Review: The Walking Dead: Beside the Dying Fire

Okay, wow, that was a hell of a season finale. While the first half of season two dragged a bit (and let’s not forget that the entire creative staff was replaced along the way), I think The Walking Dead completely picked up the pace in the second half. There are still issues with characterization and writing, but it feels like the show now recognizes its strengths and is embracing them fully. I’m feeling pretty good about The Walking Dead these days, and I’m already looking forward to the show’s third season.

The season finale of AMC's The Walking Dead

The finale wastes absolutely no time. Last week was saw a bunch of zombies in the woods, but this week starts by showing us where they all came from, and just how big the swarm really was. The sheer numbers of zombies that showed up at Hershel’s farm was impressive. It seemed like a completely unstoppable horde of innumerable zeds, and I loved it!

The show maximized the tension by getting the group separated almost immediately. Rick and Carl were already on their own, but everyone else quickly jumped into cars to try to lure the zombies away. It was a futile effort, but it worked wonders for amping up the tension and getting characters away from the safety of the group. It also pushed the emotional stress levels through the roof, with several characters desperate to reconnect with their family, and in a very reasonable and believable way.

One other thing The Walking Dead did right? The characters weren’t universally stupid. Some of them were clever on their feet, while others panicked and got themselves into trouble. It seemed reasonable to me. Where Rick and Carl had the wherewithal to lure the zombies into the barn for a good old fashion barbeque, others panicked and ran off in separate directions, making the chaos all the more confusing and frightening.

But of course the whole scene was not without frustrating moments. The biggest for me was the notion that these people, living long under the imminent danger of the walking dead, wouldn’t have any sort of exit strategy or rally point for when the inevitable happens. Sure, they all sort of ended up back at the highway, but there was no plan of “If we get overrun and separated, everyone should make their way back to X.”

One thing that really surprised by about Beside the Dying Fire was how quickly they were all off the farm and relatively safe from the horde. The first half of the episode was a kinetic tour de force, but it also left room for all the repercussions. People were lost, mostly Hershel’s family. There was confusion. Where was Lori? How about Andrea? Should we wait? Are the zombies coming back. I expected that was how the episode would end, with everyone on their own and no one knowing what to do next. But it kept going.

Everyone did find each other (other than Andrea, but more on her in a moment), and there was a heartwarming reunion scene, followed by a rather chilling moment of “Okay what do we do now?” There were only a handful of them left, with little in the way of supplies, especially fuel for their vehicles. They set out, looking for some fuzzy notion of shelter, uncertain of what they might find.

And in the darkness, Rick finally had his moment. The stress and fatigue of the day still on his shoulders, he finally lost his cool and declared himself the leader of the group. Anyone who didn’t like it could leave, but from here on out, he was the boss. It was an interesting moment, and not at all what I expected. Rick seemed unhinged, and dangerous, and not at all the man we’d had in the comics at this point. It’s an interesting change, and I’m excited to see where the show takes it.

Of course, this was preceded by the episodes worst moment: Rick tells Lori what happened with Shane, and she’s horrified. She’s scared of her husband, or disgusted by him. It’s hard to tell. Lori is generally a character of inscrutable motivations, but I just can’t understand the response she had to this news. Surely she realized this was the endgame with Shane; she practically said it in the tent a few weeks ago during her Lady MacBeth moment. So why the backslide?

Speaking of the comics, the fanboys got a few moments in last night’s finale as well (comic spoilers ahead). Not only did we see the prison looming in the background as the credits rolled, but we also got to see a character fans have been clamoring for since the show started: Michonne, the sword wielding badass lawyer. She had a hell of an introduction too, saving Andrea’s ass just as she was about to be overwhelmed. We never get to see her face, just the hood, the sword, and her entourage of limbless, jawless zombies. It was kind of awesome, and that comes from someone who’s not a huge fan of the character.

So where do things go from here? I couldn’t say, but I am excited to tune in next fall to find out.

Grade: Four and a half zombie heads out of five


Silver Fox

Holy… what is with that and who is that person that appears to have saved Andrea… had those two armless walkers on a leash and beheaded the one trying to kill her?

