Entertaining Platt: The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale – “Beside the Dying Fire”

March 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

Waiting for a AAA truck that'll never come.

So long creepy farm, long may you burn.

Hello, sword-toting stranger with two armless pet zombies.

And, off in the distance, we see that Season 2’s budget actually went into a painting of Season 3’s destination: A maximum security prison!

When this finale ended, mostly I found myself thinking: Well, glad that’s over. Just for the record, I don’t think that’s the way a season finale should make me feel.

At the end of Season 1, I thought they had done a great job of introducing the characters, setting up the conflicts, and providing some mystique about the plague during the events leading up to the destruction of the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

At the end of Season 2, I’m left wondering why we spent so much time on Herschel’s farm, why Rick let Shane play rogue for so long, why Lori couldn’t watch her one kid (let alone bring a second into the zombie-infected world), and why we haven’t happened upon the hooded stranger or the prison people before this.

Well. Maybe the prison was 19 miles out?

Anyway, this episode killed off two perfectly useless characters, so it really lacked the punch of the last one, in which Shane died, came back to life, and died again (for good this time).

The finale hinted that zombies, like cats and your average voter, are distracted by shiny things that flash past above them and can become obsessed with them faster than you can say “gay rights,” “al Qaeda,” or “stealin’ our jarbs.” So, that was a bit of news disposed of before the credits rolled.

I had great hope for the show’s future when it appeared that the zombie invasion had scattered the survivors in multiple directions. An opportunity to let the smaller groups develop characters and more interesting narratives? Woo! But no. That hope faded when they all got back together again at the Sophiamobile on the highway less than ten minutes later.

I’m having trouble grasping Lori’s horrified reaction to Rick’s story of killing Shane. Isn’t that what she wanted? Wasn’t that the point of her Lady Macbeth plotting and scheming, pitting Rick and Shane against each other? Did she really love Shane and expected HIM to prevail in a showdown against her husband? Or is she more disgusted by the fact that Carl, the kid SHE FAILED TO WATCH AGAIN, had to pull the trigger on Shane to put him down for good?

And Rick’s final monologue actually rang hollow for me, especially the bit where he frantically assured people that he killed his best friend for this bunch of losers in the group. He didn’t kill Shane for the group. He killed Shane to protect himself and to eliminate a threat to his family. He didn’t even give Shane the minimal due process that they’d given Randall.

It’s not that I wish Rick hadn’t killed Shane. I just think it’s becoming obvious that Rick probably wasn’t the best cop in rural Georgia before the apocalypse hit, and now he’s got some messianic delusions kicking in.

Of everything that happened in the finale, I was most pleased with Andrea’s adventure through the woods. Abandoned by Rick and friends, she single-handedly did away with quite a few walkers, including some she face-stabbed and another she slammed into the trunk of a tree. So much for her suicidal thoughts, huh?

For her, and for the mysterious zombie trainer, I’ll be back for Season 3. But right now I just don’t give much of a damn for Rick and his crew.


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§ 2 Responses to Entertaining Platt: The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale – “Beside the Dying Fire”

  • Bill Murphy says:

    My understanding, from what I’ve read about the comic (though I have not read the comic itself) is that the prison is abandoned, more or less (whether there are walkers in it is another story.) So I don’t think there are “prison people” to encounter. Rick was looking for a “safe place”; one could reason that a place designed to keep dangerous people IN is equally good at keeping dangerous zombies (and people) OUT. As far as scattering the group to the winds, I think there were a few problems with that. Did anyone really want to follow a storyline just involving Lori, T-Dog and… whatever the name of Maggie’s sister is? I suppose Daryl and Carol might have been interesting as Daryl tried to keep the largely useless Carol alive, but it’d make the “Redneck Jedi” into too much of a deliberately heroic character. And Rick, Herschel and Carl *might* have been interesting, mainly because we’d have learned more about Herschel. That leaves us only with Maggie and Glen as interesting characters to follow alone. I think the daring move would not have been to scatter the group, but to kill off most of them, leaving a small core group of survivors, say four or five at most (I’d go with Rick, Glen, Maggie, Daryl and maybe Herschel) to carry on the next season. In that event everyone would have lost someone in the escape from the farm, and the group would be too small to bother with nonsense like who’s in charge… survival would be too much in doubt.

    But I think the main problem with this season was its length… it was too long. Season 1 was only 6 episodes long. This gave it a sense of urgency… a lot was revealed in each episode, and so much occurred so fast that when it was over it left you wanting more. This season was 13 episodes long, and it was clear they did not know what to do with the time. It seems clear that they were reserving some of the developments of the comic, including the prison, the sword-wielding woman warrior, and the most popular villain of the comic, for season 3 or beyond. So they stretched out the first half of the season with very little action or effective plot development. It gave the sense of filling space that they had not expected to have (the producers may have expected to get another 6 or 7 episode order and instead got 13.) I think if you edit the season down, taking, say, the first two episodes and the last episode from the first half and the last three or four from the second half, it goes a long way to restoring the pacing of the series from season 1. And that’s six or seven episodes.

    I don’t have a problem with Rick putting up with Shane for so long. The only alternative to trying to get him to behave better was to kill him, and the man had been his best friend for years, and saved the lives of his wife and child. It SHOULD be hard to come to the decision to kill him. He needed Shane to force the issue to bring himself to where he was willing to do it. They might have let that moment be three episodes ago in the pumping station, but I think we’re supposed to see Rick changing… he leaves Shane for dead, then thinks better of it and saves him, and fools himself into thinking he domesticated Shane in the process.

    I think the main point of this season was to show the change in Rick. At the start, they lose Sophia, and he risks everything and everyone on a long, hopeless search to find her. At the end, they lose Andrea, and he won’t risk anyone to go after her. In season 1, he risked everything to find his family, and now he was willing to leave his wife behind not knowing if she was alive or dead. The problem was they could have brought about this change a lot faster and with less hand-wringing along the way…again, I think they found themselves with too much time on their hands.

    • Wes Platt says:

      Good points about the changes in Rick over the course of the season. I agree that the problem with the pacing probably boils down to the fact they had too much time (and not enough budget) to do the story right.

      I had forgotten how short Season 1 was, by comparison, and I think this season really did suffer from length, plus the hiatus between the first half and the second half of the season.

      Shows like this shouldn’t be much more than 10 episodes a season. Keep ’em tight!

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