The Walking Dead: Beside the Dying Fire Review

We open this episode with a flashback to days of yore (Season One Episode One to be precise), where the helicopter that Rick saw upon entering Atlanta is now being seen from the vantage point of a bunch of walkers. The whirlybird is quite the attention grabber as every zombie within eye and ear shot decides to follow in the general direction the ‘captor was heading in. Herds being herds they pick up some stragglers along the way and show us that the undead are operating on ZPT (Zombie People Time) since it took them forever to finally arrive at Green Acres. And arrive they did, just in time to hear Carl bust a cap in Shane’s massively lobed head. The scene where the horde of zombies all keep pushing against the fence until it falls was cool and epitomized the awesome relentless nature of zombies.

The Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon
We switch to Rick and Carl having a father and son moment while taking a moonlit stroll through a picturesque field discussing the facts of life, the birds and the bees, where babies come from and whether Shane got bit by a zombie and if that is what turned him into the walking undead. So that answers the question of whether Carl saw Rick shank Shane under the pale moonlight…the kid must have only wandered out to the field right after the confrontation between Rick and Shane ended. Before Rick can give a fully satisfactory answer he notices the phalanx of zombies shuffling towards and around them. Oh snap! They can’t make it back to the farm without running into a massive wave of the undead! To the barn, Carl…it’s our only hope!

We Don’t Need No Water Let The Motherfucker Burn!
Rick and Carl do the serpentine run through the zombie horde to the barn with all the hungry walkers hot on their heels. Rick comes up with the bright idea to set the barn on fire. I’m guessing this is a threefold plan: it incapacitates a large chunk of zombies, draws the zombies toward the burning barn and away from the house, and alerts the other survivors that all hell has broken loose. Rick sends Carl up to the hayloft with a lighter while he opens the barn door and makes himself a tasty looking zombie target. When enough walkers enter the barn, Rick climbs the ladder and gives Carl the green light to set the barn ablaze. Now Rick and Carl are in a bit of a pickle though because they are trapped in a burning barn with zombies all around them.
Back in the house, the rest of the crew are being brought up to speed by Darryl and Glenn about the happenings in the woods…Randall was a zombie but he hadn’t been bit and things were looking super fishy according to Darryl’s mad tracking skills. As Darryl and Andrea head back out to go find Shane and Rick they notice that there fair has a shitload of unwanted visitors. Darryl shares a nice little nugget of information about how a herd of zombies of this size would probably rip the farm house a part so the best option is to get out of the way. It is at this late stage of the game that Lori finally notices that her small child has once again run off unsupervised. Great job of mothering you are doing, Mrs. Grimes!

Tonight Is A Good Night To Die
The survivors decide upon a plan. They will try to thin out some of the herd and then lead the rest of them off the farm. Darryl thinks this idea is suicide but Herschel aint leaving his farm…this is his land and no Commie undead are gonna run him off it, by gum! So the gang mounts up and goes out to shoot some walkers. It is at this point that I had to suspend disbelief even more than I normally would with a show about the dead rising. See every member of this team of survivors have become total badasses with firearms…Shane must have been the best teacher in the history of the gun. There was nothing but head shots going on in these scenes. And not just regular head shots under normal circumstances either. These people were putting bullets in zombie domes in the middle of the pitch black night while bouncing around in cars that seemed to be driving in circles. They all have futures as snipers when the zombie apocalypse ends.
So Male Red Shirt is driving Dale’s Winnebago and is ordered by Darryl (who is doing all of his zombie killing on his Harley) to head to the barn and see if Rick is in there. Male Red Shirt pulls up to the barn so Rick and Carl can jump on it and get to safety but I’m assuming he didn’t lock the door because as soon as he stops a bunch of zombies charge in and eat the living hell out of him. But at least characters we know have been saved thanks to his noble sacrifice. After seeing Male Red Shirt’s blood getting splattered all over the windows of the Winnie, Rick and Carl run off to the woods with zombies in hot pursuit.