Otherwise, a very good finale. Though Lori should be happier that Shane’s gone.


That’s a comic character, one of the more popular ones to boot. I think all will be explained at the start of season three.


Yes! Michonne + The Prison arc! It just gets better ‘n better. Sooo. . . the core group has basically traded one old guy for another? In that case, I wish they would’ve kept Dale a bit longer.


I was thinking the same thing about trading Hershel for Dale. Dale was always one of my favorites in the comic. Not so much in the show, but I’d hoped he was come around. Hershel is interesting, but it feels like we’ve already mined a lot of what makes that character tick. We’ll see how it shakes out.


Well, since I’ve never read the comics, this season finale didn’t mean much to me. Overall though, it was a pretty decent episode. I loved how we immediately jumped in to the action and excitement. The episode did not go the way I thought it would. Rick and Carls burning the barn was really sweet! Needed a bonfire that night! Jimmys death was a tragic one. Needed more blood and guts though. Patricias death was eminent. Ever since Otis died I figured she would be one of the first ones to be picked off. I really loved the tension throughout this episode! Everyone was panicking…except Hershel and Daryl. I really thought we were going to lose Carol in this episode but of course, Daryl comes to the rescue. I thought it was obvious that Andrea would live. I was not sure how though. I kept on wondering maybe she’ll go hide in the basement of the farm or she’ll find Randal’s group or she’ll just survive alone. I didn’t expect some kick butt girl to pop up and save her life. I’m really glad that Ricks turning over a new leaf. It seems the pressure has finally gotten to him. Loved his little lecture. I also heard that Meryl is going to return in season 3….


Yeah, I think the direction the show is taking with Rick is really interesting. He’s got the potential to turn into a real monster. Using the safety of the group to justify more and more horrible things. Or maybe he’ll be totally innocuous. It’s hard to tell at this point.

Tom Walsh

Feels like I’ve had a sebatical or something, anyway, a decent ending to the season. I like to watch the talking dead after, so though there are no spoilers given away (besides 33% of the Dwayne, Morgan, or Meryl coming back) it is said by both Kirkman and the the director that the tone of the last three episodes is setting up season 3. In other words we can expect a lot more action riddled in season 3 with other groups, inside their own group, and of course the walkers themselves. I’m excited for fall to come around. My wifes expression at the end of the show was, “who the f*ck was that, and now what happens?” Tried to get her to read the comics, but she refuses saying it will ruin the show for her, since she doesn’t know who or what anyone is in the comics.


I’m glad to hear that these last few episodes are the tone they’re going for. The show does action and horror well, and I’m glad to see it play those up more.


“But of course the whole scene was not without frustrating moments. The biggest for me was the notion that these people, living long under the imminent danger of the walking dead, wouldn’t have any sort of exit strategy or rally point for when the inevitable happens. Sure, they all sort of ended up back at the highway, but there was no plan of “If we get overrun and separated, everyone should make their way back to X.””

In all fairness that was explained last episode when they talked about how unprepared they were living the lie of safety. Then when you look at the time line from that comment to Shane leading them out to the woods you’re only talking about a few hours.

I completely agree with you but at least they acknowledged the issue.


That’s a fair point, and something I didn’t pick up on. These people really need to get their stuff together here.


Omg sooooooo happy to be wrong! I didn’t think they would go to the prison. I almost piddled when i saw Michonne.

Thanks AMC!!


I thought the same thing: The writers were trying to divorce themselves from the comics, and thus wouldn’t go to the prison. I was really happy to see it in the background.


I did have issue with Lori telling Carol “that’s my boy” and freaking out. Not sure if Lori was selfish or Carol was insensative and I like that I’m thinking about this morning. It made me think of Andrea calling Lori out about how great her life is compared to others.


I am thinking Carol is going to be a major factor next season. Her history of abuse and becoming her own person is going to play out in a big way I think.


There’s a lot of potential in that character. They need to developer beyond a foil for Lori and a crutch for Daryl.


I agree. I was worried that she was gonna bite it but super glad that she got picked up.

