213 “Beside the Dying Fire”
Anyone still complaining about AMC’s The Walking Dead sorely lacking in zombie action, exciting pacing and casualties, should be checked for a brain-rotting outbreak, quarantined, and muzzled for good, because the Season 2 finale fulfilled everything malcontents have been screaming for and gave them plenty of storylines to discuss between now and October.
Rick’s Downward Spiral
Before the picture faded to black, Rick declared those who stayed would not have a say in what goes. He does not want to be questioned or second-guessed. Hershel appears on board but the others who have seen Rick’s fall from grace have doubt.
Rick: I’m keeping this group together, alive, and I’ve been doing it all along no matter what. I killed my best friend for you people, for Christ’s sake…You saw how he pushed me, how he compromised us. He gave me no choice. He came after me… My hands are clean… Go on, there’s the door! Let’s see how far you get! No takers? Fine. If you’re staying? This isn’t a democracy anymore.
Rick’s tirade answered Carl inquisition. Yes, Rick justified his actions, but people are still going to hang on the words, “my hands are clean” and “I killed my best friend.” Wouldn’t that raise your eyebrow? There’s a long line of complications and events that happened in between, but if we’re just looking at the stats, the killing, the deaths, the real terror started not when Shane was in charge of the group, but once Rick came back from the hospital. Now we see him kill the supposed “second-in-command” and telling people that whatever he says, goes. How can you have anything but doubt?
Everyone but our sharpshooter, Andrea (more on her later) met back at the highway, where this season began and the caravan set out. Only Daryl thought to go back for Andrea, but consider the change in Rick who risked everything to save a little girl, exhausted the hopes of everyone in the camp, and now he’s willing to write Andrea off without a second thought.
It’s a Family Affair
Don’t mistake Lori’s angry reaction to Rick’s recount of what happened with Shane. She was mad at Rick for killing someone she cared about–the potential father of her unborn child–and that Carl made the final kill shot to zombie-Shane. But Lori was also angry at herself for putting the two men she cared about the most at odds against one another. She goaded Rick to do something in the tent. She told Rick that he needed to do something. She apparently didn’t think Rick would actually kill Shane and now she feels Shane’s blood is on her hands. She never imagined Rick would fall that deep down the well. And this sets up for a very different Rick that we’ve seen the first two seasons. How much is Lori going to confide in Rick now? How much will she fear him? How much more can this marriage take?
Rick to Lori: After awhile, I knew what he (Shane) was up to. And I kept going and didn’t stop. I could have but I just wanted it over. He was acting like I stole you and Carl, like I was in the way… I just wanted him dead.
The Whisper Heard By Nine
Since its return in February, The Walking Dead has been a savage 700 lb. gorilla on an unstoppable rampage. With Dale’s death still fresh on their minds and no time to process Shane’s death, our survivors faced an endless onslaught of walkers that had finally found their way to the farm. The last stand at the barn was a noble but futile attempt (Hershel’s gun smoking walkers left and right was cool though) to save what was originally thought and valued as a safe haven from the zombies. And now the group finds themselves in a severe shortage of ammunition and gasoline.
Burning the barn was not only a clever idea that took out a large number of zombies but created an image of a crumbling safe haven, a mirage of Hershel’s foolish notions that the re-animation process of the walkers could be reversed, that it was just a sickness needing a cure. Now we know different.
Rick finally revealed Jenner’s whispers and it was as we feared last week, that everyone is infected. As if the terror wasn’t already heightened, now everyone can fear dying even more. It’s worse than knowing how you’re going to die, it’s knowing that unless you’re bitten and eaten by zombies, you’ll eventually re-animate as one and there’s nothing that can reverse it. That’s why Jenner blew up the CDC, it was pointless to prevent the disease for the living when it doesn’t even begin to take effect until you’re dead. As if death wasn’t scary enough, The Walking Dead makes the weak like Beth and Carol shrivel up even more, and those who are already losing their humanity like Rick to become more desperate with their every action. Ending Season 2′s mystery with Season 1′s was stroke of brilliance.
