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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
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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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Lori may have freaked when she learned her son killed a zombified shane, but if anyone is to blame it is her. Why in God's name can't she keep track of him? My mom knew more about my whereabouts as a kid (even as a teenager) than this woman ever does. And my neighborhood wasn't teeming with zombies! Rick also has to have some responsibility, but in this case he was doing something else and Lori had the reigns. What really blows is how the kid just magically showed up at exactly the right moment, somehow finding dad and shane after tey racked through the woods for hours. And why, after tracking through the woods all that time, would shane wait to kill rick in an open clearing where anyone could have seen? Even at night? The writing is decent, but it's in these details where it falls down. and frankly these details are at is keeping this show from approaching the level of a BrBa. The show has actors with talent - except the kid - who is a little stiff.

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ahem. .....It's pretty obvious that Dale died because Jeffrey DeMunn was a friend of Frank Darabont, and I think his firing not only hurt the direction of the show but rattled everyone involved to the core. Lesson for creative people: don't start a show that the network will also own. Sony's owning Breaking Bad apparently gave Vince Gilligan the leverage he needed to curb AMC's asinine demands. The first season of this show was pretty close to BrBa, and that's saying a lot. I'm still looking forward to the next season, and to be honest, am going to have more "wow" moments by expecting good instead of great.

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You summed up this season perfectly: "...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 as far as the finale, what a bore. More like an epilogue, a necessary tidying-up. Of course those two minor characters were going to die. I'm psyched no one else did, and I'm not saying that it would have been a better finale if they had killed someone who mattered. It's OK to have your arc peak earlier and then wind down, but this was just too predictable. It left a bad taste in my mouth and brought into focus the problems you discuss. Finale fail! I'm still a fan, but the show has gone from a solid 5/5 to a hope-it-doesn't-get-worse 4. It's pretty obvious that Dale died because Jeffrey DeMunn was a friend of Frank Darabont, and I think his firing not only hurt the direction of the show but rattled everyone involved to the core. Lesson for creative people: don't start a show that the network will also own. Sony's owning Breaking Bad apparently gave Vince Gilligan the leverage he needed to curb AMC's asinine demands. The first season of this show was pretty close to BrBa, and that's saying a lot. I'm still looking forward to the next season, and to be honest, am going to have more "wow" moments by expecting good instead of great.

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why is every single person commenting on lori's reaction, forgetting that what made her about puke was not the fact that he killed shane but when he raised up from the dead it was the little boy carl that had to put him down, in my honest opinion thats where i think she looks upset and mad because her little boy had to do a horrible act, that guy was like a second father uncle towards that little guy, and i see her react from that more than the news of shane, or is it just me!!!!!!!!

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Gimme a gun!I'll kill Lori!Stupid bitch gets mad at Rick for killing that psycho Shane who she was banging!!I'd divorce the dumb c---!!!

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In resume, second season wasn't half as good as the first one which was a true masterpiece in american tv. The first episodes were too dramatic, jumping all over the place with lame dialogues and plot. Shane's descent to hell, though completely necessary, turned to a point to which we were just hoping he would die on the next episode. Sophia's zombification was also a turn down (at least for me). But the other half felt almost like season one. The action and good drama returned, the characters evolved so much more than the other pointless episodes. I especially praise Dale's last episode. The way he stood up alone to his ethic, the only who could do that in the worst possible scenario. I didn't like him being killed so soon but it makes sense as it will serve (like I said before) for Rick's future episodes. And Shane's death was incredibly well-written and performed by both Andrew and Jon.

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And Carol... is it weird that I find her even more annoying than Lori? Again the writers don't seem to make up their mind what they want to do with her. The endless drama and the hints at a relationship between her and Daryl... make want to throw up, seriously. If they don't do something about her, she needs to go as well. Beth will be probably like Andrea's sis. Meaning: killed in one of the action scenes of next season. That if the writers don't decide to develope her character more. And T-Dog is T-Dog. I have no comments about him. Oh, I'm missing Carl. It's obvious that Carl will stay for a very long time (it would be a shock if he gets killed or something). So, he's annoying and got Dale killed. But he's just a confused kid, imagine having to deal with all that. But after shooting Shane, we can expect a major twist on his character. In resume, second season wasn't half as good as the first one which was a true masterpiece in american tv. The first episodes were too dramatic, jumping all over the place with lame dialogues and plot. Shane's descent to hell, though completely necessary, turned to a point to which we were just hoping he would die on the next episode. Sophia's zombification was also a turn down (at least for me). But the other half felt almost like season one. The action and good drama returned, the characters evolved so much more than the other pointless episodes. I especially praise Dale's last episode. The way he stood up alone to his ethic, the only who could do that in the worst possible scenario. I didn't like him being killed so soon but it makes sense as it will serve (like I said before) for Rick's future episodes. And Shane's death was incredibly well-written and performed by both Andrew and Jon.

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So, imo the good/interesting characters are: 1) Our girl in the riding hood. 2) Andrea. 3) Rick and 4)Daryl, the most centered and mysterious among the group. As for the rest of the characters, I'll start with the oldest. Hershel was never a character I liked, so I found it surprising that I really wanted him to live for next season. I think he has accepted his reality and will become a tough character, possibly even a replacement for Dale in keeping Rick on the right track. Glenn was my favourite during season 1. Now he has dealt with a lot of drama including the fact that he's now in love. I find that very interesting. As for Maggie, I have mixed feelings about her. I believe she has the potential for becoming a strong, well developed character but the writers had her going up and down half the season. I still hope Maggie's character surprises us next season.

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So everyone agrees on the poor portrayal of women during these two seasons. Seems like the only one who can take care of herself is Andrea and I really hope we get to see her character evolve more in this next season (certainly looks like it from the season finale). Also, if you pay attention, Lori got upset at Rick until the moment she heard him say Carl shot Shane. She can stand her husband killing his best friend (after all, that's what she wanted, didn't she?) but I suppose she still hasn't realized that her little boy is growing up fast and that he will need to make hard decisions to survive. Anyway, I hope Lori's character will be written off by next season. Another interesting twist continues to be Dale's death. Having been the one who really kept the group together and Rick sanner (better job than his wife or kid), it is through his death and Shane's that Rick finally will become the protagonist in all sense of the series. So, imo the good/interesting characters are: 1) Our girl in the riding hood. 2) Andrea. 3) Rick and 4)Daryl, the most centered and mysterious among the group.

Terrie

Although Jenner did whisper something to Rick, he was a mad man.......so who really knows..........I guess I have missed something but I still just do not see how they'd all be infected............

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