Is your heart still pounding? Did you think that it would be the end for Shane?
The second half of the season is fantastically picking itself back up from its slow walk of a first half and "18 Miles Out" provided great pacing between its serious conversations and full throttle action.
Until now, it's felt like Rick had become something of a background character, going with the flow and not really commanding the presence that his leadership demanded.
As a character, he stepped it up and it's clear that even his own arc and progression towards something is on the move. Laying down the true facts for Shane about everything was a great start.
Andrew Lincoln incorporated the right amount of anger and calm throughout; there was no sense that he was a pushover, but a man making hard decisions. He barked when he needed to bark. He was clear about the situation and what needed to be done. He put the beast mode Shane back into his place.
Even their conversation initiated a tension because everything was out in the open. There were no secrets and it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the two would draw blood against each other.
Their brother-like relationship really established their characters on opposite sides with that common goal of survival. It was good to see that even with Shane going crazy, Rick was able to be the cool-headed leader. It's tough out there in a zombie apocalyptic world.
And of course waiting for the zombies to pop out of nowhere ratcheted up the suspense and ever threatening anticipation. The longer it got into the episode, the more you could feel something bad was going to happen. Sometimes the waiting game is more exciting and scary than graphic gore.
Plus, rather than pure stupidity causing Rick and Shane almost to get killed, it was sheer recklessness. Their own personal problems got in the way of being safe. Sure, they should have been paying attention, but it was far better story wise than deciding to climb down a well with a waiting walker.
For a moment I expected Rick to actually leave Shane behind, but even with all the problems, he still sees something good in Shane. I'm glad he saved him by manning up and taking back control. This is the Rick I've been waiting to come back to the show.
As for dealing with Randall, the fact that he knew Maggie made the situation that much more complicated. It's a lot harder to just kill someone when there's that connection (and the fact that he might not really be a bad guy). He could also lead others to the farm.
Michael Zegen as Randall brings about another youthful face and interesting personality for the series. Not only does his character provide real problems for everyone - will he betray them all? - but he's not dry or boring. Moreover, he may help the group get off the still life that has become the farm.
Even with Randall not being apart of the group, I still didn't have the feeling that he should die. He hasn't really done anything malicious or evil to deserve such a death. I hope he lasts for a while, and that Shane doesn't kill him without Rick knowing.
It was that final moment - with a great use of the song "Civilian" by Wye Oak - that really provided an enhanced somber tone of the real situation. It was almost sad watching that lone walker stumble through the grass, aimless. It felt like Shane really was able to do some thinking about the things he's done.
But will this be a change for the better for Shane or is the crazy just lying in wait to come back again?
Surprisingly, two of my least favorite characters, Lori and Andrea, brought out all their issues onto the table. I was actually pleased that each of the two women called each other out on their issues, problems I've felt have hindered me from liking them as much as the others. There's something truly different about characters speaking their minds and causing even more tension because of it. And although Andrea went back to being typical Andrea and almost letting Beth kill herself, her scenes with Lori were actually enjoyable to watch. It felt real for both of them.
This was a truly enjoyable episode with a feeling that everything that took place moved something forward and applied a sense that it will all culminate into something big. Zombie pig piles? Tension cutting conversations, mixed with equally nerve wracking action? Giving the characters more than just preachy dialogue. That's how an episode should be.
That's the best of The Walking Dead.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.