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Recap | The Walking Dead: ‘Beside the Dying Fire’

“My hands are clean!”Rick

I could probably pick apart the frayed threads of the second-season finale of The Walking Dead — it too-neatly echoes the Season 1 finale, with the burning barn replacing the exploding CDC and Rick’s revelation of Jenner’s secret, the characters are all suddenly expert shots with unlimited ammo, Jimmy and Patricia are proven the redshirts we always knew them to be — but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s a case of lowered expectations, or maybe I was mesmerized by the 20-minute Battle for the Farm (hats off to director Ernest Dickerson). But whatever the case, Otis help me, I enjoyed “Beside the Dying Fire.” A lot.

If “Better Angels” was, at least before last night, the best episode of the season, then “Beside the Dying Fire” is probably the strongest since the November 2010 series premiere, delivering the action, the zombies and the body count so many have been clamoring for while freeing the show from the momentum-killing morass of the farm, clearing out some of the deadwood — you live to do nothing another day, T-Dog! — introducing a fan-favorite character from the comic series, the sword-wielding Michonne, and offering a glimpse of The Prison. That’s a staggering achievement for a show that spent much of the previous 12 episodes marching in place, waiting first for the arrival of the midseason finale and then the home stretch.

Of course, it took an enormous herd of walkers that had been slowwwwwly moving and growing since the fall of Atlanta to do what neither Shane nor Hershel could accomplish throughout the season: get Rick & Co. back on the road. I’m still unclear how Shane and Rick sidestepped the groaning mass of undead in the woods, but we’ll just chalk that up to one of the mysteries of life … or, y’know, one of the many plot holes of The Walking Dead. However, its emergence from the shadowy treeline and into the open fields of the Greene farm is chilling, cutting short Rick’s fumbling attempt to explain to Carl how Shane became a walker, and saving the audience from what likely would’ve been an exhausting 20-minute confession/debate once they returned to the group.

While the two make a run for the barn, the alarm goes up at the farmhouse, where Hershel and the others hatch a laughable plan to kill as many walkers as they can and then use the vehicles to lead whatever remains away from the farm. Shane’s firearm classes apparently were more extensive than you might have imagined, as the survivors are transformed into world-class snipers, able to make repeated unerring head shots from the windows of moving cars. Lori being Lori, she discovers at the most inopportune moment that Carl is once again missing, triggering a frantic search of the house (seriously, either keep a better eye on that kid or hang a bell around his neck).

But Carl, fresh from shooting zombie-Shane, has his own problems, as his father makes him key to his own plan to fight the walkers — one that involves setting fire to the barn with the zombies, and the Grimes boys, inside. It’s only slightly more effective than Hershel’s idea, and leads to Jimmy’s death when he drives the RV into the horde to rescue Rick and Carl from the hayloft. On the plus side — that is, if you don’t consider the death of Jimmy as a positive — their scheme does provide the big scene with a beautiful, flaming centerpiece. Farewell, Jimmy. We’ll memorialize you with a roundup of your best lines:                                                       . Amen.

Determined to save his farm or die trying, Hershel makes a valiant stand, killing walker after walker as they inch closer to the house. Everyone else, though, realizes the battle is lost, and so a disorganized retreat begins, with Patricia brought down even as Lori and Beth make their way to T-Dog’s truck. Carol, seemingly destined to play either damsel in distress or affronted party, is rescued first by Andrea and then by her knight on shining Triumph Bonneville, Daryl. As thanks for her effort, Andrea is separated from the group and left behind (curiously, T-Dog later says he saw her fall, but we know that’s not the case).

Story continues below

Dragging Hershel out of danger, Rick takes him and Carl to the spot on the highway where they left supplies for Sophia, the group’s apparent rallying point. In a perplexing turn, even for The Walking Dead, Hershel quickly and easily convinces Rick that he should take Carl and go, that his son is all that matters now. After waiting only minutes, Rick begins to explain to Carl why they have to leave but is interrupted by Daryl leading in the ragtag parade of survivors: Glenn, Maggie, Carol, T-Dog, Beth and Lori.

Following a little perfunctory hand-wringing about Andrea’s fate — unbeknown to the others, she’s rescued in the woods by the well-time appearance of a sword-swinging hooded woman trailing two shackled armless, and jawless, zombies behind her — they set off in hopes of putting some distance between themselves and the herd. Rick attempts to buoy their spirits by pledging that there’s a place out there where they cannot only hunker down but make a life for themselves. Unfortunately, though, he undermines his own words of inspiration by revealing what Jenner whispered to him, that “We’re all infected,” and “Whatever it is, we all carry it,” before confessing first to Lori and later the group that he killed Shane. Although he initially suggests to an angry Lori, who only days before plotted Shane’s death, that his motives were personal — “I just wanted it over, I wanted him dead” — he later erupts on Carol and the other doubters, insisting he only had the welfare of the group in mind: “I killed my best friend for you people, for Christ’s sake!”

