19 March 2012

Burning Down The Barn

Ladies and gentleladies, we have come to the end of Walking Dead's second season. The finale, "Beside the Dying Fire," made me so consistently terrified, I can honestly say that over 30% of my notes are "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and "oh god!!!! where they gonna go now?!!?!!!!!!!!!!" Please, take a walk back through the episode with me. Today is the day we leave Hershel's farm.

The episode begins in Atlanta, where an ominous helicopter speeds over the skyline. Zombies from all over the city follow in its wake as though the chopper trails a huge, invisible net. Days pass, weeks even, yet the zombies march tirelessly on through woods and farmland. Eventually, they hear grown men bitching at each other plus a gunshot. A huge batch of walkers has finally intersected with Rick's gang. And they're only 20 feet away!

I love it when the Walking Dead credits come on in the midst of everything going wrong. It's a beautiful (if sickly) pause from an ill-fitting world. Like staying home sick from work. Small things.

While Rick and Carl saunter back up to the farm (trailing thousands of zombies), the rest of the group convenes in Hershel's dining room to discuss Zombie Randall's biteless body. Soon, though, they see the tremendous horde of walkers trudging toward the farmhouse. Cue Lori freaking out about some missing family member! Cue me wishing I felt more compassion for 2/3 of this family! Cue Carol saying something useless about how they'll find him together. Cue me shooting an arrow into her eyeball, as I am now Mockingjay.

Rick and Carl run to the closest structure, which in this case is that infernal barn. Obviously the wooden slats are no match for fifteen thousand hungry zombies, so Rick douses the place in gasoline, invites the walkers in, and instructs Carl to light the place up as soon as he's on the ladder. Where does the gasoline come from? How do they avoid blowing the entire place up? It doesn't matter! It's working!

Outside, the gang has assembled the caravan. Daryl shoots zombies from his neo-nazi motorcycle, and two-person teams of everyone else drive around shooting whatever they can. It might be trick perspective, but it really looks like those cars are flying around on the uneven farmland. If they go too slow, they'll get trapped in the zombies' sticky web.

Daryl, The Smartest Survivalist In The World, notices that if the barn is on fire, someone alive must have set it. He instructs the Greene teen driving the RV to pick up whoever started the fire. The RV pulls right up underneath the catwalk where Rick and Carl have escaped the barn, but for no reason at all, the kid just stops driving. He looks at the door and sees that zombies are coming in. His neck spurts bright ribbons of blood as he gets eaten to death. WAY TO GO STOPPING DRIVING THERE, GUY. Surrounded by hungry walkers, Dale's RV finally meets its match.

Hershel stands in front of his house, picking off zombies one by one as a horde lurches toward him. Lori and the rest of the Farmhouse Women try to convince Hershel to get going, but everyone has a different idea of what's best. The blonde, catatonic Greene teen wants to stand still and freak out. Lori wants to slap Carol's face. Hershel wants to take care of this whole biz himself. Everyone has chosen wrong.

Andrea leaps to Carol's rescue just when she's surrounded by walkers. T-Dog waits for them as long as he can before he has to drive out of the zombie-smotherers, which he eventually does because he thinks Andrea's dead. Pinned to the ground by zombies can tend to look that way. Basically everyone else that's in a car is like "We need to get the heck off this farm right now, you ignorant slut!" to the various drivers. Rick and Carl team up with Hershel and take up the rear of all the escaping cars. Against all odds, Andrea frees herself just in time to see Hershel's red truck speed off. She picks up the nearby gun bag and takes off running.

Daryl hears Carol screaming and running from a few rogue zombies, so he Sister Christians her onto the back of his motorcycle. I'm so glad they didn't end up showing us what must have gone down between them soon afterward. I'm so glad I can pretend it hasn't happened and might never happen. Basking in the golden flame of Hershel's barn on fire, I have another thought: I hope everybody has enough gas.

