‘The Walking Dead’ recap: Episode 3, ‘Save the Last One’

Jon Bernthal stars as Shane Walsh on "The Walking Dead."

Our zombie apocalypse survivors had a crisis of conscience in “Save the Last One”: Is it really worth living in a walker-filled world?

Episode 3 opens with a shower scene — not that kind of shower scene, but one that does find a bare-chested, blank-eyed Shane shaving his head and contemplating … something. Is he making good on his threat to leave the group?

We’ll have to wait to find out, because first we flash back to the action at the high school/FEMA site where Shane and Otis are scavenging for medical supplies to save the dying Carl. (Carl was mistakenly shot by Otis for admiring a deer. Lost? Read that recap here.) Shane and Otis are running, running, running because there are so many zombies. In the gym they decide to split up — lots of walker brains getting blown off by shotguns here, gore fans. Otis escapes through the locker room and Shane jumps out of a window, screwing up his leg in the fall. Outside, Shane once again meets up with Otis, but it’s a long, slow escape for the pair as more zombies approach. …

Of course, their turmoil isn’t as agonizing as that of Rick and Lori. Time is ticking, Hershel the Veterinarian Who Will Perform Their Son’s Life-or-Death Surgery reminds them. “Maybe this isn’t the world for children anyway,” Lori says, losing hope, contemplating letting Carl die. “I don’t accept that!” shouts Rick. “You really think it would be better if we just gave up?” Lori pleads: “Tell me why it would be better the other way. Please.”

Rick doesn’t have to answer because Carl does: He wakes up, coughing. “It hurts,” he moans, but then his thoughts are on Bambi. “You should have seen the deer,” the boy says before going into a terrifying seizure that looks like his death. It’s not his death, but it does save his life, because it bolsters Rick’s faith. “He talked about something beautiful, something living,” Rick reasons with his wife. “It isn’t all death out there, it can’t be. We have to be strong.” The parents agree to let Hershel begin surgery — just as Shane pulls up with the medical supplies. Just Shane. Otis, he says, sacrificed himself in order to give Carl a chance. “He wanted to make it right,” Rick assures a wild-eyed Shane.

Meanwhile, the other survivors camped out in the RV are still holding out hope for another little one — Sophia, who has gone missing. Andrea, whimpering in the dark as she tries to put together her gun — in an attempt to off herself again? — wakes Daryl, who says he’s going to search for Sophia. Andrea goes with him, and in their hunt they come across a walker — well, one who isn’t really doing much walking. It’s a guy who tried to hang himself after he got bit. Now hanging from a tree like a big piece of bait, the flesh has been eaten off his legs. G-R-O-S-S.

“Got bit, fever hit, world gone to shit, might as well quit,” a note pinned to the tree he’s hanging from says. Daryl views this with his usual sardonic humor. Andrea vomits — and takes pity on this undead monster that’s struggling to break free and eat their brains.

“You wanna live now? Or not? It’s just a question,” Daryl asks.

“An answer for an arrow,” Andrea insists. Daryl agrees, and Andrea sums up Episode 3: “I don’t know if I want to live, or if I have to, or if it’s just a habit.”

Daryl does that Daryl “whatever” thing and shoots the zombie dead. “Waste of an arrow,” he mutters.

Back at the farmhouse, Glenn, who has arrived with T-Dog, is having his own existential crisis, trying to figure out how to carry on when one kid in their group is in surgery and another’s missing, and the general state of the world is total hell. “Feel free to believe in God, but you gotta make it OK somehow,” Hershel’s daughter tells him. “No matter what happens.”

No matter what happens, keep on surviving. That’s Shane’s motto, we find out, after Carl’s surgery is successful. Shane is shown to the bathroom and given a change of Otis’ clothes. He stares at himself in the mirror, cringing at a gash on his head, which triggers a flashback to the scene at the high school. He’s fleeing with Otis; both are down to one bullet. The zombies are gaining and … Shane shoots Otis in the leg! He’s not sending off flares or shooting other zombies as distraction — he’s sacrificing his fellow survivor to save his own ass.  Shane struggles to get the supplies Otis is carrying; Otis kicks and struggles and grabs his hair.

And suddenly we realize we’re not sure what’s more disturbing — a hoard of zombies ripping at the flesh of a character we’ve kind of come to like as Shane flees, or the survival instinct that’s starting to tear apart the world’s remaining humans just as easily. 


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