Burn It All Down: The Walking Dead Season Finale

Note: This post will contain massive spoilers that will make your head explode if you read it before watching the finale. I’m just sayin’. Here be spoilers…read at your own risk.

So season two has come to a fiery end.

This season has seen a lot of change, a lot of shocks, and a lot of characters getting dragged all over mud. From the loss of a child who was later found as a zombie in Hershel’s barn to Darryl and his charming necklace of walker ears, they certainly didn’t pull any punches.

When the penultimate episode left off, the Shane situation had finally come to a head. After an entire season of Shane trying to get back with Lori and undermining Rick’s leadership of the group as well as recklessly endangering them on a semi-regular basis, he finally opted for a “trick him into a field and shoot him” approach with Rick. I thought it was interesting that they chose to have Rick put a knife in Shane’s belly instead of the way Robert Kirkman wrote it in the graphic novels, though I can see why.

In the graphic novels, Carl comes across Shane trying to murder Rick and shoots him. Carl, Rick’s young son. As a throwback to that scenario, Carl ended up shooting Walker Shane, which also made for some interesting dynamics.

The finale begins with young Carl facing his father, asking what happened to Shane. A distraught Rick begins to splutter over his answer until he notices the massive herd of walkers bearing down on them across the field.

Back on the farm, Daryl and Glen arrive to tell the group how they tracked prisoner Randall and found him to be Walker Randall — with no bite marks and a broken neck. And with Shane’s tracks all over right by him. Daryl doesn’t need to do any head scratching to make the connection that Shane offed their prisoner, which doesn’t seem to inspire the same panic that I would feel under that circumstance, knowing that right then Shane was off with Rick.

So going back to Rick, we know that Shane’s a goner twice and that there are bunches of hungry walkers heading right at the farm — thanks to Shane’s shot he fired when Rick stabbed him. Ah. Even in death Shane’s workin’ the mayhem. Props.

After weeks of relative safety on Hershel’s farm, this herd effectively stomps that comfort out of existence. Between Rick and Carl burning down the barn full of walkers and Hershel himself stoically popping off caps right and left, this scene is full of mayhem and not short on emotion. Jimmy and Patricia are lost to the walkers — Patricia pulled right out of suicidal Beth’s hands. That oughta cause some trauma. And with hundreds of zombies questing for warm flesh and running right at the sounds of gunshots, it’s no surprise that the group gets separated.

I think this cataclysmic destruction affects Hershel’s folks more than Rick’s group. As Glen Mazzara put it, they got to the farm right before the bulk of the apocalypse happened. It hit the cities first and hard, and it took some time for the rural areas to become as affected. The herd arriving at the farm signified the end of rural safety, and it’s evident that Maggie, Beth, and Hershel all experience some serious trauma with their home being lost to the walkers.

One thing that bothered me about this scene was that Hershel allowed himself to get separated from his daughters in favor of popping off caps in zombies, and he seemed far more upset about losing his farm than the idea of losing his girls. When the group gets separated and chopped into little sets of two and three, Hershel barely mentioned that his daughters could very likely be filling the bellies of walkers. Instead he bemoans the loss of his land. I don’t think they were going for that, but that’s how it played.

The group ends up reuniting (except Andrea, but I’ll get to her later) on the highway where they had previously left supplies for little Sophia, which made me wonder how they all knew to go there. Emotions run high, of course. Goodnight, John Boy. Goodnight, Farm. Hello, giant zombie herd.

This brings up a conundrum for a zombie apocalypse that is all-too real: where do you go? They decide to start driving with no real aim in mind, and it isn’t long before they’re out of gas and forced to stop. With Rick’s personal tension level somewhere around an 11, he looks like he will pop if you so much as poke him, and the group starts jabbing him with their sharp little fingers until he tells them that they’re all infected.

Cue crickets.

