“Christ promised a resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had a little something different in mind.” — Hershel Greene
We’ve finally come to the season 2 finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The previous episode, “Better Angels”, saw a second integral character die as a set-up to what looks to be pivotal finale.
This season has been plagued from the beginning with infighting between it’s original showrunner in Frank Darabont and it’s network in AMC. Mirroring the very internal struggle between two very powerful characters within the show some worried that this struggle between Darabont and AMC would affect the show’s quality. While the first half showed that Darabont’s slow-burn narrative style was drawing some grumblings from the show’s audience it still didn’t keep it from getting huge ratings numbers with each episode shown.
The second half of the season saw a change in showrunner as Glen Mazzara (veteran writer and tv showrunner) took over the show’s creative reins. From the very episode of the second half we could see a change in the show’s pacing. There was a sense of desperation in the characters as they tried to deal with the death of Sophia during the episode before the mid-season break. With the additional deaths of the show’s two extreme ideologies in Dale and Shane we find the group’s leader in Rick very close to the tipping point.
“Beside the Dying Fire” begins with a flashback cold opening going back to the show’s pilot episode. We see zombies feeding on what looks like the remains of Rick’s horse during his failed attempt to enter Atlanta. As the zombies feed a passing helicopter distracts and gets the attention of the zombies who soon begin following in the same direction it flew on. The opening doesn’t show how much time passed between that flyover Atlanta and the show made by Carl to put down Shane, but it looks like this Atlanta herd is what will be making the assault on the Greene Farm and the rest of the survivors.
The siege that occurs through the first half of this episode should satisfy and put a huge grin on the show’s fans who have been complaining about the lack zombie mayhem during this sophomore season. Sure there were episode that had more than a couple zombies in it, but a huge attack we never saw occur until this season finale. It’s this very attack that reinforces the notion of how much the zombies themselves are like a force of nature. They’re like a hurricane or tornado that destroys everything in their path. There’s no way to stop such a force only attempt to weather the storm and try to come out the other side healthy and whole.
From how the first half of tonight’s episode went down not everyone made it out safe from the herd that took down the barn and the farm. With the important deaths that had preceded tonight’s episode it was a nice release (if you could call killing off two background characters in a most gruesome manner a relief) to see that these deaths were meant more as a way to lessen the number of the cast and nothing else. Having three characters (two in the preceding episodes to tonight’s) die this season who had some connection to the group was already more than what most other shows on tv could manage. Some have called these deaths something akin to the redshirt yeomans on Star Trek always being killed to keep the important characters from dying instead. If that was the case then these redshirters were two episodes too late and Dale and Shane would agree with me.
As action-packed and exciting as the first half of the episode turned out to be the second half slowed things down to let the survivors catch their breath and dwell on their new situation. No more farm to call home. Their delusions of safety from the dangers of this new world totally shattered for good. New revelations about the the zombie apocalypse looking to tear whatever tenuous hold Rick had over the group as a leader. This second half did a great job in answering some of the questions brought up this season and one very important one which ended the first season: What did Jenner whisper to Rick in the CDC’s final moments.
So, the second season of The Walking Dead started slow and got slower, but a second half under a new showrunner with a new vision for how the show should proceed seem to have redeemed the show from what could’ve been some fatal flaws that other shows in the past could never recover from. Like a reverse mirror of how this season unfolded “Beside the Dying Fire” began with a bang and ended quietly with questions answered and new ones brought up. It also introduced in it’s final moments a new character that would become integral to the series.
It’s been a season of two showrunners, Darabont in the beginning and Mazzara in the latter half, that made for an uneven one. Some have protested the firing of Darabont from the show because of his conflict with AMC. Some thought AMC was forcing Darabont to do the show with less money which would’ve cut into his vision of the series. Some have intimated that AMC didn’t like what they saw in the series in those early episodes of the first half and wanted a change. No matter how things truly unfolded behind the scenes it looks like the show might have found the person who knew how to get the show back on track. The Mazzara era of The Walking Dead might have arrived on the expense of Darabont leaving but as I’ve come to realized throughout this second half of the season it was a change that was needed and one that brings a sense of hope to a show that is about having so little of it.
- The cold opening uses another flashback and this time all the way to the pilot episode. I’m not sure if this was the same helicopter Rick saw but if it was then it must’ve circled around the city for the zombies eating poor Mr. Ed to have seen it again and follow it.
