‘The Walking Dead’ Season 2 Finale Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated March 19th, 2012 at 2:09 pm,

Andrew Lincoln Sarah Wayne Callies IronE Singleton Chandler Riggs The Waking Dead Beside the Dying Fire The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale Review

What Happens Next: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 3 Details Revealed

(This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the episode ‘Beside the Dying Fire’ and season 2 as a whole. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the entire season.)

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What a difference a death makes. As occasionally entertaining as it was to have Shane (Jon Bernthal) around, watching him devolve into an ever-bigger threat toward Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his character was a lot like the walker Carl (Chandler Riggs) found at the edge of a creek: stuck. That metaphor of being stuck in the mud, and desperately trying to move on, pretty much sums up a great deal of The Walking Dead season 2.

Arguably, season 2 will be looked at as the swan song for Shane, whose downward spiral began with the killing of Otis, and perpetuated throughout the season with increasingly obsessive feelings toward Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl, as well as a need to best Rick at every turn.

But at a certain point the season will be scrutinized for how well it lived up to the expectations set forth by the first season, the continued success of creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, and the knowledge that Frank Darabont, the primary creative force behind the series, would be gone half-way through. More than the issue of expectation and Darabont’s shocking dismissal, however, The Walking Dead has its own internal concerns wherein the writers seemed to be struggling to find the essence and personalities of the characters experiencing the ongoing zombie apocalypse.

It was with the last half of season 2 – arguably the last four episodes – where the writers succeeded in unshackling themselves from the intermittent monotony brought about by the serial nature of the show. Case in point: the issue of Randall, wherein the show allowed time to pass that wasn’t necessarily accounted for. This was a major success for what has been described fairly often as a slow, drawn out season. By telling some compelling, full stories in the confines of a single episode, while also hinting at the future of the season and series, these “season 2.5” episodes have breathed new life into this undead series.

REVIEW

By and large, the events of the season’s finale, ‘Beside the Dying Fire,’ play into the idea of having a complete story arc contained within the runtime of a single episode. That’s not to say the episode didn’t leave plenty to speculate on, it certainly did, but those were glimpses of things to question and hold on to during the wait for season 3.

‘Beside the Dying Fire’ works primarily because it keeps the most unattractive part of the program, and its characters, on hold until after it has done the work needed to keep the audience enthralled and excited. To put it bluntly, a massive horde of walkers effectively keeps the survivors so busy they can’t spend an hour displaying how horrible or inconsistent (here’s looking at you Lori) their personalities can be. While the essence of any good story is conflict, a group of people actively working to irritate one another is not enough of a conflict to sustain a series that isn’t called Seinfeld. After taking the long way around, The Walking Dead seems to have realigned its priorities accordingly.

Norman Reedus Melissa Suzanne McBride The Walking Dead Beside the Dying Fire The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale Review

This is evidenced by the fact that Carl didn’t see his father kill Shane, and by Rick not feeling entirely compelled to come clean to his son. By not immediately addressing Shane’s death, and instead getting straight into the walker killing, it acts as a turning point for the series, one where there is a time and place for bickering and discussion, and one where there is not. By having the walkers storm Hershel’s farm, the series is forced to progress and, hopefully, begin to better understand the motivations and reactions of its characters.

The calamity of the situation is as compelling as anything The Walking Dead has so far put on screen, and with the back-to-back deaths of Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Shane, it’s nice to see the show hadn’t lost its stomach for further thinning of the proverbial herd. Jimmy (James Allen McCune) and Patricia (Jane McNeill) arguably had to depart, as their  roles in the series were never really established, and the passing of any recurring character quickly translates into the possibility of T-Dog (IronE Singleton) having something more to do than stand idly by in the background.

With their numbers depleted, ammunition scarce and the safety and security of Hershel’s farm completely jeopardized, the group separates and flees. Rick, Hershel (Scott Green) and Carl are the first to arrive back where this storyline began: the crowded highway on which the group lost Sophia. There is a moment where Rick seriously considers making a run for it with just Carl by his side, and had we not been shown the survival of the others, the scene may have worked out to be more substantial than it really was, But in the end we settle for Glenn (Steven Yuen) taking charge of his relationship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), which welcomes a stronger presence from Glenn in future.