At the CDC, Rick found out that all of them carried the virus, but he wasn’t sure whether he could trust the good doctor’s word until he saw Shane reanimate moments after death. The group is furious that Rick failed to share that tidbit, but I’m with Rick on that one. Until he knew for sure, there was no need for him to freak everyone out, and he didn’t exactly have a moment to call a huddle with that herd tearing through barn, fence, and people alike.

“Hey guys, stop shooting! Gotta tell you something!” Yeah. No.

Not the best moment to discuss the philosophy of everyone being a potential zombie. Image property of AMC.

Rick storms off, and Lori follows to comfort him. Unable to hold it in any longer, Rick tells her the truth of what happened to Shane, which causes a rather inexplicable tantrum on Lori’s part. I understand that she had complicated feelings for Shane, but a few episodes back they showed her as being pretty clear headed with no illusions about how dangerous Shane was.

Okay, so after that they had her go mush-tastic on Shane, which seemed incongruous after he tried to rape her last season, but I’m not sure what they’re getting at for Lori’s character. I feel like her quicksilver changes are sloppy writing, and her nearly feral response to Rick’s confession left me feeling annoyed and rather hollow.

Rick goes back to the group, telling them that they have to stick together, and his popping point arrives when he bursts out and tells them that he killed Shane for them. That they’re no longer living in a democracy. That he is calling the shots, and so there. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

That moment was one of the more fulfilling scenes for me watching the finale (I’ll get back to Andrea in a minute). While it was an action-packed hour full of a lot of fun gore, zombie deaths, and serious high-stakes conflict, there seemed to be a lot of deus ex machina at play, from everyone magically knowing where to meet back up to the seemingly gratuitous shifts in character behavior. Rick’s speech at the end got me, though.

His declaration of a dictatorship was bound to ruffle some feathers. The group still remember living in modern America where they didn’t really have anyone telling them what to do. It’s clear that if the world were to end, any survivors would adapt — and personally I’d rather have Rick calling the shots than most of the other survivors. His rules are pretty straightforward: stick together, do what I say. By the shellshocked looks across the board, it’s going to take some getting used to.

Finally, back to Andrea! The group saw her go down under a walker, not realizing that said walker was dead. This woman manages to fight her way away from the farm and start some serious marathon running away. She crashes into the woods, running and running, offing the occasional zombie who ventures too close.

When a gun won't do it, use something else. Image property of AMC.

This officially makes her the badass of the day. Andrea stays alive when she had no help. She runs herself into exhaustion, and when she finally gets caught by those implacable walkers, something slices through a walker neck right as he’s about to bite into hers.

Here she comes to save the daaaay! Image property of AMC.

A hooded figure. Walkers on leashes. This introduces one of the darlings of the comic book series, Michonne. Combine that with the panning to the prison before the credits roll, and they’ve managed to nicely set up season three.

I’m glad to see the advent of both Andrea finding some serious strength in herself as well as Michonne’s arrival, because frankly, the other women on the show are portrayed as whiny, weak, and manipulative. After Lori’s bipolar episodes in the end of this season and Carol constantly emasculating Daryl for his choice to follow Rick while Maggie freaks out so much that Glen has to drive, I was feeling a little disgusted.

In the graphic novels, the women aren’t much better. They defer command to the men, want to be taken care of, and generally show that Kirkman’s expectation of human behavior is cynical and more than a little misogynistic. I want to see some stronger women on this show, and so far the show has grossly disappointed me.

Writing this has made me realize that I wasn’t that happy with the finale. I like how they’re developing Rick’s character, but I want to see the writers cut away from tropes next season. Show us a world where we can like the characters in spite of their faults, and show us some women with some spine. Please. Or I’ll feed myself to the walkers.

Season Three? Bring it on. Image property of AMC.

What did you think of the finale? Where do you think the writers will go next season? What do you most want to see from the characters? Was I too harsh on the writers about the women, or do you think there’s room for improvement in how they portray them?


