Walking Dead Report: Beside the Dying Fire (3/18/12)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-03-19 03:55

The Walking Dead - "Beside the Dying Fire" (3/18/12)
Written by: Robert Kirkman & Glen Mazzara
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson

Reviewed by: Brett G.

The Walking Dead report will is a weekly series that recaps the show's most recent episode; spoilers and speculation will follow.

As expected, “Beside the Dying Fire” essentially amounted to the shedding of dead weight (read: everyone that was on the farm whose name you could never remember when they popped up) and a shuttling of the characters back onto the road, where they’ll eventually meet their Season 3 fate. In this respect, the finale was fine--I’m still certainly interested in where it goes from here, and Rick’s newfound edge finally represents some development on his part. It’ll no longer be a democracy under his watch, though I’m not so sure he’ll have a say in it if some of the developments in this episode come to fruition, namely the presence of another group whose fortress seemingly looms in the distance. Call me cynical, but I guess Herschel’s farm will get traded in for this place next season, so we’ll still be a little bound to one place.

But at least they won’t have to spend half of the season looking for Andrea, who got bailed out by this other group, or at least one very enigmatic member of the group wielding a sword and wearing a hood like some kind of zombie-killing ninja. If nothing else, that’s a cool, intriguing visual. I think the most surprising part of this is how relieved I was to see Andrea bailed out; knowing that Holden is also a frequent Darabont collaborator, I figured her as a goner, and I might have been okay with that about a month ago. She’s grown on me, though; in fact, she’s probably the most compelling and rounded character we have now that Shane’s gone. Somewhere along the way, she became a similarly pragmatic and contrarian ass-kicker, and it’d be cool to see her step into Shane’s role if they want to go that route. The fallout between her and the rest of the group that left her (though you can hardly blame them for that) could provide some fireworks to kick off next season.

Some of the smaller working parts of the finale didn’t gel all that well, though. The big revelation that they’re all infected fell flat for two reasons. For one thing, we’d picked up on that already, having already seen two corpses reanimate without being bitten. That Jenner’s whispered words just provided the confirmation of that feels like a letdown; I was actually hoping we were being setup for another surprise because this seemed so obvious.

Secondly, this reveal doesn’t really change a whole lot. Anyone raised on Romero’s rules probably assumed this already anyway--I sure did. In fact, I was confused about any confusion on the part of fans last week who couldn’t figure out what was going on. From the beginning, I’d figured that anyone who died would return as the undead. Forgetting that, though, I fail to see the huge impact here; yes, I guess it’s a disconcerting to know that you’ll return as a zombie if you’re not disposed of properly. However, I’m of the opinion that it wouldn’t really be an issue since I’d be dead and wouldn’t have any real thoughts on the matter once it happened. If this infection was some kind of agent that was actually hastening everyone’s death, this would be a huge deal, but, as it stands, everyone still has the chance to live as they are now.

Another odd turn is Lori’s reaction to Rick killing Shane; am I the only one who remembers her going Lady Macbeth and all but handing Rick the dagger to stab Shane in the back about a month ago? I wasn’t exactly expecting Lori to do a jig right there in the streets in triumph, but her waffling on this only seems to be putting the melodrama back on life support. Also, I should probably add that she’s a pretty bad parent for constantly letting Carl out of her sight, which generally leads to him wrecking shit.

Speaking of bad, stupid decisions, they were about the only thing that marred the farm siege, which was otherwise a cool bit of zombie action. Though the setting recalled Night of the Living Dead, the use of space and the inventiveness of the assault were more reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead’s action-centered approach to things. Still, dumb moves (like stopping and allowing walkers to consume an RV) seemed to be contrived and forced mechanisms to make things complicated for the sake of being complicated. Regardless, the chaos of it all was captured quite well, and the capping image of the barn smoldering into flames was a nice bit of symbolism; at one point, it’d held Herschel’s hopes of a cure, but now it’s been reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes.

Our weekly T-Dog watch reveals that he actually got a few lines before being cowed into turning the car around instead of heading for the coast, thus allowing him to impact the proceedings in a slightly meaningful way for the first time in months. Other supporting characters like Daryl and Carol had their mini-arc continued, but I like how Daryl shot down any notion that he'll be the next to contend for Rick’s alpha dog status. Revealing Daryl to be a heady badass rather than a one-note brute has been one of this season’s best developments, and I hope the writers find something interesting for him in season three.

I’d say it’s going to be a long wait for October (which is when the next season will start, I assume), but I’m quite okay with letting The Walking Dead rest for a while. This season was often littered with frustrations, and, while the show never became a chore to watch, I think it’ll be fine to get away from it for awhile. If nothing else, season three will provide some new blood and a fresh location, both of which could inject this show with a little bit of life, so long as the writers can resist rehashing the same old melodrama.
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