“Beside the Dying Fire" Review
This episode has a strong opener, showing us exactly where the walkers came from and how far they’ve travelled to reach Hershel’s farm. Interestingly, they follow the same helicopter Rick saw last season, which puts them on the trajectory towards Rick and Carl. The ill-fated gunshot sealed their fate. And as soon as the walkers show up (only two minutes in), things don’t slow down for a second.
I especially like how scattered and chaotic the action is. We see different characters in different places, and their reactions to the crisis reveal specific character traits, too. Carol comforting Lori (who thinks she’s lost Carl) is an especially nice example.
It’s remarkable that “Beside the Dying Fire” was filmed in the usual eight day shoot. This is one big episode - it has the scope and feel of a major motion picture. The choice to keep the barn burning in the background was very effective, and the inevitable collapse cements the fact that there’s no going back. I loved Hershel here, and the surprising decision to keep him alive. I can’t wait to see his transition next season. After all, the farm has been his identity for much of his life.
So many Season 2 story arcs come to a head here, and they’re all handled appropriately. The fact that the group ends up back on the highway (with the now faded note to Sophie) brought things full circle and made us reflect on how the characters have changed over the course of the second season. Likewise, Rick’s reveal of Dr. Jenner’s dying words (from last season’s “TS-19”) was a great moment, too. The knowledge that they’re all infected will certainly carry over a layer of unease as we move into Season 3.
In fact, “Beside the Dying Fire” serves as a great transition into next season. The reveal of the prison worked well, and I loved the mysterious hooded figure who saved Andrea. My quick Google search says her name is Michonne, but I haven’t read the comics, so it came as a fascinating character to see on screen.
On that note, the hooded character was the first person on this series to actually feel like a comic book character. The blades and chained, armless walkers presented an intriguing flair that The Walking Dead usually shies away from. I suspect Season 3 will have a more comic book-like approach, and it’ll prove interesting to see how that’s handled.
I did have a few issues with the episode, but they’re trite when you take “Beside the Dying Fire” as a whole. My biggest complaint has to do with Lori’s anger at Rick. Having confessed to killing Shane, why was she so angry? After all, she seemed to hint that this needed to be done back in “Triggerfinger,” and Rick also explained how Shane had the intent of killing him first - Lori’s husband. He’d only acted in self-defense, yet Lori ignores this.
Also, Rick’s speech at the end (while intriguing in its own right) felt like a strange place to end the episode. I know it spoke to an inner character change, but I think it might have helped to end with a macroscopic montage (i.e.: where are all these characters physically and emotionally). The end works, but doesn’t quite wrap things up as neatly as it could have.
Still, there’s no denying that this was an excellent season closer to a somewhat shaky season. The decision to kill off Shane last week was a great decision, as “Beside the Dying Fire” focuses in on a broader issue and finally gets the group off the farm. And honestly, the farm went out in the most badass possible way.
If you’ve been following my reviews this season, I thank you for taking the time; I always appreciate it. Feel free to catch up on any of my Walking Dead reviews right here. I’ll see all you fellow zombie fans in October for Season 3.