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on March 20, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I was furious with Lori in the finale, again. She had no right to react that way when Rick told her the truth. And I was disgusted watching Carol whispering in Daryl’s ear. Thank God for Andrea. She is the only strong female character. I’m wondering who the writers of The Walking Dead are, and if they have a problem with women. I don’t see why any of the group should have a problem with Rick as their leader. He’s a good, honourable man who gets the job done and takes care of his people. Who else would you want in charge, except perhaps for Daryl who has become a strong and decent man this seaon. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the second season as much as the first, but at least now they’re off that damn, boring farm.

    • I was pretty furious about the Lori thing too.

      Reading the graphic novels made me think that Robert Kirkman (the writer and creator of the story and the show) has a serious issue with women. Even the women in the comics who are portrayed as strong have crippling flaws and are shown as being homewreckers or manipulative bitches. I stopped reading with a sour taste in my mouth. I really, sincerely hope that they make an effort to show women with backbone and less tolerance for catty backbiting and manipulation rather than playing them like pawns and using their emotions as an excuse to gratify the strength of the men.

    • I’ve heard some say that Lori is basically Lady Macbeth at this point. She sits back, schemes, creates terrible situations and then reaps the rewards while other people pay the price. Not to mention that her character arc is basically “which man do I glom onto?” At this point she’s practically an unwitting villain.

      I agree that Andrea is the strongest female character, though even her treatment hasn’t exactly been universally great (like the bit where she almost shoots someone in the group because isn’t it hilarious when a girl tries to use a gun?!) But at least they made her less suicidal and stopped having everyone lecture her every five minutes.

      I also wasn’t a fan of how much time in season two the women LITERALLY spent in the kitchen. I understand the show is primarily aimed at men (at least, it seems that way to me), but I think they could be doing a little better.

      • Lori’s character seems like the one the writers just fill in lines for when they need some gratuitous conflict. It’s obnoxious and she has little or no actual traits aside from acting schizophrenic.

        Oh, man, when Andrea grazed Daryl’s head, I thought the EXACT SAME THING. They’d already spent half the season trying to keep her from having a gun at all, and then the first time she’s shown using it they make her both look like an idiot AND almost shoot a beloved character? Are you kidding me, writers? I was furious.

        About the kitchen thing, another resounding YES. Ugh. They really did just hang out there, AND you gotta love the scene where Lori literally tells Andrea to do some laundry and stop playing the man. Ugh ugh ugh.

        Shane’s character didn’t live that long in the comics, so I was glad to see him finally go. I thought that they should have killed him right after the Otis thing, and I would have liked to see it go down the way it did in the comics, with Carl pulling the trigger on him. I think that they dug themselves into a mess by continuing Shane’s decent into absolute evil instead of focusing more on Rick’s development and making it deeper instead of just increasingly moody and scary. I also hated in the finale the way everyone sort of turned on Rick — I found it unbelievable. I got annoyed at the deus ex machina sort of foibles that took place in the finale: poof, no more Jimmy or Patricia; everyone magically knows where to meet on the highway and shows up at the same time (wtf); Carl somehow magically finds Rick and Shane in the penultimate episode; etc. etc. etc. I really hope things improve next go ’round or I probably won’t watch more.

  2. Kristin McFarland

    Speaking in ignorance (I’ve neither watched the show nor read your post), two people whose taste I respect have now recommended this show. Time to add it to the list, it seems.

  3. Love, love, love your take on all this!

  4. I’ve honestly about had it with this show. I thought their treatment of Shane was one-dimensional and boring (hmm, we can’t figure out a way to resolve this love triangle, so let’s have one guy just go crazy and become irreedeemable). The season finale made me dislike pretty much everyone in the group. Rick begins his Shane-like slide into becoming an a-hole, and everyone instantly forgets all the risks he’s taken and start distrusting him and factionalizing on the spot? It’s official, I’m rooting for the zombies at this point.

    I’ll still check it out when it comes back, to see if it rises above the slog that was Season 2, but if it doesn’t start improving, I’ll probably lose interest.

%d bloggers like this: