[Beware, major spoilers ahead]
Ever since the decision was made to keep him alive in "The Walking Dead" (rather than allow Carl to kill him as he did in the first volume of the comic), the question the writers never seemed to answer was, “What can we do with Shane?”
Then, in the current run, the writers seemed to finally have the right answer: in this world, Shane’s brutalist outlook was far more suitable than Rick’s. What’s more, Rick’s continuing tendency to run off actually gave credence to Shane’s avowal that he was far more concerned about Lori and Carl than Rick.
It had all the makings of a great triangle – especially when Lori was unable to answer the question of her fetus’ paternity.
But just as they found it, they lost it again. First Lori declared Shane a threat, then Rick made up with Shane, and now, well … Shane is gone from the show, killed as a human by Rick and (in a clear nod to the source material) dispatched as a zombie by Carl.
It’s as if the threat to the sanctity of marriage was greater than the threat of walkers. Killing off regulars is, of course, one way to reduce costs. With Dale gone after last week’s show, there’s been considerable budget reduction. (Dramatically, trading the humanist Dale for the fundamentalist Herschel is not a good exchange: Dale’s moral voice was far more supple and complex. "Walking Dead" is quickly becoming as much a Southern as a horror show.)
I shed no tears when Frank Darabont was dismissed as show runner, another cost-cutting move. Darabont himself had fired the first season’s writing staff, an egregious way to treat those who had made the show a success.
But it’s become clear that the show is suffering from the double loss. There’s something timid in its approach. In the course of five episodes, it’s gone from something that was almost the definition of a show that could only be shown on cable to something that would be at home on any broadcast network.
It’s not the zombies that drew us to "Walking Dead." It was the writing. Let’s hope the current staff regains its balance and isn’t decimated again.