'Walking Dead' season finale shows a return to form
'Walking Dead' ended its second season with a tease of what's to come next fall.
(This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the episode ‘Beside the Dying Fire’ and season 2 as a whole. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the entire season.)Skip to next paragraph
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What a difference a death makes. As occasionally entertaining as it was to have Shane (Jon Bernthal) around, watching him devolve into an ever-bigger threat toward Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his character was a lot like the walker Carl (Chandler Riggs) found at the edge of a creek: stuck. That metaphor of being stuck in the mud, and desperately trying to move on, pretty much sums up a great deal of The Walking Dead season 2.
Arguably, season 2 will be looked at as the swan song for Shane, whose downward spiral began with the killing of Otis, and perpetuated throughout the season with increasingly obsessive feelings toward Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl, as well as a need to best Rick at every turn.
But at a certain point the season will be scrutinized for how well it lived up to the expectations set forth by the first season, the continued success of creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, and the knowledge that Frank Darabont, the primary creative force behind the series, would be gone half-way through. More than the issue of expectation and Darabont’s shocking dismissal, however, The Walking Dead has it’s own internal concerns wherein the writers seemed to be struggling to find the essence and personalities of the characters experiencing the ongoing zombie apocalypse.
It was with the last half of season 2 – arguably the last four episodes – where the writers succeeded in unshackling themselves from the intermittent monotony brought about by the serial nature of the show. Case in point: the issue of Randall, wherein the show allowed time to pass that wasn’t necessarily accounted for. This was a major success for what has been described fairly often as a slow, drawn out season. By telling some compelling, full stories in the confines of a single episode, while also hinting at the future of the season and series, these “season 2.5” episodes have breathed new life into this undead series.
By in large, the events of the season’s finale, ‘Beside the Dying Fire,’ play into the idea of having a complete story arc contained within the runtime of a single episode. That’s not to say the episode didn’t leave plenty to speculate on, it certainly did, but those were glimpses of things to question and hold on to during the wait for season 3.