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24 October, 2012

REVIEW: The Walking Dead: Season 2 - Episode 13 "Beside the Dying Fire" (Season 2 Finale)

My previous reviews for this series can be accessed by clicking the links below:

Season 1:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Season 2:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9 
Episode 10
Episode 11 
Episode 12 

A number of plot points will inevitably be revealed in the course of these writings.  My intent is to review this program from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community, but, to do that effectively, some things have to be explained in greater detail than I might normally prefer in a review.  As a result, spoilers will follow.  You have been warned.

This episode, the season 2 finale, begins with an interesting flashback to the past.  We see Walkers in a ruined American city (Atlanta?) drawn by the noise of a helicopter passing overhead, like some sort of Pied Piper.  This draws the viewer back to early in the first season when Rick saw a chopper over Atlanta (if I remember correctly) and the others though he had imagined it.  We see the Walkers migrate out into the countryside, passing cars on the Interstate, and are again drawn back in our memories to the herd that passed the group on the Interstate that fateful day Sophia was first lost.  Then, later, we see them push their way onto Hershel's property, breaking down one of his fences with the sheer weight of their combined bodies in time to be there in the forest later that night to hear the shots when Carl put down the reanimated Shane.  Apparently, it's the same herd that has been walking all this time and has repeatedly impacted the group over the past 2 seasons, and they are now bearing-down on an unsuspecting Rick and Carl as they walk back to the farmhouse.

Within the house, Andrea wants to go looking for the guys, but is implored to stay put in case Randall returns.  Just then, Daryl and Glenn come in, telling the others about finding Walker Randall with his neck broken, obviously by Shane.  They're surprised that Rick and Shane aren't back ahead of them, and agree to go back out to find them when Lori pleads.

We flash back out to Rick and Carl as Rick attempts to explain to his son what happened.  Apparently, Carl didn't see Rick kill Shane; he only heard the shot that rang-out when Rick grabbed Shane's gun and stabbed him.  The boy still thinks that Shane must have been bitten, but doesn't understand, because he didn't see a Walker's body, only Shane's.  Before Rick can find the words, however, they hear the approaching herd and run for the relative safety of the barn.

At this point, those in the house have seen the approaching herd as well.  They kill the lights and someone suggests retreating to the basement, but Daryl says doing that is pointless, unless there's an escape tunnel down there he isn't aware of; a herd that size will pull the whole house down, he says.  Hershel is intent on defending his land, and Andrea comes up with the idea for them to to mobilize, using the cars; they intend to kill as many as possible and then draw the others away from the farm with the vehicles.  Meanwhile, Lori looks frantically for the missing Carl, who was supposed to be in their room asleep.

Rick and Carl corral the walkers into the barn (with Rick using himself as bait) and set it aflame.  Seeing the fire and the two guys trapped high up in the hayloft, Jimmy (the boyfriend of Hershel's youngest daughter) jumps into the RV and drives it over near the barn, providing Rick and Carl with an avenue of escape.  Jimmy, however, is himself killed when Walkers overrun the RV, which is now lost to the group after 2 seasons.

Soon, it becomes obvious that the plan is ineffective; they're going to run out of ammo before they even make a dent in the invading herd, and so the battle becomes a rout as everyone flees.  The only one who won't budge is Hershel, initially intent to die defending his farm from the front yard of his house with what is apparently a magic shotgun that never has to be reloaded (gotta love Hollywood!).  In the confusion, Patricia (the wife of long-dead Otis) is killed, and Carol (the mother of the deceased Sophia) is cornered by Walkers.  She is soon saved by Andrea, who falls beneath a dead Walker, leading the others to believe she has most likely been killed; they leave her, believing her lost, but she actually survives.  Carol, herself, saved by Andrea's intervention, runs off, still being chased until she is finally picked-up and rescued by Daryl on his Harley.  The farm is lost, as everyone piles into whatever vehicle will stop for them and flees, including Hershel who is finally convinced to go with Rick and Carl.  Poor Andrea is on her own, left behind, and flees into the woods.