- I can never say I hate characters in this show, but I do get frustrated by how they behave and most of it not due to their lack of survival instinct. I speak of Lori who seem so preoccupied with everything except her son who she should be watching like a hawk after what had happened with Sophia. Then there’s her reaction to Rick confessing to her that he had murdered Shane. I’d give the writers the benefit of the doubt and say she was in shock that he actually did what she wanted him to do, but didn’t expect to have Carl pulled into it, but her reaction was still more extreme that it should’ve been. They could easily have just left her speechless and in shock at what her machinations had reaped and kept the scene really powerful.
- The comic book version of Lori was never a sympathetic character so her tv version falls in line with that character, but she wasn’t stupid when it came to her son like this tv version seem to be. The way Mazzara, Kirkman and the writers seem open to killing off anyone I sure hope they do a better job of rounding out her character and giving her a singular purpose outside of just being the show’s resident shrill.
- The zombie herd that finally attack the farm look to be as big, if not bigger, than the herd we saw shambling down the highway which began the show’s long-running arc to find Sophia and then to stay or not stay on the Greene farm.
- I really enjoyed this first half of zombie mayhem as we saw zombies take down both Jimmy (Beth’s boyfriend) and Patricia (Otis’ girlfriend) and some of the most gruesome display of zombie feeding frenzy. The scene where Otis and unnamed raider get taken down by zombies were done well but were also shot very darkly. With Jimmy and Patricia it happens with enough lighting that we saw every flesh-ripping and blood spurt. It definitely satisfied my inner-gorehound.
- Ernest Dickerson was the director for tonight’s episode and he did a great job with making the utter chaos of the farm attack easy to follow. Every episode he’s done for the show has been very good and I hope he continues to direct future episodes.
- Greg Nicotero and his peole at KNB EFX have been treating this show’s audiences with new zombie effects magic each and every episode they appear and tonight all their work this season ended in a crescendo of grand guignol proportions.
- T-Dog Watch: He had quite a few lines tonight and we even got a semblance of character development. This cypher of a character began showing signs of frustrations himself in regards to the group he has hooked up with. He looks to have survived season 2 and will be in season 3. The question now is whether the writers will continue to let the character grow or will he be removed early on to make way for another.
- Daryl Watch 1: He may have been at his most magnanimous in tonight’s episode. He did more than his usual share to help fend off the attacking herd and did so without his trust automatic and only Dale’s six-shooter. Seeing him riding around on his chopper while killing zombies as calmly as one strolling down a country lane was a nice homage to the scene in the original Dawn of the Dead when the bikers who broke into the mall killed zombies like it was second nature.
- Daryl Watch 2: Everyone seem to refer to him as a redneck, but I’ve come to see him as one of the most observant and level-headed individuals in the group. Carol’s attempts to make Rick look less in his eyes was quickly shot down. Daryl may be the sort of leader that his fans want to take over the group, but he sees his worth in the group and that’s being it’s protector and Rick’s unofficial right-hand man.
- Daryl Watch 3: While everyone seemed to look at Rick’s announcement that he had killed Shane and that it was going to be his way or the highway were of discomfort, shock and worry we have Daryl looking at Rick with no judgment. With Shane gone and Rick’s leadership status having taken a blow by episode’s end it looks like Daryl may just be the one who keeps Rick on the straight and narrow.
- The news that everyone is already infected wasn’t a surprise to fans of the comic book, but for those who only watch the show it should answer the questions about the Randall and Shane zombies. It’d be interesting if the show’s writers further explore the idea that even the concept of death has died in this new world.
- Finally! Michonne has finally made her appearance and exactly on episode 19 of the series just as she appeared on issue 19 of the comic book. We didn’t see beneath the hood of her cape, but reports after the show has confirmed that Danai Gurira will be taking on the role of the most badass character in The Walking Dead. Daryl may just have competition for the title of The Walking Dead BAMF.
- I was so relieved to finally see Rick blow up on everyone in the final minutes of the episode as he kept getting hounded and questioned by everyone. This is a man who tried his hardest to keep everyone together and safe. Killed people without pause who he thought endangered his people even if it meant killing his best friend. Now he has to stand around and listen to Carol, Maggie, Glenn and even his wife on his jock about how he’s screwed things up. I wouldn’t have been shocked if he had shot one of them as a warning to anyone else who dare question his authority (Cartman would’ve). The leader everyone wanted Rick to become has finally arrived but it may have brought with it some of the Shane-crazy and mistrust from the very people he’s trying to protect.
- Lastly, the moving wide shot of the camera from the group as they sat silently beside the dying fire and to the area just beyond the woods next to them was the final great moment in an episode full of them: a seemingly empty prison. Season 3 cannot arrive fast enough.
Season 2 is now over. What did you people think of tonight’s episode? Do you still plan on staying with the show? What do you want to see from the writers for the upcoming season?