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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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I hope Michonne introduction to the show finally put the girls in the spot along side with the bad ass Andrea. Honestly the girls in the show are lame, the stereotype of a damsel in distress. So Michonne, Andrea and Prison the good news

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I hate Lori, she wants Rick "deal" with Shane and when you get it, you freak out. Ah wait I have the answer, she get upset because he kill her boy toy. She is TWD version of Eva. I don't like Carol either the only thing that she do is scream and trying to poison Daryl. I love his reaction to her stupid comment. I don't want any romance between those two, if is possible just kill her in the first episode of the third season please, please.
I'm not fan of Rick, he came to group and just take over, they were fine at point. Said that; I understand why he kill Shane, he was killer, of course because of Lori influence.
I mention I hate Lori, lol

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stupid wife and the kid,and dat short hair lady,so freakin annoying,they are so helpless in the show,they should just die,i really hate Carol,in the last episode,all she do was screaming runnin for help,how helpless!!stupid bitch!!such pointless to be havin them in the show

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The writers did not do a good job with this show in season 2. Lori, for instance, is just not a believable character. She basically tells Rick that Shane is dangerous and must be dealt with (read: "killed"), she then tells Shane that she is sorry about putting him through hell and that the baby may be his, then she treats Rick like a monster because he killed Shane in self-defense. The other biggest false note was how they dealt with suicide. Herschel's daughter was totally distraught from seeing her zombified mother gunned down, then Andrea pretty much tells her "If you want to commit suicide, go ahead." Then Andrea leaves the room. Luckily the girl didn't have a gun. Maggie then rightfully tells Andrea not to step into the house again (yet two episodes later we see Andrea in the house). To top it off, Lori tells a furious Maggie "You know, she has a point." Why would Carol tell Daryl that he's acting like a henchman and that Rick has no honor? Why would Maggie want to go off alone with only Glen instead of staying with the group? I mean, there's zombies everywhere! I also thought the group's nonreaction to Shane wasn't believable. Shane was constantly the center of turmoil, couldn't control his anger and constantly undermined Rick. I question the intelligence of anyone who would get behind Shane. Yet most of the group never voiced an opinion of him. Other than Lori (who played both sides) and Herschel (who only objected because Shane wanted to put the barn zombies down), no one ever came to Rick and said, "WTF is up with Shane? That guy needs to calm down." Maybe the comic book doesn't is very perceptive when it comes to human behavior either, but if that's the case, it's still no excuse for the the writers of the tv show. Come on writers, get it together.

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*SPOILERS AHEAD* I love the zombies, but darn those characters are horrible. At least, finally somebody else seems to have noticed how badly written the women are. That scene around the campfire had a "Christian Fundie: Women carry the original sin and will corrupt you by whispering like snakes in your ears" kinda feel... What was that all about?.. And why are all those girls so useless? You'd think, by the end of a second season, they'd learn to do something else than scream and run around hysterically at the first sign of danger. Seriously, maybe I have an exceptional entourage or something, but I don't know ANY woman who would act like they do in a crisis (okay, maybe 1 or 2, but they'd straighten out pretty quickly, I'd make sure of that). And when Rick gave his little speech: "I've been keeping you alive, people."... You did? When? How? Did I miss something? And, not to forget, "I killed my best friend for you, people."... Hmm, I thought you killed Shane in self-defense and to get rid of his constant threat on YOUR life, after PREVENTING Dale and others from exposing him or questioning his behavior. While he was at it, he decided to abolish Democracy... Hadn't noticed they had one established. I thought most of the decisions where either Shane's or Hershel's or, in last resort, Rick's, while everyone else did what they were told. But, best of all, T-DOG SPOKE!!! I will pay attention to Season 3, but my interest for this show is going downhill. The script is just too awful. Thank goodness for the z-mob in the finale or this would've been really bad.

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The barn is making a LOT of noise and giving off tons of light, why are zombies not heading towards that? Andrea jumping out of the truck... then everyone just leaving her... just bad. It seemed like every single thing that happened made NO sense.

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Alot of the dialog of this series makes no sense. The vast majority of the season finale was just AWFUL. Driving around shooting with 100% accuracy in the head while going over bumps? Hershel's shotgun of never-ending-ammo. Why the **** would anyone drive an RV into a herd of zombies... then just park and try to sneak out? WTF?!? Just keep driving... Why did the blonde female run straight towards the zombies, and not towards the clearing? Why does Rick keep trying to make it look like he murdered Shane in cold blood? He could have easily said "He pulled a gun on me and tried to kill me, I killed him in self defense"... Lori finally gets what she asks for (Shane being dealt with) and she freaks out... MAKES NO SENSE Everyone meeting at the worst possible place (where there was MILES of backed up cars, and directly BACK towards the city the zombies are coming from) WHY? Just WHY?
Aren't zombies attracted towards light and noise? The barn is making a LOT of noise and giving off tons of light, why are zombies not heading towards that? Andrea jumping out of the truck... then everyone just leaving her... just bad. It seemed like every single thing that happened made NO sense.

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Super bada&& final! To see Andrea want to end it all in Season 1, and Dale encouraged her to live... then see her fighting and kicking to stay alive, and now - wow! Michonne lives! Yes.. super bad.ss chick fighter with samaraii sword and two loved ones chained by her side. (She chopped off thier arms and lower jaws so they couldn't claw or eat her in the comics!) Cool imagery with Daryl on his chopper and Carol. Laurie going nuts thinking Carl is lost out there.. and Rick worrying about the rest.. and they all get to the highway -- and the farm is lost! Now on to the Prison in Season 3, and the intro to new charactors.. including the Govenor! YESS!

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Your're so right Robin, Lori warned Rick about Shane and how dangerous he was and she was right. Shane was going to kill her husband and he did what he had to do. She has to know that killing his best friend is tearing Rick up inside and she gives him a GTH attitude? Maybe she was mad that Carl shot Shane, but why? First Shane was already dead and second, it might have saved his Dad's life and his own as well. Bottom line, Lori is really getting on my nerves and a lot of other fans too, I think. She needs to be killed off in Season 3, and the sooner the better.

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Good review! I thought the finale was very entertaining and I agree with your take on it almost completely. I think you may have been a little too harsh in your criticism of the killing off off of a couple of the less developed characters. First, that is a very common scenario in many programs and movies. You have a couple of "throw away" characters who you can kill off without sacrificing too much future plot development. And after seeing two key characters - Dale and Shane (Yes!!)meet their end in the last couple of episodes, I could forgive a little gratutious walker bloodletting involving secondary characterers of the series. One point I especially agree with you on was illogical reaction Lori had when Rick told her about killing Shane and that Carl had dispatched the walker version of her former lover. Sorry Sarah Wayne Callies, but your character is really starting to get on my nerves. In a scene from a past episode, Lori warned Rick how dangerous Shane was and that he may have to take care of the threat Shane posed to him and his family. So her being so mad about what happened, especially when considering Shane was about to blow his head off makes no sense. Actually, I thought that maybe most of Lori's anger was over hearing that her son had shot Shane, even though Shane was already technically dead and in doing so, maybe saved Rick's life. Regardless, I really have more sympathy than ever for Rick. He has carried the group on his shoulders for a long time and he just had to kill his best friend (or be killed). I think he is entitled to a little emotional meltdown time. I loved when he told everyone they could go check out what was in the woods, he wouldn't stop them and nobody moved. That just about summed it all up. And then when he needed his wife's support the most, she ultimately turned her back on him. Die Lori, die!