Once reunited, the group almost immediately decides to blow off Andrea (Laurie Holden) – perhaps proving the valuable lesson they all learned from Sophia’s zombification on the midseason finale.

Steven Yuen as Glenn The Walking Dead Beside the Dying Fire The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale Review

For someone so willing to punch her own ticket at the end of last season, Andrea fights tooth-and-nail to survive, and although she is overwhelmed with exhaustion and nearly consumed by a single walker, she is saved during the heavily speculated appearance of Michonne. Though we don’t see her face, or hear her speak, Michonne’s cameo will likely serve to be the highlight of the episode.

Meanwhile, Rick’s revelation that the zombie infection is universal – you die, you become a zombie, regardless of being bit or scratched by the undead – quickly returns the group to normal and his leadership is once more called into question. Granted, with this group, Rick could have revealed that he was in possession of the Colonel’s Secret Recipe and they likely would have reacted the same way.

Just to kick him while he’s down, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) responds negatively to Rick’s account of Shane’s death – despite a statement to the contrary that Lori made in ‘Triggerfinger.’ It’s hard to tell if Lori’s wildly inconsistent behavior is a result of miscommunication amongst the writers, or if the urging for her husband to kill Shane was secretly intended to end with Rick’s death instead. For now, we’ll have to assume the latter.

The season finale ends as it began, with a solid tease. The helicopter seen in the beginning of the episode was as intriguing (if not more so) than the glimpse of the prison standing a short distance from where the group had stopped for the night. And with that tease comes a clearer indication of what can be expected from season 3 (and beyond), which certainly works to end season 2 on a positive note.

In many ways, The Walking Dead season 2 worked as two separate seasons, the latter half being remarkably faster paced than the first. As Glen Mazzara is now firmly entrenched as the series’ showrunner, it seems reasonable to assume that the last four episodes will serve as a template for Mazzara’s run – however long that may be.

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The Walking Dead returns in the fall of 2012 for season 3.

TAGS: the walking dead

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  1. I watched season 2 on Netflix in 3 days because I loved season 1. Unfortunatly, the longer I watched season 2 the more I disliked it. I actually laughed at Rick when he cried out after killing Shane because things had gotten so ridiculous. Ugh, even arguing about washing dishes is made out to be a life altering coversation. How about they introduce some characters who are capable of at least going to the bathroom without somehow managing to get themselves in mortal danger? If I ever had the displeasure of associating with a group of people so petty and illogical I’d feed myself to the zombies.

  2. The only accurate character on this show seems to be Daryl. I live i Ga and am from the south. His accent, mannerisms and psychological disorders are portrayed damn near perfectly. I’ve known a lot of young guys a lot like Daryl and he just reminds me of them. Best Character by far.

    • Being from Alabama (born, raised, still here) myself, I have to agree with you Tyler. Daryl is the best character.

    • Yep. Daryl is the best character in the series. If Daryl dies, the rest of them are goners.

  3. I love, love this story line. Kinda wished Sophia and Shane didn’t die. Shane was hot and it would have been fun fof T- bone to have saved her. What is Lori’s major malfunction?? Rick is awesome :)

  4. Man…How disturbing and sad would it be if the baby dies prenatal ! I just happened to see a vaguely similar situation in ‘Dawn of the dead’ movie.
    Season 3 premiere wasn’t the best but the last few minutes of the episode had material enough to keep me hooked and I love being hooked to a thriller drama. I’ve wanted to see someone cutting down a bitten body part to save life for a long time since I started watching TWD.

  5. Agree on Daryl being the best overall character — but I think they let him be complicit a bit too often. At times I think he’d have been less willing to just jump and do what was asked…but they do a great job of showing him as a loner who is still able to function with the group.

    Rick fills a complex role, and I think the show does well with him — didn’t like his tyrannical outburst at the end…that didn’t fit too well. But overall, the way everyone is bipolar is reasonable given the circumstances (zombie apocalypse).

