Message to The Walking Dead writers: Keep Shooting Children PLEASE! Not because I'm a mean old hag that loves luring them to my confectionary apartment, but because it's fiction unafraid to provoke.
I've been enjoying this season's more contemplative pace as the follow-up to the first season's humans-in-zombie-peril fun. It's been chock full of moral dilemmas. Is it worth risking everyone's life for one lost child? Why bring new life into this unhappy world? Are zombies just sick people that you can quarantine in a barn while indefinitely waiting for a cure? Can you trust that angry guy with the shaved head?
And the biggest question -- how do you maintain humanity in this hell on earth?
Twelve-year-old Sophia's disappearance has driven season two's plot by forcing Rick and the gang to stay at Hershel's farm. Some, like Daryl, find purpose in searching for the girl while others start to want to cut their losses and move on (as Dale predicted in the season premiere).
In contrast to the rules of survival, Hershel keeps his humanity by rescuing walkers and providing a no-kill shelter in his barn. To him, these flesh eaters are sick family members and friends and it's his duty to protect them until they're cured. To stay on the farm, Rick has to abide by Hershel's rules of no longer shooting zombies. Because of Lori's pregnancy, Rick must compromise and help Hershel round up rogue walkers. Outside the farm, a screaming baby would be a dinner bell to walkers and Hershel has little sympathy for their situation. There's a fascinating contradiction -- for all of Hershel's sentimentality towards reanimated corpses, he's got no problems kicking out Rick and the gang. Afterall, the zombies cause him less trouble than those gun-totin' occupiers.
Shane the powder keg finally explodes when Dale takes away his guns and Lori denies his potential paternity. How does he regain control? By unleashing the barn zombies and gunning them down in front of Hershel. Demonstrating the difference between humans and walkers, Shane is both rational and cruel by repeatedly shooting a rescued zombie in the chest. He then maniacally executes the flock, forcing the others to partake in his massacre.
However, he and the rest of his firing squad are stunned when zombiefied Sophia stumbles out. Though Rick screams for the shooting to stop, he's the one to fire a bullet into the twelve-year-old undead's head. Rick's the hero to all survivors, even risking his life and family's safety to rescue a drug-addicted racist. Additionally, he is the man to make the most dramatic sacrifices, having also shot a child in the first scene of the series.
Children represent not only the continuation of the human race, but also the preservation of innocence. The adult survivors argue, deceive, murder and question the validity of their existence, which highlights a recurring theme in zombie dramas -- are the walkers or humans worse? The children haven't crossed into the darker side of human nature -- they're the one thing that survivors don't have to fear. The adults must protect them but also confront their failures when the youngins turn into walkers.
The midseason finale did it right -- the conflicts left me thinking about the episode and impatient for more. For a discussion on this season and a teaser for the rest, here's an interview with Executive Producer Robert Kirkman.