Here we come upon the first true drama of the season: after such a chaotic attack, the survivors are now hopelessly split up. They very well may be experiencing the first morning of a new, lonely chapter of life together. I feel their loss and fear. I feel their vulnerability and despair. This stuff isn't even in the comic. For the first time in a long time, I feel genuine empathy for these apocalypse survivors. Change is hard.

Rick, Carl, and Hershel pull up to the interstate where they'd left supplies and a note for Sophia. Hershel cracks a joke about when Jesus talked about "resurrection of the dead." Elsewhere, Lori tries to jump out of T-Dog's moving car in order to, I don't know, cause even more trouble for everyone else. I don't know much about the physics of jumping out of moving cars, but I know that a top-heavy pickup truck might not respond well to that kind of change in weight. Lori's existence runs counter to letting cars run the way they should. And that is but one reason her character causes so much trouble in this universe.

Soon the whole gang reunites at the sacred spot on the highway. Daryl teases Glenn for being an asian driver, Lori wants to know if Shane is safe -- normality is temporarily restored. Even though T-Dog recounts seeing Andrea on the ground covered in zombies, the gang realizes she might not be dead. Yet again, Daryl's ready to find a missing blonde girl.

Andrea has been running through the woods all night. She stops to reload her gun in a reasonably safe area, but the walkers nearby are quickly drawn to her. This kid can't catch a break, and that's not such a bad thing. Sometimes certain characters need to survive a crucible or two. I think we'll all come out liking her more for this.

The survivors' caravan slows to a stop when Rick realizes he may indeed be running out of gas. The gang is tired, grumpy, and skittish. When they look to Rick for their next move, he decides now is the time to spill the beans: back at the CDC, Jenner's secret to Rick was that everyone is infected. No matter how you die, you will reanimate as a zombie. Rick uses this as a reason to start building a life somewhere together. I would think this is a great reason to go ahead and die. There will be no conquering this dilemma. It will only get worse. It's time to die.

I suppose dramatic television requires that as soon as someone shares information, multiple other people must get upset that the info wasn't shared sooner. The gang is mad at Rick for keeping this ultimate bummer a secret for so long. Obviously it would help people to know that if they're near a dead person, any dead person, they should be prepared to kill its zombified corpse within a few minutes. But come on, dudes. It's not like he's hiding the location of Curly's gold. It was only a CDC secret, and the CDC doesn't even exist anymore.

Lori is wearing an Old Navy Tech Vest as she questions Rick about Shane's death. She is terribly upset, but I seem to recall her Lady MacBeth speech from a few weeks ago planting the very seed in his brain. Things can get so messy in the Zombiepocalypse.

It is now dusk in Andrea's woods, and she's been running for about 20 hours. Out of energy and ammo, Andrea readies her teensy just-in-case knife as she stumbles through the dark. A zombie jumps on her, one that she'd kill easily if she weren't so fatigued, and it looks like the end of our spunky blonde human rights attorney. UNTIL A CLOAKED STRANGER TRAVELING WITH TWO ARMLESS ZOMBIES SLICES OFF THE WALKER'S HEAD WITH A SAMURAI SWORD. GUYS, WE ARE BACK ON THE RIGHT TRACK.

The final scene of the night takes place around the gang's temporary campfire. Carol and Maggie continue to grumble about Rick lying to them "for so long," and someone hears a noise off in the distance. Feeling his authority ebb away, Rick puts everyone in line. He killed Shane, he admits, but he killed his best friend in order to keep the group safe. He dares them all to leave, which actually makes Carol poop in her pants. "Let's get one thing straight," Rick declares. "If you're staying, this isn't a democracy anymore."

A few hundred yards away from the poopy-pantsed group, we see a large facility in the background. It's surrounded by barbed wire, and there are guard towers stationed at the main entrance. As scary as it looks, the right track is just up the way.

photos courtesy AMCtv.com

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