Once safely away, Glenn reassures Maggie and finally tells her he loves her.  They are to circle-around to the highway where they had previously left the supplies and the message on the windshield for the then-missing Sophia, in the hopes that anyone else who survived will do the same.  Luckily, others did have the same idea, and the spot does become an ad-hock rendezvous point for the group.

The first there are Rick, Carl, and Hershel, and they have no idea yet who else made it off the farm.  Carl wants to go find his Mom, but Rick refuses, because it's too dangerous.  Hershel says he'll wait, and that Rick has got to get his boy to safety.  Hershel's willing to take his chances; his faith is shaken and he cannot fathom God's plan.  He says that he always knew Christ had promised the dead would be resurrected, but he always assumed that he had something else in mind.  Rick, however, refuses to leave, insisting that they stay together.

Elsewhere, T-Dog, Lori, and Hershel's youngest Beth are also on the road.  T-Dog initially refuses to go back, saying that it's too dangerous and they should head for the coast instead; he eventually gives in, though, when Lori threatens to jump out of the moving car.  Back at the Interstate, they are hiding as a few straggling Walkers pass and Hershel is still urging Rick to concentrate on protecting his child.  Nature may be throwing them a curve ball, he argues, but that basic law is still true.  Rick is about to reluctantly agree with him and flee with Carl when, just then, the others arrive.  Together, they assess their position and count their dead.  No one is sure about Andrea, but they are forced to abandon her, nonetheless; even if she has somehow survived, she must be gone from the farm and they have no way to locate her.

We then see Andrea, still alive, on her own and on the run in the forest.  She eventually runs out of ammo and has to fight-off Walkers hand-to-hand.  She is soon overwhelmed, but is saved at the last minute by a mysterious hooded figure, wielding a sword and leading two armless Walkers behind her on neck-chains.

Back to the main group, they are traveling back roads but are forced to stop because of being low on gas.  They are in an exposed position and it's close to nightfall, but Rick is intent that everyone stay together, saying they'll make camp and go to scavenge for fuel together at first light.  Everybody seems to have their own ideas as to what is best, but Hershel admonishes them all to stop panicking and listen to Rick.

Rick starts talking about the need for them to find a secure place to fortify and build a permanent life.  When questioned about Randall turning without being bitten, he eventually reveals to them all about what Dr.  Jenner from the CDC told him at the end of season 1: that they are all infected, and will become Walkers regardless of how they die or whether they've been bitten.  Everybody is extremely upset that he kept it from them, and some begin to doubt if they can be safe with a man who doesn't share such news with them immediately.  

After the others disperse to make camp, Rick tells Lori that he killed Shane.  Rick is definitely taking a darker turn, explaining to her how he figured-out early on that Shane was leading him out away from the others, so that he could murder him, but he kept going, because he was tired of their dispute and wanted it all over with, once and for all.  Lori is shocked and aghast, especially when she learns that Carl was the one to put Walker Shane down.  She recoils from Rick's touch.

Later that night, some are talking about leaving, taking their chances alone.  Pretty much, only Daryl and Hershel express continued faith in Rick's leadership.  He soon asserts his authority, though.  He angrily tells them that he never asked to be put in charge and blurts-out that he killed his best friend for them (up to this point, only Lori knew that he had killed Shane).  He welcomes anyone who wishes to leave to go, and, when no one moves, he makes it clear that, if they stay, they follow his lead: "... this isn't a democracy anymore," he says.

The episode and season ends with the camera panning to a large prison complex in the distance.

As for things in this episode that we in the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community can learn, there isn't much; it was mostly action.  The only thing I can think of, right off, is the need to establish a designated rendezvous point for your retreat group, in case an evacuation is ever necessary.  Preferably, I would setup at least two sites: a primary and a backup, and be sure members of your group can get to them from multiple routes.  The characters in the show just got lucky and weren't scattered to the four winds.  Also, I'm digging Rick's idea about finding a place to fortify.  Secure, the farm was not; rather, it's isolation created a false sense of security.  True survival in harsh conditions is all about fortifications.  In the character's position, I'd be headed for somewhere like Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

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