Clearly transformed, and possibly unhinged, by the death of Shane, Rick responds to the doubts of the fragile and jumpy group — Glenn’s dismay that he kept Jenner’s secret all this time and Carol’s fears that he can’t keep them safe — with an invitation for to leave. However, “If you’re staying, this isn’t a democracy anymore.” As Rick lays down the law to the shell-shocked survivors huddling together in the darkness, we’re given our first glimpse of what will next test their resolve: The Prison.

Grade: A


  • Ben Barnard

    I’m stoked for Michonne.  I’m stoked for prison.  I’m stoked for the Governor.   But most of all…


  • nycesq2012

    I think Andrea did fall albeit temporarily.  I remember a scene where either intentionally or unintentionally she is lying under a walker that had been taken out and gets up to run away. 
    Have to agree the last two episdes really kicked it up a notch.  As someone who has read the comics I am glad that they change things up to keep it fresh even for loyal friends.

  • Aaron Another

    “But whatever the case, Otis help me, I enjoyed “Beside the Dying Fire.” A lot.”

    You sound ashamed to like the show – from the beginning you’ve been predisposed to dislike it.  Can’t we get someone a little more middle of the road?

  • Spacedog2k5

    I know there’s been a more than fair amount of grumbling and fanboy rants in regard to the changes in the series following the departure of Frank Darabont; however, I have found the series to be on track, neither failing to entertain, as well as encourage post-show thoughts. Last night’s episode was a “buckle in, gang” kinda episode, with the final few moments being esp. great, as it bodes an interest direction for Season 3. My fiancee and I are anxiously awaiting the start date for the new Season..

  • Mark J. Hayman

    Archetypal Michonne pre-introduction, complete with katana and entourage.  Not that it matters one whit, but one wonders vaguely who was under the hoodie given the just announced casting.  In any event, I was all that jazzed.  Nearly as tripped out with the foreboding shot of The Prison.  Figured the idea would get dumped what with a chunk of their budget having been diverted to pay the Mad Men cast…  So, details (and spoilers) aside, next season’s finale has been set, what with Governor Who already having been revealed.

    If No Prizes were mine to lavish, I’d send you a bucketful for going two for two, last week; correctly judging the general surprise that a bite isn’t required to reanimate and the mystery of Jenner’s enigmatic whisper.  Your were right and I was wrong.  I’d maybe make a claim for pointing out the overall dumbness of the group, but that’s wholly self-evident by now.  Your Jenner insight was sort of on the nose, though – you wouldn’t have a cousin in the editing department, hmm?  ;-)

  • Kevin Melrose

    Maybe you should re-read (or read) my previous 18 recaps: If anything, I’m probably predisposed to liking the series, but it’s frequently let me down this season. I think I’m pretty straightforward about my issues with the show — lack of character development, characters behaving illogically simply because that’s what the plot requires, etc. — none of which have anything to do with a bias against the larger material.

  • Anonymous

    Eh. I actually thought this was one of the weaker entries of the season. Rick spent the back half of the episode yelling, and without Shane, there was no one to yell back at him. There was no conflict, just shouting. I greatly prefer the “quiet” episodes from the first half of the season.

  • Huskie

     I thought the episode was awesome minus 2 glaring problems. Lori’s reaction was terrible and continues to make her a completely unlikable character. A week ago she tells Rick to kill Shane and then when he does it in self defense she freaks. Also, Rick’s speech at the end was totally over the top. He needed to be strong, but also focus on the strength that the group brings instead basically saying its my way or the highway. He should of offered anyone who wants to go can go, but the only way we’re going to survive is to rely on one another. Both speeches were just a way of creating more drama by the writers that really didn’t need to be there. Also, kill Carol off. She’s terrible.

  • Booster Gold

    I loved Hershel’s line. something like. “We were promised that the Resurrection was going to come, but I didn’t expect it to be like this”

  • Booster Gold

    Rick’s taking on some Shane persona and lashing out at the group says to me that Season 3 means more transformation for Rick ahead. Especially when he sees what kind of leader the Governor is and realizes that that type of leader is what he has changed into after killing Shane. 

  • Hutchimus

    Reading your review, I’d never guess it was an “A.”  Most of the positives you provide are loaded with snark and seem back-handed, at best, and the negatives given much more time and seem to stick out more than anything else.  I’m not looking for a review that only sings the positives of a show, but is the snark really that necessary?

  • Hutchimus

    I also got the sense that Rick, Carl, and Hershel were hanging out on the highway longer than a few minutes.  We don’t know how long they’ve been there when the rest of the crew shows up.  I got the impression they had been dodging more than the one walker we saw.  Herschel even says something “this place isn’t safe anymore.”

  • Anonymous

    Regarding how Shane and Rick sidestepped the groaning mass of undead in the woods – it’s been established that it takes about 2 hours for someone to reanimate after dying (according to Jenner).  That means that Rick was sitting by Shane’s body for 2 hours before Carl came upon them.  That would have given the zombie herd 2 hours to hear Shane’s gunshot and start walking their way. 

    The bigger issue I had was how the zombies arrived so fast from the side, apparently, that they couldn’t get to the house, which was right in front of them, and had to run through a bunch of zombies just to get to the barn.  Also, why did Jimmy leave the door to the RV open so the zombies could get in? (I don’t recall them pounding it in)  And how did a zombie sneak up on Patricia like that, and why weren’t they running?  Nice nod to a recent zombie kill in the comic book, minus the cutting off of the hand that won’t let go. 

    *Spoiler* In the comic, I forget where the helicopter comes from, but its crashing is what sets up the encounter with the governor’s people.  Also, wonder if they’ll have one of the prisoner’s be a child molester/serial killer like they did in the comic.

  • Masked Man Issue 1

    However walking the revelation that they were all the “walking dead”, it should have been perfectly clear that Rick just didn’t know what to do with that information until he saw Shane himself turn into a zombie (he had hints way back when they were 18 miles out, but nothing as conclusive as a zombified Shane). However appalling the revelation of Rick murdering Shane, everyone in the group at this point had the facts from the parallel search from Daryl and Glenn, that Shane had a plan to murder Rick. 

    So, as much as I loved the ending and in particular the fanboy shoutouts of Michonne and the jail, the horrified faces and reactions by Lori and Carol, but also Glenn and Maggie, were completely uncalled for. I’m so glad Rick snapped at all of them and gave them the choice of the Ricktatorship or the road. A much different relationship with the group than in the comic books at this point, but I’m interested to see where it goes.

    Also, man, the governor and the prison cannot come soon enough, because we need to get rid of Lori and Carol and get some new characters (Michonne, Tyreese) in. Speaking of Tyreese, is it possible that Daryl has become the replacement for Tyreese in this rendition of TWD? His status as badass right hand man that eventually gets it going with Carol only to break her heart seems to indicate YES. But the return of Merle could complicate this relationship greatly. I’m betting 5 bucks that Merle will be with the Governor’s gang and that that his return will be the undoing of our beloved fan-favorite Daryl.

  • Foray

    Yes it is necessary. This show needs to be brought down a level. It is getting way to much praise for mediocre plotting and acting. I’m excited for the set up of Season 3 but the same type of set up happened at the end of Season 1 and all we got for season 2 was a bunch of over dramatic assholes wandering aimlessly around the farm. These people need to pull their shit together and accomplish something. Granted there has been more solid parts in Season 2 but I find there is only 20 minutes of good content and 40 minutes of waste. I hope the writers can turn this around so we can have some episodes with writing that’s on par to AMC’s other series like Breaking Bad. Snark away!

  • Hutchimus

    “Yes it is necessary. This show needs to be brought down a level.” Honest?! Typical interwebs nonsense. “Bring it down a level” by not watching it. Snarky reviews with a Grade of “A” don’t do anything.

  • 0bsessions

    My money says they switch out Lori for Carl for the TV show. Carl’s comic book character arc is rendered impossible by filming schedule unless they start switching out the actor every season. A similar emotional gravitas (And bonus drama between Lori and Rick) can be brought about by killing off Carl instead of Lori and it comes with the added benefit of writing out a character whose aging is soon going to throw the plot of the show off (See Malcolm David Kelley on Lost).

  • Adam

    Entertainment weekly said it best. “This show has enjoyed massive success without being particularly good”. At this point the show is raking it in all the while being very inconsistent and suffering from poor writing and dialogue in some parts.

  • Anonymous

    It seemed that the one walked they saw was close enough to hear the noise and walk back.  The scene on the highway and the camp out was only the next day of the farm burning. 

  • Anonymous

    Lori has always been unlikable, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  

  • Hutchimus

    Positive or negative reviews, successful without being good; that doesn’t matter to me.  What bugs me is the snark and condescention that comes through in these reviews and then has an “A” or “B+” stuck at the end.  And it’s not limited to Spinoff’s Walking Dead reviews, they’re just good examples of it.

    Said my piece, not going to change the culture of internet reviews in the comments section of this blog.

  • Mark J. Hayman

     You’re the sort of people who yell SPOILERS at the back of a crowded firehouse, aren’t you?

    I wouldn’t be unhappy to see a semi-regular Carl-swap (though we shouldn’t overlook the miracles of underage smoking and drinking; Drew Barrymore might have grown up to be seven feet tall).  Spoilers notwithstanding, the crux of the story is the Rick & Carl show; making fundamental plot changes just for the sake of change is rarely wise, even as being a slavish adaptation of the book would have been silly.  The show needs to be it’s own thing but outright rejection of key plot elements makes it something other than The Walking Dead.

    At this point, however, I’m about ready to see everyone but Glenn get bumped off, with Lori at the top of my list.  Actually I’d save Andrea, too, but that’s just my thing for Laurie Holden.

  • Waddupjoshjohn

    kevin melrose, t-dawg was right. he saw andrea go down. if you dvr it, you can see from the next scene after andrea turns around and shoot the walker in the head, he falls on top of her. from there, andrea doesn’t even move until t-dawg drives off.

    when rick explains to lori why he killed shane, she reacts with anger. that pissed me off! i don’t know what the writers were thinking when they wrote that scene, but ask anyone, with what was happening with shane and rick, lori had no right to be angry! lori’s character is written for the audience to hate, and they’re doing a great job of it! and yes, lori is a horrible mom because it seem to me that she NEVER has an eye on her son! he’s always takes off and it’s not until everything is going nuts, than she goes looking for him! i can’t wait for her to be killed because that’s what’s going to happen in the 3rd season.

    the sword carrying women is the best character in the comic series! finally she makes her appearance. i hope they do her justice! and can’t wait for david morrisey to come in as the governor. looking forward to it!

  • RogueFan

    I liked the finale. There were some questionable moments, but all in all, the back half of season 2 is so much better than the front half.  Only issue I really had is that they didn’t kill off enough characters. I was hoping that T-Dog would bite it so that we’d be getting rid of the dead weight. Two more pieces of dead weight that should have gotten it would have to be Carol and Beth.  Looking forward to Michonne (even though I think Rutina Wesley would have KILLED in that role), but please writers, Kill off T-Dog, Carol, Hershel, and Beth ASAP.

  • Ben Barnard

    I’ve been thinking the show might jump time in the prison, aging the characters a couple of years there before sending them back into the fray.  It wouldn’t be onscreen, but it would be occasional months spattered between episodes.  Because, let’s face it, Carl finally manned up.  Lori is still… Lori.

  • Ghost

     Yes, Andrea shot a walker in the head when he was right on top of her, and it fell on her.  T-Dog and others saw this from a distance and thought “she’s fallen” (since in the dark and confusion it looked like the zombie was chowing down on her).

  • Savonti

     As much as I love Tyreese (I prefer him to Michonne actually) I do think that with everything that’s happened in the story so far, compounded with Daryl’s presence that there isn’t really a place for him anymore. At least what he added to the story in the comics has been achieved elsewhere. He’ll just be another guy if he shows up at all.

     I think you may be right in that Daryl (and not T-Dawg, for the record) is the “replacement” Tyreese.

  • Savonti

     I think the thing to remember is while Lori did pull Ricks’ strings to have him take care of Shane, she also (the next episode?) pulled Shane’s strings at the windmill, giving him hope once more and in that sending him after Rick.

     Really I’m saying she was so angry because she would have rather had Shane come back than Rick and that scene at the windmill made her realize it.

  • Shanes brain matter

    Am i the ONLY one who noticed that  Carol is becoming the next ‘Shane’ type of troublemaker??

    Shes out to get Rick.

    Shes trying to turn Daryl and everyone in the group against Rick

    Oh please i hope she gets ripped to shreds.

    If the Farm took all season– THE PRISON is gonna take at least 1-2 full seasons.

  • Meryls hand

    Judging by the pace of this season.. the prison might take 2 seasons to tell.
    And Lori doesnt die until the very end of the prison storyline…. could be yrs before we see her take the bullet.

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    “Not that it matters one whit, but one wonders vaguely who was under the
    hoodie given the just announced casting.”

    No doubt a stuntwoman or actress whose face was deliberately not shown, since at the time of filming the role hadn’t been cast.
    When next season starts, after the recap, there’ll be an insert shot of Danai Gurira removing the hood, and then we go from there…
    What I’m wondering is how much we’ll see her boyfriend and best friend in medium and full-body shots, considering the cgi needed to show them armless and jawless.

  • Krayz

    The only thing I can think of that the Governor is running the Prison…

  • Ben Barnard

     Well, whenever it happens, I’ll be there, being excited, enjoying her death.

  • Ian

    Now that’s just a depressing thought.  I think it’s both a combination of muttled bad writing and the actor herself, but I just HATE Lori.  I will be pretty miffed if they change it and she manages to live through the end of the prison arc (and PLEASE make it ONE season and not DRAG it out for TWO AMC.)