The long road of season two has led to this point as The Walking Dead says goodbye to the farm in a season finale filled with a good 90% zombie action. Despite the chaos and mayhem, we still manage to get some major revelations that help to set up some very juicy plot points for season three.
Let’s bitch it out…
She Said (TVangie)
Looks like the walkers that were hiding out all season have decided to come back with a vengeance for finale time!
After Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) turn around and see the herd of zombies headed toward them, they have little time to reflect on the death of Shane (Jon Bernthal). Suddenly, The Walking Dead turns into first person shooter game, House of the Dead as the group splits up to take out as many walkers as they can. Although exciting, (taking out zombies from the side of a moving car/truck/RV/motorcycle is pretty badass), it’s during moments like this when all I can think about is my desire to see the group reunite. I long for those drawn out philosophical debates that the majority of viewers griped about and hope that we get them again.
For me, once the group fractured it really solidifies how I view them as a family, no matter how ‘broken’ they are. This is most acutely felt when Glenn (Steven Yeun) yells at a despondent Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to drive off the farm, lest the walkers swarm them, leaving whomever can’t make it behind. It occurs to me that this is Glenn and Maggie’s opportunity for their very own spin-off show. And that punch-in-the-gut realization (that the group might not come back together) is repeated as we circle back to each mini-group of survivors. Even if they are able to escape the now overrun farm, where will they go? Will they ever meet again? It’s something that had to happen and there’s no time to think – but it’s a sad prospect for the viewer.
Thankfully the group isn’t fractured for too long, when eventually they all (save poor Laurie Holden’s Andrea) reconvene on the highway where they left supplies for Sophia (Madison Lintz) back at the beginning of the season. I let out a sigh of relief when I realized we wouldn’t be subjected to a drawn out absence/reunion next season. Yes, I know, there is still the question of Andrea…but the majority of the group is still intact.
Despite the happy reunion, it doesn’t take long for the group to start dissenting again, principally against leader Rick. Don’t get me wrong, Grimes has made some dumbass decisions this season (bringing back and healing Michael Zegen’s Randall being the worst offense) but ultimately, I think he’s proven to be a great leader these past couple of episodes. He killed an unruly Shane, only after being pushed to the absolute brink, very quickly surmised the threat of the two outsiders in the bar, still showed compassion for (in my opinion the totally unworthy) Randall, and rightly insisted that the group stay together until daybreak. How much sense does it make to go wandering off in the dark alone?
Was I the only one who wanted to bitch slap a totally ungrateful Carol (Melissa McBride) for suggesting that Rick isn’t a fit leader? When it’s revealed that CDC agent Jenner (Noah Emmerich) told Rick in the first season finale that everyone is infected with the zombie virus (you just need to die for it to manifest), the group chastises him for keeping it to himself. I think Rick made the right decision about not sending the group into a mass panic without confirming it as truth, and Carol and the rest of the dissenters need to fall in line. Did we not forget the lengths he went to looking for Sophia?
Let’s face it – Rick has kept this group alive thus far and it’s about time they shut it and start listening to him. It comes as no surprise that Rick’s “my house, my rules” speech comes right after we see an exhausted and alone Andrea running from walkers in the woods. Remember, “One man can’t make it on his own” and Andrea’s hopeless predicament solidifies this.
As much as I feel uneasy about the impending dictatorship that Rick presents at episode’s end (“This ain’t a democracy anymore!”), it’s exactly the kind of take-charge quality needed in this situation. When the survivors looked him all slacked-jawed, I was surprised because isn’t this what they wished for?
Darryl (Norman Reedus) seems to be the only one of Rick’s side who gets a ‘hellsyea’ from me. I was pretty annoyed with Darryl last season and now he’s my favorite character by far. The women, on the other hand, continue to disappoint me. I was shocked at Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) reaction to Rick’s confession about Shane. Lori is my most despised character of the series (let’s face it – she’s been in the spot for a good part of the season already…). After being instrumental in pitting the two best friends against one another, she has the gall to look at Rick with judgment and loathing? Let’s just say I wouldn’t be heartbroken if she accidental ran into the open arms (and mouth) of a walker. Despite my gripes about Lori, however, this scene is cinematically delicious and both actors clock in some grade A performances. Rick recounts the story and the camera refuses to cut away, perfectly capturing the inner tension and emotion that he struggles with. Andrew Lincoln cements his leading man status as the show’s rightful star with this scene.
