Season two’s midseason fall finale of The Walking Dead (sorry, Dead fans, you’ll have to wait until February to see the rest of the season) packed some brutal punches last night. Despite a very rocky first half of the season, The Walking Dead aimed to finish hard and strong last night, and it did so with more energy, wit and scares than the rest of the season’s episodes had combined.
Check out our review below…
- Director: Michele MacLaren
- Writers: Scott Gimple
- Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Laurie Holden
Episode Title: “Pretty Much Dead Already”
The dam finally burst last night, with all of the plot points you could feel The Walking Dead’s writers were striving for throughout Season Two finally coming into fruition. Glenn, against Maggie’s wishes, informs the group that Hershel is keeping walkers in his barn with the hopes that they can someday be cured. Rick pleads with Hershel to let his band of survivors stay on the farm, as it is an oasis in the hellish zombie apocalypse and the only place that Lori can give birth safely—and Hershel allows for them to stay, so long as they do not harm his walkers.
Shane is angered by Hershel’s actions, and demands the murder of all captured zombies. After seeing Rick assisting Hershel in catching some stray walkers in the woods and leading them to the barn, Shane flies into a rage. Arming the remaining survivors, and forming a firing line at the barn, Shane leads in the killing of all of Hershel’s walkers, including the farm owner’s infected wife. A final figure then emerges from the barn—the lost child Sophia, now a walker. As the group recoils in horror, only Rick has the strength to do what must be done, taking his gun and killing Sophia
- Rick: After six episodes in which the program’s ostensible hero was essentially moping around the farm, depressed about his wife’s affair, his son’s health, and constantly arguing with Shane that the search for Sophia should not end, Rick was finally moved to action last night, giving viewers a well-needed reminder that he was not only The Walking Dead’s primary character, but that he could be—when the writer’s choose to give his character room to breathe—far more interesting than the rotting corpses that surround him. Between his constant compromising, bargaining and manipulating with Hershel, his realization/declaration that the farm is some kind of necessary oasis in the zombie hell that surrounds it, and his ability to perform the action that no one else could (putting Sophia-the-walker down), Rick has been reasserted as the most watchable character on the show, something that hasn’t been the case since the early days of Season One.
- Shane: While positing Shane at the other end of the philosophical spectrum from Rick (Rick is a quiet, thoughtful leader guided by morality; Shane is impulsive and violent, with an increasingly wonky moral compass) smacks of heavy-handed writing, well, hey—this is what zombie apocalypse stories are for: broad, sweeping metaphors about society in general, and Shane represents the part of humanity that panics amidst disaster. His increasing push towards villain-hood has been one of the season’s most interesting character arcs.
- The Ending: OK, so the “shocking” Sophia reveal wasn’t all that shocking—as I noted in an earlier review, the fact that the show kept bringing her up meant that there was going to be some kind of eventual surprise Sophia moment. That said, the fact that a child so important to our group of survivors (and for whom they have sacrificed so much) slowly emerged from the barn as a walking corpse, and that we had to watch our hero shoot her… well, it was the dark, hopeless moment that this series has needed. Too often, The Walking Dead relies on cheap scares and cheats, but this was a disturbingly bleak and necessary reminder of the world the characters now inhabit, and just how desolate it has become.
- Not much: Season Two of The Walking Dead has had more than its fair share of weakness—lazy plotting and poor writing being the chief sinners. That said, most of those cheats were inorganically shoved into previous episodes so that we could get to tonight’s stunning climax of plot threads. Meaning that, essentially, this season has been the equivalent of that lucky moment you had in high school algebra: you did the problem wrong, but somehow came to the right answer anyway. The first half of Season Two did almost everything wrong, but last night, it hit just the right notes and scares anyway, climaxing in a near-perfect ending.
This is what a television show about a zombie apocalypse should look like. No characters doing obviously stupid things because the writers needed to shoehorn in an extra plot or two, no unnecessarily maudlin dialogue, no cheap scares—just a series of desperate and depressing choices laid out before an increasingly desperate and depressed group of survivors. Bleak and disturbing, here’s hoping that last night’s episode sets the tone (and cohesion that the show so blatantly needs) for the second half of season two next year.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.