The Walking Dead: 'Beside the Dying Fire' Recap and Review

In the season two finale of The Walking Dead, after escaping the massacre at the barn, our characters meet up at the highway from the season premiere, gathering around the car marked with a message for Sophia.  It’s only fitting that in a season that spent so much time spinning its wheels, we ended up right back where we started.  I don’t necessarily think the show was cleverly trying to make this point, but it still got a chuckle out of me.  And, honestly, after a great episode like tonight’s, I’m willing to forgive an awful lot of this season’s transgressions.

Picking up where last week’s episode left off, a massive horde of zombies approached the farm, threatening to chow down on everything in their path.  Our characters kicked into survival mode, coming up with a suitably dumb plan to take out the horde, which was predictably ineffective.  While bad for our characters, however, this turn of events was great for us viewers, as we got to watch every one of our characters scramble to survive.  It played like the antithesis of the freeway survival scene from the season premiere, all gunfire and explosions, where that scene was all stealth up-close kills, although it was just as effective.

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The loss of the farm took up about half of the episode, which I was perfectly fine with.  If we’re going to spend that much time in one place, it needs to be a big deal when we leave.  Herschel got plenty of badass moments as he mowed down zombie after zombie, all while yelling about his farm.  Also, we finally lost Jimmy and Patricia, who everyone had sort of forgotten about a while back anyways.  Another interesting development is the loss of the RV, which only makes sense considering the loss of Dale a few episodes ago.  It just feels… right.  Andrea also got some great kills during this sequence, but we’ll talk more about her a bit later.  All in all, this scene was one of the better action sequences the show has ever done, with our whole cast getting to participate in the mayhem.  

Wait.  I have to stop the review here to get something off of my chest.  This would probably work better further along in this recap, but I don’t care: I hate the kid that plays Carl.  I know good child actors are hard to find, but the kid just bugs me, and he only seems capable of playing one emotion.  I really enjoy the character in the comic, but I am incapable of doing so in the show, because I always just want him to shut his stupid face.  That is all.

Back to the action!  The plan falls apart, and our crew gets separated, leaving Andrea behind under the assumption that she’s walker-food.  All of these scenes in the cars were fine, but not thrilling.  I liked the one with Lori and T-Dog, just cause it gave T-Dog something to do, but the bits with Herschel, Rick, and Carl at the freeway rubbed me the wrong way.  Everyone was acting irrational, even for this show, and it seemed weird that they weren’t gonna just, you know, wait till everyone got there.  Then, miraculously, they all did!  At the same time!  This was a little weird, but I preferred it to the alternative, which was to keep everyone waiting around for each other.  It’s a coincidence, but at least all that stuff is out of the way.  

The only other thing from this episode that I didn’t like was Lori’s reaction to Rick confessing that he killed Shane, which didn’t make a lick of sense.  Just a few episodes ago she was pretty much asking Rick to kill him,  and now she’s so mad at Rick for doing it that she won’t even let him touch her.  Never mind that Shane tried to rape her, or that Rick was acting in self defense.  We’ve been shown time and time again that Lori acts in irrational ways, so I guess I should stop being surprised, but it feels less like a character choice and more like the writers just don’t know what to do with her.  Meh, whatever.

Let’s talk about Andrea now.  Her storyline this episode was basically just a showcase for her badassery, as she took down walker after walker while being pursued through the forest.  When she ran out of ammo, she used trees.  And the butt of her gun.  And a knife.  And her boots.  Pretty much whatever she had on her.  This sequence was great, as the danger felt real and immediate, with the walkers slowly closing in, and Andrea getting more and more tired.  And then, just when it seemed like the last walker was gonna get her, it happened.

It’s hard for me to judge this show on its own merits sometimes, since I’m such a big fan of the comic series that it’s based on.  The character that showed up to save her is, without giving anything away for those that haven’t read them, totally F*CKING AWESOME, as if you couldn’t tell by the fact that she was carrying a samurai sword and had two armless, jawless zombies chained to her.  I’m envious of all of you who haven’t read the books, as I’m sure that scene was so weird, and cool and wonderful that you just can’t wait to see who the hell this lady is.  And let me tell you, you won’t be disappointed.  Gah, it was so cool.  Alright, sorry, fanboy gushing over, I promise.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, Rick is getting mean.  I’m glad the show is finally going in this direction, showing the pressure that Rick is under as his group starts to question him, forcing him into an outburst where he rightfully points out that he never asked to be a leader.  A harder, more morally ambiguous Rick is exactly what I want for the show, cause his hero-cowboy mode was getting old. When he told them that this was ‘no longer a democracy,’ I got chills a little bit, because we as viewers know that things are only going to get tougher from here, and the choices that Rick has to make are going to test him more and more.  

Which brings us to the last shot of the prison.  After the drudgery of the farm, many viewers are probably dreading watching everyone try to settle down in a new place next season, but the prison is rife with all sorts of possibilities that the farm lacked, both dramatically and thematically.  I, personally, am looking forward to seeing what lies in wait for them there, which is something I haven’t been able to say all season.

And that, ultimately, was the major victory of this episode.  After a season that fluctuated wildly between exhilarating and crushingly dull and frustrating.  The season premiere was great, featuring that wonderfully staged sequence on the freeway, and by finding its way back there this episode — it’s as if the show found it’s way back to that energy, creating a solid, gripping hour that has me eagerly awaiting season 3.  Good work, Walking Dead.   I knew you had it in you.

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Eric Zipper Eric Zipper is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. When he's not making you laugh, playing video games, or watching movies, he's probably sleeping. Follow him on Twitter @erzip
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