Here we are, the sophomore season for AMC’s The Walking Dead draws to a close and it’s safe to say it does so on a high note. OK, that is an understatement, I don’t know about you but I confident in calling tonight’s episode the best since the shows pilot and a clear sign that it has finally recovered from the exit of former showrunner Frank Darabont.
We get what we have waited and hungered for. Zombies. Lots of them. We get action, we get direction, we get Rick going a little crazy. The brains finally hit the fan as a zombie herd descends on Herschel’s farm and a much anticipated character finally makes an appearance. While the TV show is a radical departure from the comic book, we see do see signs that its moving in a similar (and insanely awesome) direction.
Before we dive into the episode, I want to bring up something that has been bothering me. Morgan and Duane Jones. Remember them? The father son combo that Rick met in the pilot. The walkie-talkie he swore he was going to use to each day at dawn to communicate with them. So, Rick did that like once and then it was completely forgotten. Just one time as a framing device to launch the first episode of the second season to then be washed away as the black hole that is Herschel’s farm sucked all the drive and momentum out of the plot. I bring this up since I fear this is the trap the show has fallen into. The long form dialogue based exposition on the post zombie apocalypse verses just giving us some zombie head shots and pulse pounding tension, the second season seemed like an experiment in figuring out the mix. That experiment has ended and I hope the show has found a balance that it will carry into it’s third season.
Speaking of which, lets talk about how the second season ended.
We last left off with Rick and Carl dealing with the aftermath of the now dead then undead and then just plain dead Shane, all while the apparently most silent horde of zombies ever known to man slowly shamble their way onto Herschel’s homestead. Welcome back to the tension we haven’t felt since the season opener. What follows is the greatest amount of zombie bedlam that we have seen so far, before anyone can enter into any long winded speeches, before Rick can reveal to Carl that he had to kill Shane, the walking corpses wreak havoc upon the far to peaceful haven that was Hershel’s farm. Words can not express how happy I was to see this transpire the way it did. While admittedly it became an almost laughable video game version of fighting the undead with head shots abound, it was nice to see the characters actually dealing with the reality around them rather than just talking about it. Small anecdote, while watching the season finale my wife and I were placing bets on who wouldn’t make it out alive, you can’t have a hundred or so zombies swarm your farm house without a few causalities, right? As it turns out, the ones that died are whasthisname and the other one. I guess after the last two episodes where we lost Dale and Shane, killing off another principle character would almost seem cruel, so the loss of Jimmy and Patricia lets us have the effect of seeing characters die in the mayhem and also cuts out some of the background dead weight. As the chaos continues, we see the band of survivors split up as they all try to escape, Herschel valiantly defending his far all the while finally making him a character worth investing in, and the infamous barn burn to the ground. I found the imagery of the barns demise the most cathartic of the episode. The structure held so much importance to the events of the entire first half of the season, with it being turned to ash we know the show is moving forward.
In a sense of bring the season full circle, Rick, Carl and Herschel find themselves back at the same deadlock stretch of highway where the season began, waiting and hoping the rest find there way to the same location to regroup. Which of course most of them finally do. The joy of seeing a bloodstained Hyundai is short lived however as it is quickly revealed that Jimmy and Patricia are confirmed dead and that Andrea is missing. Another cathartic moment is that all this happens around the hood of the car where they left the note and supplies for Sophia way back in the first half. In a strange sense this made me care about that whole plot line for the first time in a long time, however this doesn’t last long as the hurried pace of the episode continues, touching on a question that has lingered since the end of the first season.
Ok, I don’t want to play supernerd here, but I was not surprised by the big reveal of what Jenner had whispered to Rick at the end of season 1 before the CDC building went all kablooie. Everyone is infected, everyone is just waiting to join the walking dead. The writers have gently teased that this is the case for while now. What did come of a little shocking is everyone’s reaction to Rick finally sharing that fact. Seriously, these people have been leaning on the dude the whole time to act as the leader, expecting him to make all the judgement calls and then freak-out on him when he does? Well done writers, I feel more for Rick’s plight now more than ever. What also bugged me was Lori, as usual, her reaction to Ricks killing of Shane seemed… off? Weird? Misplaced? I mean, really she has some blame to carry here as she knowingly or unknowingly manipulated both men and sent them down this all or nothing path, you’d think she would have a little more ownership of the situation rather than placing all the blame on Rick. Again, well played writers, I like Rick more and have found a new level of dislike for Lori. I did not know the later was possible.
On a similar theme of hitting new levels of interest in characters, am I the only one that suddenly starting liking Andrea with this episode? She really was becoming a character that annoyed me for the most part this season, but seeing her cut her way through the swarm of zombies and keep going gave me a new found respect for her. Granted, that is quickly overshadowed when the mysterious katana wielding, zombie leading hooded figure appears. Well, she is mysterious to only those that haven’t read the comic books, it’s Michonne, baby and things are about to get interesting. It will be very interesting to see how this character fits within the group, since she is walking into to a completely broken down group, and with Ricks announcement that his word is law, that ‘it is no longer a democracy’ all I can say is I really look forward to what season 3 will bring.
We will have to wait till this October to see how everything unfolds, however we have a few things we know are on the way. The closing shot of the prison for instance. I am sure readers of the comic book felt the same insane glee as I did with that shot, mind a flurry with everything that happened in the pages of the book and what it might bring to the small screen. Couple this with the knowledge that David Morrissey had been cast as The Governor and that that Michael Rooker will be back as Merle Dixon, season 3 should be filled with action and conflict at the very least.
To close things off, since we have no preview or teaser this time, I want to go back to the Morgan/Rick/walkie-talkie issue with a clip from the puppet based video blog, Glove and Boots. Seriously, for season 3, talk when you need to talk, but please remember there are zombies out there and that you should deal with them as well as your feelings.
See you in October.