Walking Dead: Beside the Dying Fire Review - Mania.com

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  • 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

Walking Dead: Beside the Dying Fire Review

The first quarter hour rescues the season finale of The Walking Dead.

By Tim Janson     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.


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flyinroo 3/19/2012 12:32:05 AM

 I thought this episode was absolutely great! So much better than the last one, IMO. 

I have to disagree with some of the points made in the review above. The idea of "convenience" deciding which turns the story took to get them off the farm seems logical, but I don't entirely buy it.  The walkers weren't led to the farm because they followed the helicopter. The helicopter was the catalyst that started them on their path and once they started, they didn't encounter anything that stopped them. It was like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill. For whatever reason, the walkers tend to group up. This has been prevelent since the beginning, so there is nothing "convenient" about that. As the group encountered more walkers, they joined along like birds flying in their vee formation following the leader. This large group ended up outside the farm and reacted when they heard the gunshot fired.   I simply do not find this an act of "convenience". If so, then every plot turn in every story is an act of convenience in order to move the story along. Of course they had to leave the farm...there had to be a reason to move them...If not this group of walkers then it would likely have been Randall's group to do it.

A couple of characters were killed off that no one will miss. Considering that 2 weeks in a row they killed off 2 major characters, I'd say its ok to just lose 2 nobodies this time around. I have never read the comics, but I new to expect some of the things I saw because of the comments of fans here, and I can assure you I was not disappointed in what they showed at the end. I agree that the last 15 minutes are the greatest payoff of this episode, but thats kind of the way a finale goes.  I found nothing "convenient" in any of that.

The only thing I found "convenient" was that everyone had gotten seperated and didn't know where anyone else was...then suddenly here comes everyone in a line. They somehow found each other on their way back to the meeting place. No doubt can be placed that this was simply convenient. But who cares. It was necessary to get everyone back together. It made sense that they would go back to that spot to meet. It doesnt matter if they cut out the unnecessary waiting time for each group to reach Rick. This was convenience based on running time and nothing else.

Right now, I accept the fact that the walkers tend to flock together. I accept the fact that they can wander great distances as a group. I would like an explanation to be played out in the series so that it is acknowledged so that it doesn't become a plot point of "convenience" in the future.

As far as the walkers moving quickly at times and slow at other times...I dont know. I can see how that fits into the idea of "convenience" and I will not refute it, nor will I agree with it. It just is, and it doesn't bother me at the moment.

Bring on next season!  Its a long wait, but we have Game of Thrones soon to help us get through some of the time.  

fatpantz 3/19/2012 2:26:31 AM

Shit, now that was some fun....I dont even care about the idiotic migration concept, that a chopper flying overhead would send that many walkers into a cross country hunt for food.  What I can care about was the intensity and mayhem of the attack.  I loved the episode and cant wait for season 3.....The finish with the prison in the background....now that gave me chills!!

Did anyone else shout and cheer when Michonne showed up?  Damn that was awesome, like a page out of the comics with her limbless zombies on chain.  It was also announced that Danai Gurira has been cast as Michonne for season 3.

DaForce1 3/19/2012 3:49:27 AM

 Tim, the walkers at the beginning were munching on the remains of Rick's horse. That's how long the walkers have been walking in the direction of the helicopter. Also, remember Rick saw a helicopter in season one? I bet there's something to that that we probably won't see until season four. 

In the books, a herd gets together because they either bump into standing walkers, or standing walkers start following the herd and grow in numbers. The herd wasn't heading towards the farm, but near enough to it that the two gunshots drew them from their original path,towards the farm. That's your coincidence. The herd being near enough the farm to hear those shots at that moment and turn towards the farm. 

The walkers move faster when there's food to be eaten. Doesn't take a big leap of logic to see that. We've seen (especially with the Rick and Glenn covered in guts scene) that the walkers shamble on slowly when there isn't any food nearby (at least none that they can detect), and then they haul ass when the dinner bell rings. 

