Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
**Disclaimer: Contains spoilers – do not read until you’ve seen the season 2 finale**
“This is not a Democracy anymore,” says Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to the remaining survivors who have barely escaped a zombie attack on Hershel’s farm, or what used to be Hershel’s farm, in the finale of season 2 of the AMC cable channel’s hit series, The Walking Dead.
While walking Carl (Chandler Riggs) back to the farm after killing Shane (Jon Bernthal) twice – first, when he was going to murder Rick and the second time when Shane rose from the ground as a zombie – Rick and Carl are shocked and horrified to see a herd of “walkers” heading straight for them and the farm. Meanwhile, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Hershel (Scott Wilson), and the rest of the group back on the farm have also noticed the army of undead heading their way. Deciding the best defense is a good offense, the gang quickly formulates a plan to use the vehicles and their weapons and take the fight to the zombies before they actually get to the farm house.
It’s early during the attack on the farm that Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) realizes that Carl is not safely hiding upstairs but missing, and she frantically bothers everyone not engaged in the fight to search for her son. (Lori is unaware that Carl snuck out and caught up to Rick and is at this very moment hiding in the barn surrounded by hungry flesh-eaters.)
To escape the undead, Rick and Carl set the barn a blaze after letting a group of zombies in to go up in flames. They quickly head out of one of the 2nd level windows and use the RV to get down and head for cover.
Although Hershel, Daryl, Rick, Andrea (Laurie Holden), Glenn and the rest of the group put up an admirable fight, they all quickly realize that there are far too many zombies for them to stop. Separated into different groups and one cut off and left behind (poor Andrea just can’t catch a break), everyone has to try to fight their way off the farm and back to the main highway in hopes of escaping the flesh-eaters, re-grouping and surviving.
The Walking Dead season 2 finale “Beside the Dying Fire” concludes the horror/soap opera series with spine-tingling suspense and drama that’s usually only experienced watching big screen horror films. The battle on the farm between the survivors and the undead is riveting and will keep the audience guessing who will make it off the farm alive and who will become a meal for the hungry, ugly, decaying, flesh-eaters. One can’t help but wonder why the group couldn’t see when the army of zombies were heading towards the farm that there were way too many of them to kill, corral and control. Why didn’t they just load up into Dale’s RV and the other vehicles and head out in the opposite direction in search of a new home?!
The performances in this episode are perhaps some of the finest from the cast, with everyone acting tough and becoming warriors while also showing true terror as their fight against the undead begins to turn and they all realize just how vulnerable they all are. Especially impressive in this episode are the performances of Andrew Lincoln, Lauren Holden, Scott Wilson, Lauren Cohan, Steven Yeun and Norman Reedus who have become by far the most interesting, conflicted and soulful characters in the series.
The production on this episode outdid itself, with all the different zombie slayings as well as the destruction of the farm and the stunning cinematic scene of the burning collapse of the barn.
This is without a doubt the best episode of the season, finally allowing the show to become what it always should have been: a truly scary, dark, apocalyptic zombie series. Finally back on the open road, the band of survivors, terrified, distrusting, and unsure of their next move will soon be faced with new challenges, meeting up with a new character and trying to stay clear of hungry zombies on the prowl. Here’s looking forward to Season 3.
The Walking Dead season 2 finale “Beside the Dying Fire” aired on March 18, 2012.