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The Walking Dead Season Finale Review: Burning Down the House

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The second season of The Walking Dead has been filled with ups and downs... tense nail bitters and simply stupid decisions... characters you care about and the ones you don't... exciting twists and contrived cliches... and pacing and storylines that often stopped and started like a driver who wasn't comfortable handling stick shift.

Maybe the bumpy road had to do with Frank Darabont leaving the series and the changing show runners and dynamics in effect altering the way the season ultimately turned out. Don't get me wrong, when the show was on, it was pulse-poundingly on, but there was plenty that left me scratching my head and wondering what or even where the story was headed after the complacency of the farm forced the characters into making inane choices for the sake of creating the danger the show desperately needed.

And, in turn, the second half of the season garnered a spark that pushed things forward while reigniting interesting confrontation and situations, even if there were times where it still lacked something.

Ultimately, "Beside the Dying Fire" had a mixture of everything: all the zombie fun you could love, a few surprising twists and some truly confounding moments.

The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale Photo

It was interesting that the show opened up by essentially explaining how so many walkers happened to arrive at the farm. It's pretty clear they are attracted to noise and eagerly follow it to what seems like the ends of the earth; unless that is, another sound makes them turn in another direction. Maybe a bit forced, but it worked in getting the group off the farm and for that I am thankful.

The way that the walker arrival was shot was visually dramatic in following Rick and Carl stumble along in the darkness before panning in front of them to reveal the herd in the background. It was a moment that gave you a feeling of gleeful terror with a realization that everything was about to become chaos.

And chaos it did become with an action sequence that involved a lot of shooting, car driving and fire burning. Yet as the zombie shoot out continued and the barn came to a crashing end (fun to see, but glad we're finally done with the place), even more characters beyond Shane, Dale, Randall and Sophia met their death.

Who were they? I forgot their names when it happened and had to look it up to remember Jimmy and Patricia (yes, Otis' wife). To be honest, I just didn't care that they didn't make it. And it's not as if their characters were so crazy or so obnoxious or so anything that would make me want them to see their end - but rather the lack of any development for them at all. They were merely walker fodder, a chance to show a lot of blood squirting everywhere and zombies chewing them apart.

It's just hard to care about characters with no depth. Such was even the case when Sophia's fate was revealed. I understand sometimes minor characters have to go, but give them something to do, give them meaning, make the audience care when they finally go. I'm sure you'd have far more of a dramatic impact if Daryl died, if Rick died, or sure, even if Hershel died.

There's no shock and no awe with someone when you can't even remember their name, compared to someone you've learned about and watched grow. I can only hope that season three gives the other characters a chance to be something more, to matter as characters instead of turning them into plot devices. Jimmy and Patrica just turned out to be disappointing throw aways because they never even got the chance to be explored. RIP... whoever you were.

Of course, the series - which does boast a large cast of characters -continued to paint the women as overly emotional, unhelpful and constantly causing more problems. It's just hard to want to like the situations they put themselves in or the way that they act. Why would Maggie try and convince Glenn that they should leave the group? Why would Carol tell Daryl that he's just a henchman and Rick shouldn't be the leader? Why would Lori, who told Rick he should deal with Shane, look disgusted beyond belief that Rick killed Shane?

Really, though, the more I watch her, the less I want her around. Lori can't keep track of Carl to save her life, she makes stupid choices like running after Rick, she tries to tell Rick what to do and then she gets overly upset when Rick tells her he killed Shane. Lori just makes me roll my eyes every time she does something. I can't take her seriously because she seems all over the place.

I really would enjoy watching a female character prove herself as strong, stable and helpfully supportive in surviving the zombie apocalypse. At least, Andrea is certainly headed in that right direction after all her positive efforts in this episode.

Is that possible with the fantastically slick introduction of the hooded figure? I hope so. Many fans of the graphic novels will be pleased with this entrance of the sword wielding, chained zombie totting character, and I can only hope that she remains positively bad ass.

As for the male cast, Rick really had the most time transitioning his character towards something colder and more in control. Declaring no democracy will be an interesting turn of events, but it marks a change in the man. I love getting some great scenes with Rick, although I was surprised at the group's lack of backing in terms of their leader. I mean, c'mon, give the guy a break. He's constantly saving everyone's life. I just hope this new path doesn't send him spiraling out of control like Shane. We all know how Shane ended up.

I'm even glad he told everyone about Dr. Jenner's whispered secret. It not only gave the mythology of the show some progress but finally revealed the unsettling truth that you don't have to be bitten to turn into a walker.

Even his declaration that he killed Shane was a great out in the open revelation. Although I really can't understand why everyone seemed upset with his decisions. Finally, someone makes some good choices and everyone gets mad? Why don't we try jumping back down into wells containing walkers? I just hope their disagreement doesn't last long. The survivors need some unification.

But the true final moments were worthy of that season three set up concerning a new location. What is that gigantic building? Is it a prison? Will it be a far better set up then the farm?

It's hard not to like The Walking Dead. Even with its missteps and leaps of faith regarding choices and plot direction, the show proves to be an addicting piece of television. Sure, it wasn't a perfect finale but it did offer plenty of tidbits to prepare viewers for what's to come and successfully closed the doors on Hershel's farm. And what was up with that helicopter...