This episode actually gave me two good reasons to whoop out loud; Rick saving Herschel's ass from the sneaky walker, and when Michonne saved Andrea's ass in the woods. I didn't see the first one coming, but I knew about the second one. Just like I know we're going to see someone from season one pop up again here in season three. 

It's going to be a long wait until October.

hanso 3/19/2012 3:50:21 AM

 not a surprising last few mins but glad to see michonne and the prison show up  i miss joe, where is he at?

DarthBob 3/19/2012 5:18:54 AM

Excellent episode.  Rick is starting to crack!  The only thing missing were red Star Trek uniforms on Patricia and Jimmy as you could see their demise coming from miles away.  Danai Gurira looks like an ass kicker and is well cast as Michonne.  Looking foward to October, which will hopefully bring on the demise of Lori; she is so frickin' annoying.

DarthBob 3/19/2012 5:22:17 AM

One more thing I forgot to mention, I had an issue with some of the gun shots these guys were making.  Professional marksmen miss these same kinds of shots on Top Shot without the duress of being consumed by a zombie yet they made these head shots with ease.  That was my only beef and a small one to boot.

wish 3/19/2012 5:22:56 AM

Tim you are a fine writer, but a little too cynical I think.  This show has already broken the mould in so many ways and it sounds as if you are accusing it of taking the easy and cliche'd way in the writing.  Too often the term critic is interpreted as someone who criticizes, but there was hardly anything worth criticizing on this episode!!  It was a great opening sequence to describe what has been motivating the walkers and to see them gather in numbers and follow the sounds was a perfect explanation to thier "convenient" arrival on the farm.  I liked the fact that I could sit there and genuinely not know who was going to die and who would live because of how un-safe every character has been made to feel throughout the whole series, now that's exciting!! 

I think your B is low and I think you can let your love for the show come through a little more in your reviews, objectiviey is moot here, we all love this stuff and we come here to read how much others love it too, it's not always neccessary to find the flaws in everything! 

I will admit to one thing pissing me off though, that dumb firestarting bitch Lori getting all angry at Rick after he tells her how Shane died, she started that whole mess!!  Maybe she's just mad at herself but her timing to be an axe-wound to Rick was less than stellar.  She coulda been dragged away and I woulda been ok with it..........next season for sure.......she'll get hers.........who the fluck wants a crying baby on the show anyway?

ElBaz13 3/19/2012 5:41:50 AM

Loved it! Definitely more than a B considering the last 5 minutes rocked (Rick snapping, Michonne and the prison)

I agree with flyinroo. This episode was meant for the red shirt/fodder to get killed. We had Dale and Shane the past two weeks and Sophia in episode 7. No need to off more for now.

An what's up with Lori? Pissed at Rick for offing Shane. Duh. Darryl still rocks. He's a badass on that bike and had a feeling he would save Carol.

Does anyone think Herschel was not killed because he will replace Dale as the "old wise man good guy voice of reason" character? I watched Talking Dead after the show and they said they were originally going to kill Herschel and Jimmy was supposed to die in the field in Dale's place. I'm betting Dale's death was written in at the last minute because Jeffrey Demunn is probably the actor that walked out after Darabont was fired. That probably shifted everything after. Dale dies in the field, Jimmy dies in the attack and Herschel lives.

RedHood2010 3/19/2012 5:47:28 AM

The best of the episode for me was Rick.  "you think you can do better, there is the door!"  Oh wait, nobody left.  Aww, then shut the F*** up.  Loved it and it was necessary.  And Lori, really?  Really?  A perfect line there would have been I guess the wrong guy came back and he walked off and leave her standing there.  Stupid wench.  I loved her in Prison Break, but she has been a wasted character in this show.

I agree again, slow Walkers one day and then Walkers fast enough to keep up with a lady sprinting.  Something to deal with.

Sword weilding with armless Walkers in tow, sweet shot! 

Rawila 3/19/2012 5:49:09 AM

I really wants Hershel's gun. Either it has unlimited ammo or a serious rapid reload.


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