Sunday, March 18, 2012

Walking Dead Review: "By the Dying Fire"


As always,


Anyone who ever complained about a lack of action in this show is eating their words tonight. That death count was staggering! I'm going to go ahead and say it, this was my favorite episode of Walking Dead ever. The cinematography, the teases, the deaths, the action, the drama, the monologues, it was all there. And who the hell is Michonne? Please don't tell me though, I want to be surprised.

I took a few notes while watching this episode, so I'll just start right from the beginning.

The opening scene takes place in Atlanta, with a group of walkers feeding on an animal, with fantastic makeup on one of them that was missing about one third of her arm. A helicopter then flies over the city, garnering the attention of all the walkers in the area. Later on the Talking Dead they discussed it briefly, with the actress who plays Andrea saying that she felt it represented hope.

Well I'm not so sure I believe that, because this helicopter caused the walkers to amass into a giant "herd" and sent them in the direction of Hershel's farm. I wouldn't exactly call that a sign from God that things are going to be okay. The herd is then shown breaking through a fence, and diverting direction after Carl shoots Shane's shambling corpse.

Ain't no way you gonna make that shot boy.

The group discusses how Randall turned after having no scratches or bites, and they finally begin to piece together what astute fans have known for most of the season. While everyone worries about Shane and Rick, Daryl once again proves how much of a beast he is by volunteering to go out and look for them.

The next scene finds Carl and Shane right where "Better Angels" left off. The two enjoy a tender family moment, while the camera pans out to the horizon where the herd slowly comes into view. And what an intimidating view it is. When they finally realize the threat looming behind them, they take off serpentining through the mass of rotting reanimated corpses.

As Hershel comes to terms with the immediate threat facing his farm and his family, he accepts that he might have to die there that night, to which Daryl replied, "it's as good a night as any."

Rick makes his way to the farm, where he begins to hatch a scheme to buy the group some time, and help increase their chances of survival. He soaks the barn floor with a flamable substance, gives Carl a lighter, draws the walkers in, then climbes up to the loft as Carl ignites the building. It was far from an elegant plan, but who knows if they would have survived without this substantial diversion.

We also found out tonight that T-Dog is an awesome wheelman!

Everyone else was zooming around, taking potshots at the hundreds of walkers that had completely overtaken the farm. Worth noting is the unbelievable accuracy every person had, from Jimmy all the way to Andrea. I'm not sure if anyone missed a shot at any point in this episode.

If only you had learned how to hold a gun...

Then came the first human death of the episode, poor Jimmy. You never had time to develop as a character, which is okay because apparently you were never even in the comics. Perhaps more sad was the loss of the RV that has been with the group from the beginning, so we all weep for you Winnebago.

We'll miss you RV. At least you'll have Jimmy to keep you company.

As Rick and Carl bail from the RV, Rick kills not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, but 6!!! 6 walkers in a row! I'm talking headshots, quick succession. I wish anyone could be as good of a shot in real life as these people are on this show.

Next was the death of Patricia, poor girl. I knew they were going to kill all these minor characters off during this episode, so it was really just a matter of when.

It was a surprisingly heart-warming moment though, as Beth fought to hold on to her hand, but finally realized she had to let go.

Then there is Andrea. How this character has changed from the first season. She has quickly become one of the most badass characters on the show. She is holding her own, but finds herself surrounded, leaving T-Dog with no choice but to take off without her.

~ sv_cheats 1 impulse 101

Hershel went beast mode, and apparently turned God Mode on, because he was unloading shells by the dozen. Things got a bit hairy for a second though, but Rick was there to save the day as usual. It's awesome to see how their relationship has grown, and how much respect Hershel now has for Rick. It was also pretty sweet to see Hershel club a walker with the stock of his gun.

Did I mention Daryl? I can't believe he wasn't in the comics, because he is a fantastic character, and a key part of this cast of survivors in my opinion. He goes back for Carol, and they ride off the farm together safely. Never one to express his feelings easily, he shouts, "Come on, I ain't got all day," as she hops on with him.

The use of music in this episode was awesome as well, especially the sombre piano track that played as Rick, Carl, and Hershel drove away from the flaming farm, the soft glow in the background. It was a really effective shot, and really helped to put things into perspective, especially for Hershel's character.

Back to the Maggie and Glen soap opera, Maggie was hysterical as would be expected. Glen finally mans up though, and gets them out of there safely. Eventually, he takes the wheel from her, and the scene ends with Glen finally confessing that he loved her, and had for a long time.

Cue the "aww" sounds and kitten pictures.

Back to the highway where the season started, Rick stops to wait for the others at the same place where they spent so long waiting for Sophia. Things look bleak for a while, Carl freaks out, but eventually everyone shows up. Well, not quite everyone. Andrea was nowhere to be found, and the others had to break the news about the unfortunate minor characters that didn't survive the farm.

Daryl made an Asian driving joke also, which was of course awesome.

After the commercial break, Andrea is revealed to still be alive (who was honestly surprised?), and she is booking it through the woods with the herd close behind her. She is completely desensitized by this point, and slaughters a gaggle of walkers.

Eventually,  Rick's gas guzzler runs out of fuel. Thankfully, there was a convenient stone structure to provide them shelter for the night. As the group relaxes roadside, Rick begins to open up to them. It starts with Rick finally telling us what the guy from CDC whispered into his ear at the end of the first season. Everyone's suspicious are finally confirmed, as Rick confesses that he has known the whole time that every one of them was already infected, and it was only a matter of time before they would become a walker. The group is pissed! Wah! You act like the guy hasn't saved all your asses a thousand times.

Rick then explains to Lori how he was forced to kill his best friend, and her reaction was, unexpected? The Talking Dead shed a little light onto this scene, and apaprently it was supposed to represent Lori's conflicted feelings, especially the feeling that she was responsible for the entire situation (shouldn't have cheated, huh?).

Then, the best scene of the whole episode. Andrea is visibly fatigued, about to die (I actually thought she was in danger for a minute), but a mysterious cloaked figure comes and saves her. Now, I haven't read the comics, so this reveal was absolutely shockin to me. This chick was wearing a brown cloak, wielding a katana, and towing along two zombies behind her, missing their arms and jaws. This was the most badass teaser I have ever seen, and holy crap am I excited to see this "Michonne" in action during the third season.

Screen captures aren't up yet, but you get the idea.

The episode ends with Rick's transformation coming full circle, and what the show runners are apparently calling the beginning of the "Ricktatorship". Now I like Rick, but this transformation will likely serve him well in the future. He is officially fed up, and I'd hate to get in his way now. He challenges anyone who doubts his leadership abilities to walk away, and see how they fare on their own. "Let's see how far you get. Send me a postcard." And then, the best line of the episode, Rick tells everyone that, "If you're staying, this isn't a democracy anymore."

This show has now reached cruising altitude, and I don't see the pace slowing any time soon. The last shot is a slow pan out which reveals a large prison facility in the background. I can only imagine what sorts of things will happen there next season, how this character people keep mentioning "The Governor" will be introduced, and which characters will be lucky enough to survive another season. This was an awesome episode of one of the best shows ever to grace television, with enough action to satisfy any adrenaline junkie, and enough teases to make me wish summer was already over.

Overall Score:  9.5/10


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