Every time I see him I am reminded of why opening up your heart to anyone is at best a calculated risk, and at worst a fool’s errand. He is strong and capable, but simultaneously tormented and weak. He is—despite his claims to the contrary—too human for his own good.
The fact that he is not really real should keep me from feeling too sad, but it doesn’t…because I am in love with Shane Walsh.
Who is Shane Walsh? He is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew.
If you aren’t watching the show you should be. From the moment the show begins viewers are taken on the undead ride of a lifetime, watching a cast of beleaguered humans fight not only to survive, but to retain that which makes us most human.
In that regard Shane is both succeeding and failing spectacularly.
And every time he makes the wrong decision for the right, or wrong, reason it both breaks my heart and makes me love the character even more.
Now I could probably write 50,000 words on this based on events in seasons one and two, thus far, in the show—but in the interest of finishing this before the end of the year I’m going to attempt to keep this brief.
When the zombieapocalypse began to unfold it presented an opportunity for an average guy like Shane to reach into his core and become something different, better…greater, than he had been previously. He could emerge from the shadow of a mediocre life to become a leader…to prove his worth to those he cares about, to what is left of the world.
Shane is capable of the more practical aspects of survival—handling firearms, securing a water supply or repairing a broken down car. He is able to pull the trigger when necessary (and, on occasion, when it might not be). He sees The Walking Dead’s zombie-infested world for what it really is and doesn’t shy away from the difficult decisions.
But his downfall is that he has convinced himself he can see survival in a zombified world in physical terms—claiming he can ‘flip an emotional switch’ and do what needs to be done no matter how horrific to survive. The truth is that he cannot.
He has hog-tied his emotional wellbeing to a relationship with a woman and child that cannot be, and does not have the emotional fortitude or maturity to find anything else good in this make-believe world worth holding on to. It colors his every decision, and eats away at him like an internal zombie virus—incurable, unstoppable. All around him the broader tragedies continue to unfold, and every.single.one leaves him less able than the one before to honestly cope with this terrifying new world.
Every time he stumbles Shane is propelled down a darker path, taken away from that which is good in himself—that to which he once aspired and what remains in his stress-twisted mind what he has become.
Yet at the same time…Shane is often right, even when his tactics make my stomach churn.
(**WARNING: Spoilers ahead**)
He was right to tell Lori Rick was dead. Shane did the best Shane could do in a life threatening situation and knew Lori would never leave if there was a chance Rick remained alive. That he did it, at least in part, motivated by selfish reasons makes me ill, …but he was right.
He was right about the mission to find Merle that split the group and left the camp less-defended. Was the search necessary? To maintain some semblance of humanity—yes, it was necessary. In terms of survival? Questionable at best. Over the long-term winning the loyalty of Daryl Dixon gives the group a powerful, very capable ally. But it also left the group smaller, with less people to defend the humanity they’re all clinging to.
He was right about Sophia. Standard operating procedure. After 72 hours, you’re looking for a body folks. He delivered the message like a bludgeon. It won him few friends, but he was right. And it was only when faced with the decision to destroy something so pure as the innocence of a child’s hope did he relent and be the man he could be in a different world.
He was right about the barn. Leave or clear out the walkers. Faced with the sight of Rick following the lead of a man completely deluding himself about the state of the word, Shane leapt into action. Survive or die. Make your choice. That Shane had to rip at the human fabric of every other survivor on the farm to drive home this point is despicable. It was a massacre—plain and simple. And none of them will ever be the same.
And then….there’s Otis. It was Shane’s defining moment. A decision made for a multitude of right and wrong reasons, mashed together in a stew of human suffering that left no doubt…Shane can never be the man he would like to think he has become. I would like nothing better than to condemn this moment with every derogatory word in the English language. Dale said in the mid-season finale that Shane belongs in this world. I believe it is destroying him and Otis’ death was his primal roar to the universe—an act of supreme suffering and animal rage to take the life of another to save his own…knowing, somewhere deep inside, that by doing so he was committing emotional suicide.
Wanted to add this in as the discussion on FB was quite lively. Seems I am not the only one rooting for Shane.