Lori is losing her mind because she still can’t find Carl but is finally convinced that she has to have faith the boy is with his father. She then completely does a 180 in her opinion about how the womenfolk shouldn’t be getting involved in the menfolk’s doings (like shooting and hunting and whatnot) an picks up a gun to start shooting zombies. She makes a half-assed attempt to get Herschel to give up the ghost and come with her, Beth, Carol, and Female Red Shirt. The four women then make their way to one of the trucks but Female Red Shirt gets grabbed by a bunch of zombies and eaten while still holding onto Beth’s hand. It’s a pretty cool scene reminiscent of the Romero zombie flicks with the way the zombies all converge on her until all you see is undulating zombies and not one hint of Female Red Shirt. During all this Carol gets separated from the group. Luckily T-Dog and Andrea pull up just in time. LOri and Beth hop in the truck with T-Dog while Andrea goes out to rescue Carol’s lame ass. Andrea saves Carol from the two walkers coming at her and turns around just as a rather large zombie is right in her face…she headshots him but he falls on top of her. T-Dog and Lori assume Andrea is a goner and drive off while Carol, being the ungrateful cow that she is, just runs away, Glenn And Maggie have already left the farm, and . As her friends all drive off to relative safety, Andrea is left to fend for herself on foot. She does have the wherewithal to grab the bag of guns before she hightails off the farm on foot though. Carol’s pathetic screams for help are heard by Darryl who has taken the time during this crisis to strike a really cool pose on his hog while staring at the barn as it burns so he scoops her up on his bike and rides off.

Herschel is prepared to make his last stand which I am giving him pretty good odds on because he seems to have a rifle with an insane amount of rounds in it. I don’t recall seeing Herschel reload that damn thing once and he has been blasting zombies since this whole assault started. When he finally does need to reload it is at the most inopportune moment because there is a walker sauntering up right behind him. Lucky for Herschel our favorite former sheriff shows up in the nick of time and splatter the zombies brains all over the back of Herschel’s frosty white head. Rick is single-minded in his need to know if Lori is alright while Herschel doesn’t really give a fuck about anything but the fact that a bunch of smelly dead people are trying to take over his farm. Rick drags Herschel away and they ride off in one of those old piece of crap trucks that these people seem insistent on driving. I would have pilfered a newer model that isn’t likely to break down as much but I guess that is just me. The three of them drive away with Herschel taking one last longing look at his old homestead. How he doesn’t notice poor Andrea yelling for her life behind them is beyond me.

The Storm After The Calm After The Storm
The surviving survivors with cars are spread all over the place. Maggie begins to have a nervous breakdown but is quickly put at ease by Glenn’s declaration of love for her. That was very sweet of him and all but maybe he should have pulled his head out of his ass a bit earlier when Maggie was throwing herself at him. Glenn decides they will go back to the highway where they kept the care package for Sophia when she was missing. T-Dog and Lori get into a kerfuffle because T-Dog wants to head for “The Coast” with dreams of all he can eat menage a trios with Lori and Beth. The siren call of white pointing almost clouded T-Dog’s judgment but Lori brought him back to earth by threatening to jump out of the moving truck if he didn’t take them all to the Sophia rendezvous point. Rick, Carl, and Herschel are already there waiting (trying to avoid a very nattily dressed lone zombie in an argyle sweater). Herschel thinks they should leave and that Rick needs to only focus on protecting Carl. Carl refuses to leave without his mom. Just as Rick looks to be ready to leave lori and the lifetime of pain-in-the assitude that she is guaranteed to bring to his life, the rest of the crew shows up. They briefly discuss Andrea coming to the conclusion that she is most likely dead and then decide to head out but stay off the main roads.
Back in the woods, for what seemed like 5 weeks Andrea has been running for her life with a bunch of zombies hot on her ass. She is low on ammo and the bag of guns she has is useless because none o the proper ammo is in the bag. Andrea goes all Ellen Ripley on these zombies though. She shoots them until she can’t shoot no more and when she is completely out of ammo she gets gully on their undead asses. She beats one zombie dude up like he owed her money and then pistol-whips one until his head completely caves in. Just as she is is about to start a knife fight a la the Beat It video with the remaining zombie on her tail, Andrea loses balance and is about to become zombie food. Then the best moment in Walking Dead history happens…a hooded katana wielding figure with two pet gimp zombies beheads the walker saving Andrea’s bacon. Michonne is here! Yes!!!