What did you think of the finale? As always, sound off with your burning comments and questions below!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.2 / 5.0
  • 4.2 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (443 Votes)

Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Jesus man. Awesome finale but the wife Lori is an idiot. Good that Shane died, and I don't know why she was so upset. She told rick herself "he's dangerous". She can't even keep track of her own kid. He got in trouble like 3 or 4 times already. By now she should know that he don't listen to her.

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Shane deserves to die because he was the one in the first place trying to get Rick killed. (twice). He thinks that Rick stole Lori and Carl from him. He also faked Rick's death and killed Otis (poor Otis) And Lori, i don't really like her because she's always on Shane's side even though she knows that Shane is wrong or something. Besides, she can't even keep Carl safe and blamed Rick for not showing Carl a good example as a parent. lol. What's worst, she's the one who wants Shane to be killed but get so shocked when Rick told her that he killed Shane. WTF???? I hope Lori will die or something in Season 3. I hope Rick will survive till the end of the show and also Daryl.

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I have to respectfully go against those who favored shane as the leader and a likable character. His head was a mess. He had no leadership qualities and his attitude was not to protect the people he was grouped with. It was all about satisfying his anger issues he had about losing a woman who was never his to begin with...he lied about Ricks death...you dont tell someone there spouse died if you didnt witness it and you don't lie to a wife to get her to come home when their husband is missing...He wanted lori for himself and was selfish. A selfish liar is someone who definately will not turn out to be a great leader...what a loser of a character. I have to admit the infadelity pissed me off and kept me watching the episode. This series is anything but boring

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The kid should lose that damn hat.

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First of all they need to stop all this standing out in the open, zombie sneaking up on you garbage. At some point people would learn to watch thier backs at all times. When Dale sees the mauled cow, he would have ducked low and spun round and round looking out for the walker responsible. Also, little Carl shoots a gun and we all know by now that attracts the walkers but instead of hauling ass back to the farm to look out for them, they stroll home calmly in the night air!? WTF
When the crap hit the fan on the farm, I found myself rooting for Daryll the most. I said to myself "If they get Darryl, I'm done!" Now that he has survived I think he will emerge as the new leader as Rick follows in Shane's footsteps. (Sidebar: I kind of liked Shane and Andrea hooking up and hoped they would develop as a couple. Shane is HOTTTTT stufff!!!)
Rick is a mess. I dont like the way he treated thier young hostage. He saved him only to have him tortured and killed? The right thing to do was leave his ass stuck to that fence in the first place. Why save em? He just killed his friends!? So leave him! Darryl looks out for the group while Rick is about his family FIRST! Yeah Rick saves people but he damn near sacrificed Jimmy in the RV to get himself and Carl down from the barn! I vote Darryl as the new leader, if not co-leader...opss I forgot this is not a democracy. FOH!

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I will miss Shane. Shane was the most reasonable person besides Andrea. It's really easy for Rick to be self-righteous with Shane doing all the moral and physical heavy lifting. Rick flip-flops too much, unable to take a stand when it comes down to making the tough decisions without wavering, saying what needs to be said (or not). But he wrested control from the two true leaders - Shane and Darryl and you could see them chafing under Rick's collar. The irony of Dale getting ripped to shreds last episode - it IS survival of the fittest; they were not in some ivory tower. But others still want their knight in shining armor, and that what Rick represents; the last vestige of what was, not what is in that world. Wonder what next season holds (since it is diverging more and more from the comics, er, graphic novels).

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Hershel: I can't profess to understand God's plan; but Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something ... a little different in mind. LMAO!

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Haha, I think Shane is a psychopath, but I like it. You need a loose coannn in a group, he makes this season interesting.But I think the only reason Rick had to shoot Sophia was because he felt guilty. I don't think he is now one to make the tough decisions.I have to say, Sophia coming out from the barn caught me by surprise. First I thought the last walker would be Hershel's wife, but that was the one Shane shot the cheek off. Sophia wasn't a fleshed out character, so I could not feel too bad for her, but for all the other characters, her mom, Daryl and Rick especially. Side notes:-Hershel tells Rick, that Otis was the one who brought the walkers to the barn. If Shane hadn't killed Otis, he could've told them, he catched a girl walker who looked like the girl they were looking for. So one more thing Shane to blame for.-Andrea wasn't that prominent this episode, but I was immeditely angry again when they were shooting the barn walkers and she joins the firefight with an exaggeratedly confident smirk on her face shooting like a pro, even without eyes flinching.

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Lori needs to get killed off. seriously she basically told rick to kill shane! so why the hell is she acting all shocked now.

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im surprised everyone thinks season 2 wasnt as good as season 1... season 1 started strong but i thought the later episodes were pretty weak
anyways. overall season 2 was fckn awesome. although they lingered at the farm for way too long and many of the characters were useless ie. token black guy who's only line in an episode was 'aw hell nah'. also how the hell did carl find rick & shane after they were hiking through the woods for so long?
im glad they separated Andrea from the group, i think the show will feel a lot faster with two completely separate plots. & i rly like the direction her character is going
also; disappointed they didn't kill ricks wife, or sophia's mom. and disappointed there arent more nudity scenes involving maggie.
but otherwise, awesome, giving game of thrones a run for its money