I worry that they will use her to poison the group with negativity. She already is trying to fill Daryl’s head with crap.


“I worry that they will use her to poison the group with negativity. She already is trying to fill Daryl’s head with crap.”

That’s one of my concerns with the character as well.


Actually I think they will poison the group with negativity and I am cheering for it. I think we will go from sympathetic to loathing in one season. Maybe we will see the world from her side. Then maybe she will self destruct or attempt to destroy the group in selfishness, who knows. But there is a lot there.

It will be dramatic but that can indeed be a good thing done right.


This was an interesting episode for certain, although I counted about four moments where I was thinking “You know, if it wasn’t for the significant amount of time left in the episode, this would make a good ending shot.”, which could be good or bad. I managed to predict two obvious things here, the appearance of Michonne (from the moment reloading was an issue for Andrea, as Michonne is pretty heavy on the advantages the sword has over the gun) and the prison (as soon as they started talking about permanent settlement), although as I said earlier in the sentence, these were obvious. I liked the barn fire, although it was pretty high on both sides of risk-reward as they were standing on wood and straw and the fire eventually spread beyond the bit they poured stuff on, although they were long gone. This was a pretty good episode, although now we have to wait until autumn/fall. And I have no means of getting the comics (except for a forbidden planet shop several counties over and some websites, although I have no way to pay for things on the internet) and have to make do with the synopsis on the wiki, and I still haven’t read 79-92. Anyway, complaining over…

Christian Matzke

Wow! I Really didn’t think they would have the prison on the show. I’m glad to be proven wrong and I look forward to seeing how they pull it off! Some great zombies in this episode and I really dug how they showed how the zombies in the first season premiere (eating the dog) began this herd, and that is has been building for the entire season. That was a nice touch.


The prison issue…

What worries me right away is now that there is something so strongly related to the comic we’ll have spoilers at an even higher rate. For reasons I can’t fathom fans of the comic are obsessed with two things.

1. Making sure everyone knows they like the comic better.
2. Posting spoilers.

I have never seen a group of alleged fans so hell bent on making sure other fans don’t enjoy something. We have our very own Walking Dead Hipsters.

So many discussions go like this.

FAN A “So walking dead last night…”
FAN A “Well yeah but the show is its own thing and the comic is there for those fans so….”

Christian Matzke

I agree with the WD Hipster comment and as a fan of the comics and the show I just don’t get what the fuss is as they are both excellent in their own right. As for spoilers I’m not too worried. Look at how far season 2 strayed from the comic, only to reconnect at the end. Sure there’s a prison, but we don’t have half the characters to play with on the show so already we’re dealing with a different scenario. T-Dog is no Tyrone for example, and Herschell has a lot less red shirts –err, family members to burn through. Andrew Lincoln didn’t think they would go through with the removal of Rick’s you-know-what (and for budgetary reasons I tend to agree), so who knows what the future holds?


But the point of spoilers still stands. They are mindlessly trying to ruin it for the TV fans and assuredly ruining it for future comic fans. And for what purpose? I simply don’t see any reason for it. True Blood and Game of Throne fans aren’t doing it to new TV show fans. So why are the comic book fans doing it?

Rhetorical questions of course.

Fans should be able to discuss anything they want but holy fuck how about a little spoiler warning? Take Dave ….guy has posted a lot about the comic but has always taken great care with it respecting the suspense of all fans.

At some point I’ll finish the comic even though the WD Hipsters have done their best at making sure everyone knows they enjoyed it first.


I don’t get it either. The midseason finale of the show was completely spoiled for me. Someone posted a comment that I thought was a prediction, but what I slowly realized was a massive spoiler based on a leaked copy of the episode. As a result, I knew every twist and turn that was coming midseason. Luckily, I’m pretty sure I deleted it before anyone else saw.

Game of Thrones is a great example. I’ve read a lot of reviews as I watched the series (and am now reading the novel), and spoilers were, by and large, clearly labeled. The occasional one was left, which I attribute more to the excitement of discussion something you’re passionate about rather than wanting to spoil it for someone else.


I think we have the makings of a good post pre-WD season 3.

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