Scaring the Scary
Unlike the rest of the group, I will not forget about Andrea (Laurie Holden) who fended off a countless number of zombies admirably, while escaping the farm on foot into the woods. A mysterious figure, dragging behind her two zombies with severed arms and jaws, saved our dear Andrea with a single, swift strike of her katanna. Readers of the comics will know this person as Michonne and those unfamiliar will have to trust me when I say that she is going to be a favorite character for many moving forward. Her entrance in this episode was one of the moments that deserved a standing ovation as her addition will be welcomed in this cast. She will be an interesting guide for Andrea on their travels out of the woods. Her methods, her fearlessness against the zombies (c’mon she’s dragging two behind her) as well as the influence of Andrea’s last mentor, Shane, ensures us a much more interesting sharpshooter in Season 3.
Let’s keep in mind some last things about Andrea. She does not know that Shane is dead, or Rick’s role in it. She does not know the truth about the virus and its affect on the entire population and she does not know where they are.
In the end of the episode, the camera pans up and out to see a prison on the horizon, a preview of things to come: where a leader comes unraveled and tries not to follow the footsteps of his best friend, where a mysterious figure shows us how us the scary blueprint on how to keep fighting, where survival has become even more difficult than death, and a boy who knows nothing except death and destruction begins to grow up.
For those that didn’t grasp the architecture of Season 2, can now see how it built the framework of a more frightening world where there are no safe corners to hide. The people living are just as dangerous as the walkers, and even when you think you’ve seen the worst, there are things far scarier out there. Season 2 of The Walking Dead amplified what it was the characters feared. It vaporized any last clouds of hope these characters were holding on to and magnified the consequences for poor decisions. It also showed us love needs to taken wherever it’s being given sometimes.
The most vocal and truthful voices, Dale and Shane were smothered, while Lori, Carol, and Hershel were crushed from the inside for not doing enough. The most silent characters suffered the most. Rick, Carl, Daryl and Andrea developed into characters we’re dying to see roam around in a darker landscape where we’ve just begun to explore. And then there’s still T-Dog who remains a mystery.
The Walking Dead manifested itself in Season 2 into a show that’s become the antidote for the type of television that’s poisoned our brains in the past. We just had to sacrifice the human race in the process of doing so.
Hershel: Christ promised a resurrection of the dead, I just thought he had something a little different in mind.
More Rotten Thoughts
• While separated from Rick and Hershel we were able to see some behavior worth noting:
1. T-Dog was ready to ditch the rest of the group and suggest they go east, and believed they should have from the beginning. This supports the disdain T-Dog has for the group and the way it’s been led by Rick from the get go. Overruled with two women who would have rather jumped out than leave behind the hope their loved ones made it out alive too.
2. Daryl wanted to watch the zombies and barn burn from a hilltop until he heard Carol’s voice. It makes you wonder what he would have done if he never heard Carol’s cry for help. Would he have gone off alone and never turn back? Rescuing Carol showed that he has wanted to take care of her.
Daryl: C’mon, we ain’t got all day!
Well, it’s not exactly the ideal match.com first date, but the connection between these two characters is obviously deep.
• The opening scene made it seem that these were the same walkers who attacked Rick in Atlanta when he rode in on the horse back in the beginning of Season 1 and they are now just catching up to him. The helicopter leads me to believe that since we haven’t seen one since the pilot. One has to wonder if they were able to trace Rick’s scent somehow of if they just got lucky wandering out into the general direction of the farm just like our survivors did.
• On the Talking Dead, Kirkman answered a question on whether or not we would see Merle (Michael Rooker), Morgan (Lennie James) and/or Duane (Adrian Kali Turner) in Season 3. He replied that as of now, he can guarantee 100% that 33% of the options given in the question will appear in Season 3. Brothers reunited anyone?
• As I often say, if ancillary characters are not being given big parts, then let them go out in a memorable way. Even though they were used to round out the extended Greene family in Season 2, Patricia and Jimmy went down in memorable ways in perhaps two of the bloodiest deaths we’ve seen, being devoured alive by walkers.
The Walking Dead returns on AMC in October for Season 3 but in the meantime, keep it tuned here where we’ll be talking about it all summer long.