The plot is moving quickly, my friends. Can you smell it? Barbecued zombies and family farm memories… that’s the smell of ‘moving on’. Season 2’s Finale ended with realizations, deaths, and some HUGE reveals for Season 3.
Ever since The Walking Dead came back from their winter break, the show has quickened in tempo. We are constantly being hit with twists and turns, new things to ponder, and shocking conclusions to sub-plots. The Season 2 Finale, Beside the Dying Fire (BDF), takes that new episode formula and cranks it to eleven.
I love that they showed how the zombie herd came to be, with it all starting in Atlanta. That damned helicopter hasn’t had an appearance since Season 1, so it was nice to see that the writers haven’t forgotten about it and gives us hope that we will someday get an explanation. Not only did the scene show us the journey of the zombies, but it shows us how herds gather for our future reference. Any loud noise seems to get their attention – as long as they aren’t actively feeding. Using guns may be only a “last resort” option from here on out.
In our hearts we knew that the survivors couldn’t stay on the farm forever. The battle with the herd was epic, with guns blazing, vehicles mowing down the undead, and a thinning of our group of survivors. I had a hard time believing that everyone was such a great shot, rarely missing zombie skulls – even from moving cars that are bouncing around on gravel and grass – but hey, it’s a show, and they have to justify the survivors’ escape. With Dale and Shane’s deaths still pretty recent, it was nice to see that we only lost some minor characters: Patricia and Billy. Patricia was Otis’ lady and Billy was Hershel’s youngest son, and neither of them had much screen time this season. Patricia had a few interesting moments in the comics that would have happened in the next season or so, but ultimately these aren’t so important that it justifies her hanging around. Most people probably forgot that Billy was even on the farm until they saw his demise in the RV. I thought for a few minutes that Hershel would go the way of Dale and meet an untimely death, but luckily he’ll be sticking around for a while longer. I think he’s become an interesting character, having made a complete 180 degree turn on his ideas about the zombocalypes. Plus, being a farmer, he has the potential to be a vital asset to the group. Food could be the currency of this future, so a large garden or small farm could keep our group “rich”, as long as they can find a place to become their fortress and home.
One thing that really shocked me was Lori’s reaction to Shane’s death. She asked Rick to do something about the situation, pushing him by saying how dangerous Shane was. Then, she goes to Shane and (with what seemed like good intentions) says ‘thanks for being there for me’ without underlining that the two of them were finished. What is her deal? Why now is Rick an evil creature that she can’t stand to let touch her? The scene in which he explains Shane’s calculated plan to take him out was great, with both actors doing a phenomenal job, but her sudden and dramatic reaction threw me off. One more thing to make their marriage tense for Season 3, I suppose.
Another thing that threw me for a loop was Carol’s conversation with Daryl. Since she found out that Rick has known about the living being infected since the CDC, she suddenly has had enough of him. I thought that Daryl was having another episode of The Crazies, and that Carol would morph into his brother Merle. Nope. Whereas before she was trying to get him to come back to the group and be social, now she’s telling him he ought to leave and that he’s nothing more than Rick’s henchman. What the hell? Why is every female character in this TV series either a bit of a nutjob or completely helpless?
BDF was the first episode that made me feel anything other than disgust for Andrea. I finally felt like the girl is changing her tune; she’s not as annoying as she has been up to this point, and she’s starting to act like the bad-ass we all know she can be. I can’t believe they drug her arc out this long, but at least it’s finally happening. I actually felt sorry for her when she was accidentally left behind, and eventually chased through the woods by a horde of flesh-eating monsters.
Rick has taken a big turn in his leadership tactics. Can you blame him? He’s been taking requests from everyone in the group (and a few outsiders), trying to make hard decisions without pissing anyone off too bad, and then catching lots of hell no matter what his choices are. He can’t win for losing, and loses for winning. Everyone looks to him as a leader, but rarely do these people make his job any easier, including his own wife and kid. So, as Rick so delicately put it, “This is NOT a democracy anymore!” Uh-oh. While it may seem like the only way to keep these idiots from getting themselves killed, as an American, this scene shot icy daggers right through me. The thought of trying to survive in a zombie-world where I’m not allowed to make decisions for my safety or even be allowed to vote on group topics makes me very anxious.
Beside the Dying Fire was basically preparing us for the big reveals about next season, and what we have to look forward to. Firstly, let’s all give a warm welcome to a comic-fan favorite character, Michonne! She’s finally here! I won’t go into any spoilers about her for those avoiding the comics while the TV series is running, but let’s just say that she’s one female character that makes being a little crazy perfectly OK. Her introduction was perfect, and blessedly similar to her comic book appearance. Armed with a katana (sword/machete – couldn’t tell what the AMC writers gave her from the breif scene) and toting around two armless, jawless zombies like they were fashion accessories, she saves Andrea’s bacon with a single swipe of her blade. What is interesting is that in The Talking Dead show, Robert Kirkman tells us that the first two seasons have revolved around a group of survivors and their struggle to figure out how to make it in this new world. Now, he says that the upcoming seasons will focus more on the world itself, with Michonne being the first character who has actually figured out the whole ‘surviving’ thing. Maybe she’ll show these guys how it’s done, allowing them to focus more on the threats that come from the living versus the undead. The coveted role has been given to actress Danai Gurira, who has been in several shows including Treme and Lie to Me. Kirkman went on to say that the pacing will be picking up now that we’ve all been thoroughly introduced to the world and its characters. Thank God for that. There were moments this season that were so slow, I worried about the show losing some of its fans.
Kirkman went on to practically say that we will be seeing more of Merle in Season 3, without actually saying it. I have a feeling that if we do see him, it won’t be in Daryl’s head anymore – he’ll make a comeback in person. Will he want vengeance? Will he want to rejoin the group? Has he joined forces with whoever is in that helicopter, and are they the same people who left Randall for dead at the bar shootout? Or is he with some other group of survivors/marauders that we have yet to see? There are so many options! For being TV exclusive characters, Daryl and Merle have a very interesting story. Of course, the same can’t be said for T-Dog. Wow. The writers basically forget about him entirely, throwing him into random scenes just to remind everyone that he is alive, and then nearly turn him into a kidnapper in BDF. I couldn’t believe that he was refusing to be logical, and flat-out refusing to turn around or let Lori out of the truck. I honestly couldn’t care less about him, nor do I think that anyone really cares. He was an important plot piece for Merle’s introduction and story, but since then he’s become useless. They better have a good reason to keep him around for three seasons, and (while I don’t really care) I do hope that reason isn’t just as convenient cannon fodder for later.
As Beside the Dying Fire came to a close and all looked pretty bleak for our survivors, we were shown that not very far in the distance a prison awaits them. Comic fans have an idea of what we can expect, but as we’ve seen before, the TV writers are taking pretty big liberties with the story Kirkman came up with. Who knows what may be in store for us at the prison. Will it become a sanctuary for the group? Is it already inhabited by another group of survivors? Are those survivors inmates? So many things to ponder over the summer.
Between leaving the farm, the new “Ricktatorship”, new conflicts within the characters’ relationships, the prison, and the new, shrouded character Michonne, BDF was one heck of a finale. There were enough resolutions of past conflicts to give a little space for all new ones. Every conversation felt meaningful. Plus, there were lots and lots of zombies. The episode was called “Beside the Dying Fire,” but should have been called “Beside the Growing Fire.” See you in the fall, Walking Dead.
I give Beside the Dying Fire 5 “Hooded Figures” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards-Hite