So what did you think Cinephilactic? Were you as surprised at Lori’s reaction as much as I was? And what about Carl’s equally disappointing reaction when he starts weeping after finding out Rick killed Shane? Do you think Rick is on his way to becoming a better leader, or is this an indication of his downfall?
He Said (cinephilactic)
Well, TVangie, I think that as viewers, we’re meant to see this as a fork in the road for Rick. Previously he was the righteous, idealistic man: he shied away from making morally murky decisions because he had Shane to voice them (and, to a certain extent Jeffrey DeMunn’s Dale to represent the other extreme). With both of those polarized views gone, we’re now left with a single leader who bears the burden. Initially after the incidents at the barn, I thought that Herschel might be raised up as someone else that Rick would turn to, but it is clear at the highway and around the campfire that now that they have left the farm, Herschel will defer to Rick’s will. As a result it truly has become a dictatorship. It’s easy for Carol and Maggie to critique his approach because they aren’t responsible for the group’s lives, so while I don’t think that his big speech is going to win him any friends, Rick will – for the foreseeable future – remain the man with the power.
Of course, I don’t think a mutiny is out of the question, either.
As for Lori…well, what can we say about her? She’s been a catalyst for the Shane/Rick drama since the very beginning of the series, and after last week’s confession that her time with Shane did mean something, it’s not too surprising that she has an emotional reaction to the news. In fairness, it does seem as though she’s reacting more to the news that Carl was the one who “put him down” – this has been a concern of hers since early in the season when she questioned whether this new world was changing him. I didn’t expect Carl to cry when Rick revealed the truth, but I guess it also makes sense. Despite his tough guy attitude, he’s still just a boy, despite his sociopathic tendencies.
In truth I think that this is a weaker episode to end the season on compared to last week’s. Imagine if our final image is the one of hundreds of walkers descending on the farm in the aftermath of Shane’s death, instead of the potentially confusing image of the prison that I wonder how many non-comic readers understood. I won’t lie, I was completely ecstatic to catch a glimpse of Andrea’s savior, who I’ve been waiting for for months (again, comic readers know who I am talking about and can I get a ‘Hell Yeah!’). But aside from these fleeting moments, I found my attention wandering. As exciting as those opening action scenes are, unlike you, I still don’t care whether some of these people live or die.
Here’s my priority chart:
Darryl, Rick, Andrea, Maggie and Glenn: Live
Lori, Carl and Herschel: Meh (and really this is more affection for Scott Wilson than Herschel as a character).
T-Dog, Beth & Carol: Die
It isn’t until the group reunites at the highway that I realize that I can’t even remember Patricia or Jimmy’s names for crying out loud!
What definitely works for me in this episode is the opening sequence. Last week I wondered where this massive horde of walkers came from. This week’s introduction tells us: they follow a helicopter, initially as a small group, which gets bigger and bigger as they wander aimlessly until finally Carl’s shot attracts their attention. I love the visual callback to the second season premiere. It answers questions, it tells its story cinematically, it’s gripping and it’s well done technically. As much fun as it is to see the zombies overrun the farm, I didn’t get a feeling of pathos or grief – it feels like this was inevitable and the group is foolish for never having discussed an exit strategy. And I’m sure I wasn’t meant to chuckle at the Michael Bay-esque slow motion zombie walk in front of the collapsing barn. It’s like barnageddon all over again!
Taken together with the final image of the prison, we have a nice counter balance between two very different kind of safe havens. The farm was a mirage: a place where our characters may have overstayed their welcome because they thought they could make, as Rick so loudly proclaims, “a home.” Crane up to a birds-eye view of the evolution of that model and the show satisfyingly foreshadows the group’s next move. Whether or not they can survive each other, however, remains to be seen.
What did you think, Walk-ers? Did you succumb to the action scenes you’ve been salivating for? Does this Winter batch of episodes make up for any perceived ‘slowness’ in the first batch of episodes? Were you expecting a bigger deal to come from Shane’s death or do you think that will come back next season? Finally, are you satisfied with our group of survivors, or do you wish some had died and others lived? Sound out below!
The Walking Dead has concluded its second season and will return with 16 new episodes in the fall on AMC.