    Mixed emotions about the hooded badass at the end…I like the injection of something so surreal, but that does jeopardize the gritty “real-ness” of the show, which is one of its best attributes.

  6. I didn’t like the way the chaos unfolded. The incredible coincidence that results in the entire hoard of walkers to be a stone’s throw from Rick and Carl when Carl shoots Shane — dramatic but just over-the-top. At the campsite at the end, everyone jerks to attention at a broken twig — but apparently Rick doesn’t hear a hoard of walkers stumbling out of the woods behind him…and I just don’t think the timing works very well — Shane’s gun goes off and the walkers reorient and start walking that way. Then Rick has his moment with Shane, finds Carl, Carl shoots Shane, and hoard is perfectly far enough behind to be able to cut Rick and Carl off but not close enough to be heard or noticed…it’s a bit much even for the genre.

    From there, getting into the barn, setting fire to the walkers — that was all fair game and good stuff. But then things get a bit goofy. Driving around killing walkers…Unless you think you have enough ammo to kill them all, you’re just wasting ammo and gas — the only thing that makes sense is to set up a safe path to the barn and back to the farm OR to the road and an escape. Looping around killing walkers — pointless.

    Driving the winnie to the barn — very good — but wouldn’t it have made more sense to go road-warrior and have several armed people go so they could drive over, get Rick and Carl, and drive back? Or get cut off and have to drive away. How does Jimmie end up letting walkers into the winnie??

    And then the classic meme is that there are zombies everywhere — front back, etc. But they arrived as a herd coming from one direction in full view of the farm. Not the worst cliche in the world, but given how the walkers arrived, it was a little annoying.

    It almost would have worked better for me if the attack resulted in the winnie with some folks and Daryl on his bike getting chased off, leaving Hershel and some of his family trapped/locked in the house. Maybe that wouldn’t be as satisfying from a horror standpoint, but it seems like it could have been executed more “plausibly” (whatever “plausible” is in the context of a zombie apocalypse).

  7. Oh, and classic or not, the zombie popping up right behind Dale was goofy. Why wasn’t the zombie eating the huge meal-of-a-cow lying right there?? How do walk up on that scene and not notice the zombie crawl behind you, stand up, and get right up behind you…it was a cheesy way to off Dale.

    But all in all, this show really keeps me coming back. I’m not a big zombie-fan, and look away from the really gory stuff, but I really feel compelled to keep up with it! I think it’s done a great job of adding genuine drama to the zombie genre and connecting it all to a wider audience — pretty impressive stuff!

    • I agree with everything you said. The zombies popping up unnoticed is convenient, but not super plausible in a lot of situations. When it comes to the characters, a lot of the outbursts, bickering, and inconsistencies can be rationalized through the extreme circumstances, so on the whole I’m ok with that, as well as the ‘slow’ parts, which I believe make it more realistic. One point that does nag on me a bit is they all seem a bit too comfortable and cavalier in this season, given what they’ve been through. Don’t they all have PTSD? I’m pretty sure that the moment I arrived on that farm I’d be doing everything I could to secure it, including building a big ass fence, keeping the noise down, and not letting light shine out those windows!! Also, when tensions were erupting between Shane and Hershel, etc. I didn’t see why they couldn’t just set up their own camp at a farm down the road. Hershel knows the area, there’s probably some vacated property nearby, so lets just be neighbors and leave it at that.
      In the end though all is forgiven because obviously if I’m thinking this hard about it, I’m enjoying myself, and everything has stayed well enough within the realms of possibility to keep my interest.

  8. More story, less gore would be good for me. I spent too much of Episode One, Season Three, with my head buried in my hands. Yuk!

  9. There were plenty of continuity and geographical errors in this series, and the motivation of some characters is difficult to understand, but maybe this is because they’re american and i’m not, however all in all i think this is a great series and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to series 3.

  10. I like these thoughts about how things like the prison, Woodbury and the zombie octagon can give us reason to think more deeply about important personal and social issues. Is the show making statements that are more than mere entertainment? http://www.squidoo.com/walking-dead-symbols-as-social-and-psychological-commentary

    • Man stop posting crap from season 3 on an obvious season 2 thread!

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