Review: The Walking Dead - "Beside the Dying Fire' (SEASON FINALE)

Over the last 5 episodes, The Walking Dead has been steadily kicking our asses with bar shoot-outs, the Randall story, discussions of suicide and right-to-life, Rick vs. Shane, and an insanely high (and very gory) body count - walker and human alike. Dale's death was a punch in the gut  but so beautifully done. Then last week we saw Shane finally succumb to his madness and Team Grimes put him down. Not only has the tension steadily risen, but the dialogue, characterization, and storylines have all generally gotten better and better.

The finale picks up right where 'Better Angels' left off - with a giant herd of walkers moving toward the farm. The finale as a whole is not as solid as some previous episodes this season, but much like 'Judge, Jury, Executioner' it has moments that will stop your heart. 'Beside the Dying Fire' is largely a fan-service episode, though. Fans who have not read the comic books will really enjoy the finale, but it is us comic book fans who will scream like little girls in anticipation - twice!


The finale begins with a really cool sequence that will probably be forgotten by the time the episode is over. The whole pre-credits sequence is set from the perspective of the walker herd. We do not usually get to an extended look at what the zombies are up to, so it was pretty cool to watch their "lives" for a few minutes. And what an incredibly ambitious makeup FX job by Greg Nicotero and crew!

During that sequence, the zombies spy a helicopter. We last saw that helicopter over Atlanta in the season 1 pilot. It was a nice little tease seeing it again. In the books, there is a helicopter tied into the Governor story so I imagine we will see that copter again early next season.

So the walker herd overruns the farm and everybody gets scattered in a giant zombie clusterfuck. The whole sequence is pretty intense. While the human body count is surprisingly small, those who did die (Jimmy and Patricia) went out pretty brutally! And how about that zombie body count? All-in-all, at least 30 walkers were put down this episode! A new record, perhaps? 

I had to laugh at how every survivor was perfect at headshots - did anyone even miss? I feel like that could have been made a bit more realistic. I also could have done without Lori and Carol's melodramatic "search" for Carl. But hey, I cannot complain. The whole scene was pretty fantastic. I love the continuous apocalyptic father-son bonding between Rick and Carl (a glimpse of things to come, I hope). And that shot where Rick saves Hershell - holy crap! That surprised the hell out of me! And it all ends with that beautiful, bittersweet shot of the farm burning down. 

Things get a little corny at this point, as Glenn tells Maggie he loves her and magically everyone meets up in the same spot based on hunches. Still, it was necessary to get everyone back together somehow. And Daryl got to work in a racist Asian crack so all is right with the world again.

Then it's right back to "Oh Shit" Land as Rick FINALLY reveals what Dr. Jenner whispered to him back in the season 1 finale - "We are all infected." So it's official - if you die with your head intact, you will become a walker. And then, surprisingly, the truth about Shane comes out shortly thereafter. I expected that to be tackled next season.

I find it irritating how everybody immediately starts turning on Rick for hiding that secret from them. Why create panic and take away the survivors' hope for knowledge that may never matter? Also, Lori has no right to be pissed at Rick for killing Shane when she blatantly told him to, not to mention it was self-defense. So I was pretty damn pleased at the end when Rick finally says, "See how you do without me! There's the door!" and then "This is not a democracy anymore!" Hell yes! For too long, Rick has been bitched at to do something, and then bitched at for doing something. I'm so glad to see him putting his foot down and taking charge. Get ready for the Ricktatorship!

Still, there is a hint of fear in the group during Rick's tirade and revelation that he killed Shane. Is this the beginning of Rick's downward spiral? His character is so brutalized in the comic books, and now I am starting to foresee that coming to the small screen, as well.

So let's step back now - Andrea was separated from the group during the farm chaos. As she is chased by walkers through the woods, she becomes the badass Andrea I know and love. She takes down a couple walkers by gun and by her own hand before one overtakes her. And then it happened - the moment where I needed a change of underwear:

The zombie is dispatched by a katana and we see a familiar hooded stranger toting two leashed, armless zombies. If you have not read the books, you probably have no damn clue who this is, so here's a look:

That is Michonne, one of the most badass characters from the books, and a character we fans have been DYING to see come to life. This surprise was kept under wraps SO well, I had no idea this was coming! It was hard not to scream like a little girl when I saw her! If the introduction of the Governor is half as awesome as this, I might have a geek seizure and die.

On The Talking Dead following the finale, Robert Kirkman revealed who will be playing Michonne: Danai Gurira.

In the last scene, we comic book fans get yet another nerd boner. After Rick tells the group there must be a safe place out there, the camera pans up to reveal in the distance - a prison! This is almost exactly how volume 1 of Robert Kirkman's hardcover book ends! I had my doubts that the show would even go to the prison, but now I am so excited I can hardly stand it! 

Needless to say, this episode is largely for the book fans. I mean, fans of the show alone will totally appreciate it and enjoy the zombie seige and the reveals that make you go "Hmmm" but us book fans truly "filled the cup" last night.

So what are your thoughts on the finale? I would especially love to hear the unbiased thoughts of those who do not read the books! 

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For more episode reviews from this season:

S2E11 - "Judge, Jury, Executioner"
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