Although the destruction of Shane’s character began in season one (most noticeably in the attempted rape of former lover Lori Grimes), it is not until season two in which Shane’s humanity really begins to disappear. This is the subject I wish to focus on. Whilst watching The Walking Dead, it was Jon Bernthal’s performance of Shane that struck me the most. Shane was intense, emotional, misunderstood, aggressive and deadly. It is all of these characteristics, and more., that made him the show’s most interesting and pinnacle character. I wish to argue that the reason why Shane is such a fascinating character is because he emblematizes the destruction of humanity in an apocalyptic Walker- Invaded world. Unlike some of the other characters, he is unable to cling to the person he was before the outbreak.
The attempted rape of Lori is arguably the first biggest indicator of the deterioration of Shane’s humanity. Whilst Lori’s husband Rick was presumed dead, Shane and Lori engaged in a secret sexual relationship. When Rick returned, their relationship ended and Shane became isolated from the family he had protected. This led to an obsession with Lori and after he realised he wouldn’t be able to have her properly, he attempted to have her physically. This scene exemplified the change in Shane as he tries to defile the woman he swore to protect and never harm. The show doesn’t deal with much of Lori or Shane’s reactions to this event but it suggests that Shane is ashamed of his actions by his dismissal of its existence when Lori tries to bring it into a conversation. Not long after the attempted rape, Shane tries to get away from the problem. It is clear that being near Lori and Carl but being unable to be a part of their family in the way he was before is proving too much for him so he opts to leave the others and take a chance on his own. He would rather face this terrible life alone than choose to continue under false pretences and pretend not to be in love with her.
There are several moments throughout the second season in which Shane’s humanity begins to disappear. These include the murder of Otis, the incident at the barn and the final scene between himself and Rick in which he tries to lead Rick to his death. The first major incident in season two is Shane’s murder of farm-dweller Otis. Shane shoots Otis in order to slow the Walkers down. He knows if he does this, he will be able to return to the farm and give Carl what he needs. It is here in which the biggest change in Shane occurs. Here, he becomes a murderer. He has previously desired it in the earlier season in which Dale catches him in a momentary desire to kill Rick and his attempt to regain glory and his previous state of happiness personified by Lori. In the bathroom scene after Otis’ murder, Shane does not like the person he sees in the mirror, at first it may seem like he rejects the murderer but in fact as he precedes to shave his head it is suggestive that he is trying to rid himself of any feeling or emotion that he had previously owned. The haircut is crucial to Shane’s persona as it connotes that the Shane we have come to know in the first season has disappeared. Shane’s humanity is now gone. It appears that the only reason why survival is still an incentive is so he can be there for Lori.
Another crucial scene in Shane’s deterioration is the barn scene in which he releases the walkers onto the farm. Although, much of what Shane communicates to the naïve Hershel is correct, he chooses to do it in an aggressive and cruel demeanour literally shooting the walker that Hershel is holding leaving him a broken man. He makes no attempt to reason with him and embarrasses him in front of the entire group. His release of the walkers suggests that he does not give a thought about the number of Walkers in there and if they will be able to protect themselves from them. Perhaps by releasing the walkers, it provides Shane with another chance to be the hero and protect Lori and Carl and the rest of the survivors because Rick is tied up with another walker. Shane also demands that they need to stop looking for Sophia, as it isn’t like it was before. In Shane’s mind, he has adapted to the new world in the best way possible whereas Rick hasn’t/. In actuality, Shane has let the new world taint him to a murderous and destructive degree.
Shane’s final scene and the showdown between himself and Rick is incredibly emotional. In relation to Shane’s resentment of Rick, masculinity of course has something to do with it. He claims “I’m a better man than you”. He believes Rick cannot provide and protect Lori in the same way he can. He positions what type of person he is by how much he can protect Lori and Carl. Masculinity is furthered when Rick refuses to get his gun asking Shane to kill an unarmed man. Shane finds this difficult suggesting that he is hoping for a final fight between himself and Rick which will prove who is the better man. Lastly, as Rick screams “This was you, not me”, he tries to cling to the humane world that Shane abandoned. Shane Walsh is a personification of the destruction and deterioration of humanity in a world that is no longer dominated by humans. Whilst many of the characters, especially Dale, cling to their morals, Shane leaves it behind to attempt to fit into this new and horrific world.