The writers of The Walking Dead know how to stretch out every sigh, every bated breath, every meaningful glance. After a sucker-punch of a 6-episode first season, season 2 dragged so hard the show lost a lot of viewers. Fortunately these guys also know to put the audience back on the edge of its seat – literally, in my case. The mid-season cliffhanger ramped up the action, and last night’s season finale officially kicked the show back into gear.
In the opening moments of the show, a horde of walkers that seem content (as content as zombies can get, anyway) munching on the guts of some erstwhile human suddenly stand up in unison and walk out of Atlanta and directly toward Hershel’s farm. Ostensibly, they’re trailing a helicopter (and who’s flying that helicopter, pray tell?), but as Glenn says later, it’s like they’re migrating. We still don’t fully understand why birds migrate, how nature tells them when and where to go – and these walkers seem to be following some instinct. Is it natural? Supernatural?
Either way, their primitive instinct is serious trouble for the band of survivors on the farm. Carl, who somehow just shot Shane in the head in the dark, seemingly around his father, has to ask his daddy what happened to Shane. That question, asked so soon after the fact, made us all cringe; what would you do? Spare him the knowledge that his buddy/second father figure was out of his mind near the end, that Shane tried to kill Rick? Tell him Shane accidentally shot himself? What would you have said in that moment, having just killed your old friend and watched him come back to life…all in front of your son?
It turns out it doesn’t matter much; the herd of walkers appears from the woods. Rick and Carl head for the barn and light the thing up – a last-ditch effort to gather the walkers before ending them once and for all. Meanwhile, back on the ranch, the rest of the crew (including Glenn and Daryl, whose return from the woods comes with Daryl’s suspicious news that something fishy happened between Shane and Randall) arm themselves to protect what they can before fleeing the farm. Jimmy jumps into the RV and manages to provide Rick and Carl with an escape from the barn before getting eaten himself. (In my notes, I wrote “more people die, but it’s okay, whatshisface wasn’t important anyway.”)
Lori, whose character is becoming more infuriating every episode, realizes that her kid is gone again and freaks out. Look, lady, I realize there’s a lot going on, what with a fetus in your womb, two possible baby-daddies, and the world ending, but seriously, your child is endangering himself and others while you…what? Cook and clean for the menfolk?
The gang splits into duos and trios, with T-Dog and Andrea in one vehicle and Glenn and Maggie in the other, driving and shooting up zombies. There’s a pretty great close-up on Glenn as he shoots again and again, shotgun shells flying while he clings to the edge of the car. He and Maggie make a pretty good team. When the two of them get clear of the farm, she understandably breaks down, and Glenn understandably uses the L word. “I love you,” he tells her. “I have for a long time.” This gives Maggie the extra strength she needs to keep going, and the two of them head toward the meeting place where the crew stashed food for Sophia.
Andrea and Carol got separated from the pack, and who should come to Carol’s rescue but Daryl on his motorbike? Their relationship is continuing to develop in interesting ways. Alas, no one comes to Andrea’s rescue for a little bit – but that’s okay, she can hold her own. She strays back toward the woods, and when she finally runs out of ammo and nearly out of energy, a mysterious new person walks out of the woods with a sword to save the day.
I actually cried, “YES!” when they zoomed in on this character – a slender, tall creature in a deeply shadowed hood, a sword-wielding ghost to whom two armless walkers are chained. “Michonne!” Her character is brilliant. As far away from the books as the series has strayed, this will hopefully move things back on track.
After the rest of the group – T-Dog, Daryl, Carol, Lori, Carl, Rick, Hershel, Glenn, Maggie, and Beth – meet at the supply stash, they head on down the road. At least, until they run out of gas. Rick pauses then to tell everyone that, oh, by the way, we’re all infected. Remember how in the first season finale, Dr. Jenner, the man who incinerated the CDC, whispered a secret in Rick’s ear? Well, this is it. They’re all infected, they’ll all become zombies, and Rick decided it wasn’t a terrific idea to tell everyone.
(As an aside, there are some plot inconsistencies here – how about the two men Rick killed in the bar earlier this season? They didn’t immediately hop back up again.)
In the spirit of honesty, Rick also tells Lori everything that happened with Shane, and admits to her that he just wanted Shane dead. He might’ve been able to save everything, but he just wanted him dead. Lori fixes Rick with a glare that is so loathful you’d think he just threatened to murder their son. Really, Lori? Aren’t you the one who was nudging Rick along, telling him Shane was a danger? That Shane thought you and Carl were his property, and that something needed to be done? (I’m really tired of her character, in case you haven’t gathered.)
Lastly, Rick lets everyone know once and for all who’s in charge here. If they want him to be a part of their group, he says, “this isn’t a democracy anymore.” That language in particular is interesting considering the next destination and the next evil the crew is going to meet: The Governor.
What are you looking forward to? What did you think about the finale? Share your theories and gripes and excitement in the comments!
P.S. Stay tuned starting next week – I’ll also be recapping one of AMC’s other big series, Mad Men, for its highly-anticipated fifth season!