Walking Dead: Beside the Dying Fire Review (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Review Date: Sunday, March 18, 2012


Last week I commented in my review that I thought the writing on “Better Angels” was sloppy. Perhaps sloppy was the wrong word. A better word might be…convenient. Convenient writing has been a hallmark of season two. For example, most of the time the undead shamble about in typical George Romero fashion. That is until the writers want to make a moment more harrowing and suddenly the zombies find another gear. How convenient! Herschel’s farm has been a relatively safe sanctuary for the entire season with only the odd random zombie appearing almost by accident. But with the need to send the season out on a high note we get an all-out assault on the farm by literally hundreds of walkers. Where did they all come from? Well if we are to believe the quick flashback, they were happily munching a meal in the city, saw a helicopter overhead and decided to follow it…all the way to the farm, picking up new members along the way in a zombie game of follow the leader. How Convenient! And speaking of convenient, why hasn’t Rick or Lori put a leash on Carl? You’d think someone would be watching him a little closer considering he’s already snuck out about half a dozen times already.
So we get more zombies showing up and more zombies killed in the finale than we have seen in the entire rest of the season combined because that’s what you do in a season finale, whether it has a splinter of logic or not. With little time to prepare the group is separated into smaller groups, driving through the zombie horde in their vehicles and picking them off one-by-one. However it’s to little avail as the sheer numbers of the walkers soon force each group to make a hasty retreat but not without some losses…not key losses mind you but those characters you’d expect to get killed. You know…the ones who only appeared every couple of episodes and rarely got a line of dialog. So really when it boils down to it the writers took the safe way out here by having two characters killed who most people didn’t care about anyway. And frankly, one of them did something so stupid that he deserved it anyway.
Through the first forty-five minutes “Beside the Dying Fire” could be best described as pedestrian. It got the show moving from point A to point B, namely off the farm and to anywhere else. It had more zombies killed with headshots than you see in most feature films. But it was all a bit underwhelming and featured no surprises; that is until the final fifteen minutes…oh those final fifteen minutes! With the group safely away from the farm and on the road it’s time to catch their breath. Andrew Lincoln gets his moment to truly shine when we finally see Rick’s ironclad will begin to crack. You can see him eroding before your eyes as he reveals to Lori what happened to Shane. The emotional stress and pressure of leading the group finally simmers over for Rick and dare I say he began to exhibit some of Shane’s own paranoid tendencies. He defiantly tells the group that decisions are no longer a democracy as the honorable and noble veneer that he has worn from the beginning is stripped away from his character in a matter of moments. This is a new Rick and I cannot wait to see how his character continues to develop. 
And as for no surprises…? Well let’s just say that a new character whom fans of the comic book have been waiting for…no begging for, finally makes an appearance at the end of the episode and certainly sent a lot of people to bed with smiles on their faces to dream happy dreams of heads being lopped off by a katana. Oh crap I might have just given it away. If you haven’t seen the episode yet then forget you just read those last couple of sentences.
The Walking Dead season two finale was far from perfect but like last week’s episode it managed to get out of its own way long enough to achieve its goals. Maybe the biggest goal it met was to set the table for next year with the promise of a new setting and new characters. There was no need for season two to take place almost entirely at Herschel’s farm but at least it seems as if the Walking Dead ship is on the right course for season three.

Mania Grade: B
TV Series: The Walking Dead
Episode: Beside the Dying Fire
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Chandler Riggs, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, IronE Singleton, Scott Wilson, Melissa McBride
Written By: Robert Kirkman, Glen Mazzara
Directed By: Ernest Dickerson
Network: AMC
Series: Walking Dead