The Walking Dead: ‘Beside the Dying Fire': Season 2 Finale

The Walking Dead Season 2 finale, much like the season as a whole, was full of slow character-driven scenes scattered with occasional bouts of action.  The good parts are very good, but the characters in this show, as I’ve said before, do a lot more talking than doing.

The final destruction of Hershel’s farm was vivid and entertaining, and the loss of a couple of extraneous characters made it impactful.  The real season finale, however, was Episode 12, in which Shane meets his end, not this episode.  This episode just sets the series up for its next season, by introducing two major new character subplots and hinting at the group’s destination from here out.

Andrea meets an awesome katana-wielding someone after being separated from the others who will clearly be somehow important in Season 3, and Lorrie’s disgusted response to Rick’s revelation that he killed Shane destroys whatever peace and stability we might have expected after Shane’s disruptive influence was removed.  Rick also seems to be growing harder and more authoritarian, which should prove interesting.  The last shot of the episode zooms out to show a prison, where the characters will presumably end up next season.  I remember hearing that there was a prison involved in the graphic novel, so they’re clearly drawing from the source material, but it makes me nervous.  The farm was in the comics too, but the show’s writers and producers took what should have been about six episodes worth of material and stretched it out to cover the entire second season.  As good as parts of this season were, the fact that the group remained almost entirely stationary at one location meant that the plot dragged more often than it had to.  Leading the characters into another holdfast, especially one as (presumably) defensible as a prison facility, portends more of the same.  Will season 3 be 13 episodes of deep conversation while the characters watch zombies hurl themselves at the prison fence?  They’d better come up with some compelling damn plot if they plan on leaving everyone in one place again for another season.

In all, while I enjoyed Season 2 quite a bit, I thought the pacing needed a jump start and the plot needed more substance.

The Walking Dead: ‘Better Angels’

So Shane’s dead.  Yeah, yeah, spoilers, blah blah blah.  The penultimate episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead was surprisingly good, due mostly to the ending.  The tension between Rick and Shane came to an abrupt climax when Shane saw the opportunity to solve the (prisoner) Randall problem and his Rick problem in one fell swoop.

I liked that over the past few episodes the writers built a false sense of security in the Shane/Rick relationship: after the fistfight in Episode 10, “Eighteen Miles Out,” we thought there might be a possibility of reconciliation.  Even when Shane started agitating for a harder line about security, we thought that at most there might be a leadership struggle, maybe an outright mutiny.  But Shane’s decision to arrange the cold-blooded murder of his best friend was a surprise, despite the fact that in hindsight it makes sense.  I figured Shane would get killed off at some point, since in the comics he dies relatively early on.  It’s sad to see a favorite character go, but this also means that the themes and plot devices of this season have been fully played out, and the story will have to evolve and continue in a different way now.  New conflict will need to be established.  And with the tide of walkers approaching the farm (rather arbitrarily, don’t you think?), we’ll see whether they group ends up staying or going.

The Walking Dead: ‘Judge, Jury, Executioner’

Season 2 Episode 11 of The Walking Dead continued the same punctuated pacing that has characterized the season as a whole, but it works more effectively in this episode than it has in the past.  The moral dilemma of how to deal with prisoner Randall results in a discussion of ethics and what constitutes civilized behavior in an uncivilized world.  The episode’s message seems to be clear by the end, however…

SPOILERS BELOW.

As Dale, the voice of compassion, reason, and civil rights, the only one to speak out passionately and consistently against the execution of Randall, ends up dead.  Eaten, no less, by the same zombie who Carl failed to kill in the woods.  The question that the episode implies is how does the group function now, without Dale’s voice of dissent?  Will they fall down the slippery slope of safety over civility?  With only two episodes of the season left, we can expect to see the tension between Rick and Shane develop further.  My question is, how will it wrap up?  Will the group shatter?  Will they move on?  Who else won’t make it?

The Walking Dead: ‘Triggerfinger’

Last night’s Walking Dead episode, “Triggerfinger” (Season 2, Episode 9) was more of the same from our favorite angsty zombie drama: intense emoting by the characters, punctuated by brief, innocuous action, none of which particularly moves the plot forward.

There’s a lot of good story there, particularly with the Rick versus Shane tension coming to a head, but the pacing is just too slow to be completely engaging.

The stationary setting of the farm has only contributed to this plot stagnation.  Something has to happen, really happen, and soon.  Something big.  I have a feeling the producers saw an opportunity to expand an important but comparatively short portion of the original comics with this second season, drawing out something that was never intended to fill ten hours of television, even with the changes they’ve made (Shane’s continued existence at this point in the story is the biggest diversion from the comics).  The group should have been long gone from the farm by now, and on to their next adventure.

‘The Walking Dead’ Needs to Start Running

So the midseason opener (Season 2, Episode 8) of AMC’s The Walking Dead was…pretty much more of the same.  Why do they think this whole farm sequence is so gripping?  It isn’t.  It’s slow.  Sure, there has been some solid acting.  Yes, we still like the characters and want to know how they develop.  Yes, Lori’s pregnancy and Carl’s shooting and Shane sacrificing Otis and Glenn and Maggie’s romance are all good plot elements.  But the pacing of this entire season has been too slow.  The search for Sophia was downright boring, and we didn’t know the character well enough to really become attached to her.  Finding out she was a zombie was relieving, because it meant they could stop looking, when it should have been horrifying.

I’ll give you the midseason opener.  You wrapped up the major story arc of the first half of the season, and it ended with Rick pulling some badass cowboy shit.  I’m not sure I would have started the second half of the season right where the first half left off, but you felt you had to explore the emotional responses of the characters to their time searching for the little girl.  Fine.  Now get the story going before those aforementioned good plot elements get so dragged out that their resolutions lose impact.

Bear McCreary Has a YouTube Channel!

Any Battlestar Galactica fan worth her salt knows who Bear McCreary is.  He composed all of the original music for the show, is currently working on AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead, and is easily the most interesting composer working in television today.  Despite owning the BSG soundtrack albums and loving his music, I’d managed to miss the fact that Mr. McCreary has his own YouTube channel, which he updates regularly.  Around six months ago he started posting solo piano performances of his BSG pieces.  Here is playing the stunningly beautiful “Battlestar Sonatica”:

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