why injure them?

32 Comments

Dave

I think that’s what everyone thought when the picture came out. Nope, looks like the Department of Public Works.

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Dave

Hah. I was thinking the same thing. Plus, Rick pulled a body on top of himself earlier. We just needed that kid to climb a tree.

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Silver Fox

He did at least partially climb on top of a vehicle? Granted he was trying to get his hands free with the knife.

And yes, I thought of BoTD on seeing the bus.

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Angelina

OK so I have been a total not Lori fan but she is finally starting to win me over. She is finally chilling out and not being a super bitch. It was great to see Andrea (another not fav) hear it from Lori but also give it back.

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Dave

As a woman, what did you think of her “Let the men folk protect us, we’ve got cooking and laundry to do” thing? My wife got mad.

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Angelina

I did roll my eyes and suck my teeth there but to be honest, I’d be stuck on laundry detail myself. lol

Even though it was “housework” she was talking about, I was glad that Lori called out Andrea on her “better than you” atttitude. She has had a chip on her shoulder all season and it’s getting really old. Yeah you lost your sister and lost the choice to kill yourself. If it sucks that bad then just off yourself already.

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Silver Fox

That made me a bit peeved if I can comment in on that about women’s work and men’s work.

I applaud Andrea standing up to Lori and refusing the gender bais and stereotypes.

Though given she’s attempted suicide… her comments about allowing Beth to make the same decision… they need a true psychologist councilor there to dispense with the wisdom. There’s a line that’s crossed once a person attempts suicide. But for a ZA, they are doing the best they can in light of not having proper mental health resources to turn to. But Andrea shows a very dark twisted line of logic, that if they had a psychologist, I’d be having her seeking regular sessions.

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Christian Matzke

The “women’s work” vs. “men’s work” thing was really stupid. Make the argument “trained” vs. “untrained” and you’re on much firmer ground. Shane and Rick are trained to protect the group, the other men aren’t. Andrea is likely going to be just as capable of using her rifle, so she should be on guard duty, end of story. It seems to me a lot of the male characters on the show are spending their time working on their tans too, does this bother Lori?

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Dave

The trained thing makes total sense, and I think it’s a pretty natural way to break down the group.

zombiemutts

I was finally able to catch up…

I am conflicted on the Men vs Women issue that was brought up.

I do think groups will colonize and division of chores will happen back like that. Mainly due to a sense of order and structure. Keeping people busy takes their mind off everything. Or at least partially. I also think for some such things are to compensate for fear but what throws everything off is her going after Rick in the car.

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Dave

I like the idea of keeping people busy so they don’t focus on the shitty situation (reminds me of the grooming standard in Generation Kill).

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Angelina

Oh and the fight between Rick and Shane was great!! I really thought Shane was toast but of course Rick is the hero.

Do you guys think this will wake Shane up or just make it worse?

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Silver Fox

Rick’s still trying to be the hero, keep his moral compass… but he’s going to have to realize he can’t reason with Shane. Shane will twist everything around and show how monstrous he really is.

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Luis

Luis here: Long Tim Reader, First Time Poster 🙂

1. For someone who’s had major damage to ligaments & muscles, that kid can really scurry around! So, we get a glimpse of who he is and what he’s capable off when he killed the one Zee. Of course he’s bad news!

2. Really glad that Shane & Rick had the multiple confrontations; and I agree, Shane & his insane rage would eventually win out over Rick. Though, both in comics & show we do know that when push comes to shove comes to bite, Rick comes through in the Cool Man Luke You Die sort of way.

3. Pet Peeve: Visually it’s cool, but . . . stopping at The Crossroads to have the Where We Going convo? A bit contrived.

4. Pet Peeve: Soooo . . . did the Zee in the field cross the road? When driving out, I thought he was on Shane’s side; when driving back, he’s still in Shane’s side.

5. Pet Peeve: Freezing in battle makes you a coward. Glenn has shown time and again that the gun battle is not his thing, but will resort to it when finally needed. Conversely, he’s shown that his greater value is a Forager & Resource Acquisition. Getting supplies without getting caught is what he does and does well; thematically, he needs to be caught some slack. Let the alpha’s punch each other out, while he’s getting the meds ‘n bandages to patch ’em up.

6. Pet Peeve: Yeah, the whole Girls In Kitchen; Boys Hunt thing seemed a bit off for this group. Yes, they’ve been talking about this since Season I, but it doesn’t ring true. And to blame this on Southern Ethics still wouldn’t hold up with the type of women portrayed in the group. I understand the need of establishing some “normalcy” and social structure as soon as possible; but having it revolved around cooking & washing along gender lines doesn’t seem to fit for this particular group.

7. My wife and I had a suicidal roommate once. She had attempted to off herself five times ‘fore she ended up with us. In her case, it wasn’t a “Cry For Help.” She really, really wanted to do it; problem was that she was lousy at it and kept getting caught (not by choice or covert design). Her first night with us I establish only one rule: When you choose to kill yourself again, please, don’t do it in my house; I have have children (youngest was 5) and I don’t want them to end up traumatized as you are. When you do so, just leave a note so that when it hits the news I can go identify the body.” She told me a few years later that she was so angry that she chose to live to spite me. Way I figure, you gotta be alive to be angry. 🙂

8. Question: I agree about the Knife Through Skull thing; rather to easy. For the sake of argument, could porous, soften skeletons be part of the decomposition process & outcome of the zombification? Yes, the are like Energizer Bunnies that keep going & going, but, they are in a chronic state of decay and decomposition, and even consuming food reverses any of this.

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Dave

Hey a new commenter! Hi Luis!

Your point #3 is something I should have commented on in my review. We’re at the crossroads to discuss our crossroads situation… at the crossroads. Taking things a bit literally, aren’t we writers?

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Luis

Thank you Angelina (and Dave)

Heh! Me and my 3 adult kids have been zombiephiles for quite some time. As with most people in this group, we’re constantly talking about alternatives, responses, survival tactics, et al. My daughter even has permission to Double Tap me if I start to turn! “No greater love . . . ” 😀 Oh, and I write in bullet-point format when I have a big text to share.

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Luis

. . . as for my wife, she sighs frequently and tolerates greatly our convos; but at heart, I think she’s the most vicious Zee Zapper of us all!

C4guy

This episode was…meh. I agree, it shouldn’t be that easy stabbing a skull. Maybe the skulls on zombies deteriorate enough that you can? I think this episode sort of tied some ends rather than build up on them. Shane and Rick finally have their talk/fight, they choose to keep the kid (for now), and Andrea is finally kicked out of the house like Shane. Looks like Rick and I think alike! Zombie corpses for the win!

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Angelina

They totally seem to fit right now. Perhaps that will help chill him the f*uck out. If he’s gonna stay then he needs another woman to obsess over.

Only sucks ’cause I liked Dale and Andrea being together from the comic but that doesn’t look like it’s gonna work on TV.

zombiemutts

There are issues of bones softening after dead and since the zombies keep rotting uniquely due to cell death I didn’t find a problem with it.

*shrugs*

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Dave

Bones would soften, certainly, but I would thing soft tissue would be gone, and the skin would be on it’s way out before that happened in any appreciably quantity.

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