The Dawn of the Ricktatorship
One of those pice of shit trucks finally runs out of gas. Rick decides they will camp out on the side of the road and then head out for gas in the morning. Rick is adamant that no one leaves the group and is holding tightly to his dream of a promised land out there for these wayward travelers. A place that can be made are from zombies and people alike. The rumblings of dissension are starting to grow with people questioning Rick’s decisions. Darryl bings up zombie Randall and the fact that he wasn’t bitten. He surmises that Shane killed Randall and the gang all wants to know how he turned into a zombie without being bit. Rick finally comes clean with everyone about what crazy old Doc Jenner whispered in Rick’s ear before the CDC blew up in the Season One finale. “We are all infected”. No one takes the news well but Glenn is particularly upset by Rick’s holding back this bit of info which causes Rick to go for a walk to clear his head.
Lori follows Rick to offer reassurance that she was sure he had reasons for not telling Jenner’s secret but Rick comes clean with how Shane died. He tells Lori how Shane was planning to kill him, how he put Shane down and doesn’t regret it. As a matter of fact he wanted to kill Shane because the guy was a gigantic pain in the ass who banged his wife and undermined him constantly. He tells her that once Shane turned that was when he knew for sure Jenner was right and not just some lunatic. Then he tells her that Carl was the one who killed Zombie Shane. Lori reacts like a total douche to this bit of gut-spilling by Rick. She won’t let him touch her and looks at him like he was a zombie or something. God, I hate her so much.
Carol decides to be a total slag and try to convince Darryl that Rick is the enemy, he is “bringing Darryl down”, he thinks of Darryl as nothing more than a henchman and seems to want Darryl to stage a coup or something. Darryl’s bewildered questioning of what Carol wants leads her to say she wants a man of honor. Maggie is also looking to get away from Rick. She wants to just leave Rick but Herschel shuts her down. The sound of movement in the surrounding woods freaks everyone out and ups the questioning of Rick’s leadership. Then Carol let’s loose with the contest mewling “Do something!” I have every heard. This sets Rick off and he lets loose with a lot of pent up anger. He tells them all about what happened with Shane saying he killed his best friend for these annoying people. He then says that anyone who thinks they will be better off without him can get to stepping and not let the proverbial door hit them on their collective asses. For anyone who stays, they need to straighten up and fly right because he will not be taking anymore bullshit from them. There is only room for one top dog in this kennel and his name is Rick “motherfucking” Grimes, bitches.
The theme music begins and the camera pans up and out revealing that just over the ridge sits the thing Rick has been looking for…the safe haven where they can begin to rebuild their lives: a prison!

The Characters
Rick was great this episode. He handed himself well against the zombie horde while also protecting that bratty child of his and then he finally let loose on the ungrateful wretches in his group who have been questioning his every move for far too long. Andrew Lincoln was really good in his big speech to the group about shaping hip or shipping put. Sure he seemed to just say “fuck effort” as far as his accent went and he was sounding remarkably like John Bernthal’s Shane in that scene but it was good to see Rick step up and lay down the law.

Lori’s reaction to the Shane news was perplexing and only served to make me hate hr even more than I already did. She was just egging Rick on to “take care” of SHane a few episodes ago and now that the deed is down she is treating Rick like he is a child molester or something. The sooner she dies the better.

Carl alternated between being a worthwhile character and being an annoying little douche. His reaction to Rick explaining how he had to kill Shane was peculiar. Almost as odd as Lori’s reaction actually. I understand he loved this Uncle Shane but the guy was planning on killing his dad.

Carol has gone from my really not giving a rat’s ass about her to hating her with a white hot passion. This woman brings nothing to the group aside from being a useless load yet she saw was the quickest to begin turning on Rick. And the way she was trying to manipulate Darryl made me look at her entirely different than I did before. I assumed she was a passive bit of nothing but she has shown herself to be a calculating and manipulative shrew. She is also the new #1 on my Please Die List.

I have done a complete turnaround on Andrea. This episode showed her being what I have wanted her to be since the show started. I don’t get why they felt the need to create an evolutionary arc of her going from weak to strong but i am willing to look past all the horribleness that was the Andrea character because she was gully as hell in this episode.

Glenn declaring his love for Maggie was a welcome scene since it ends the contrived and unnecessary obstacle that the show put in their relationship.

Darryl was all sorts of badass in this episode. From the witty one-liners to the cool zombie killing while on his Harley; the guy was awesome. I am also liking his growing trust and faith in Rick. His correcting Carol on the fact that Rick has honor shows where he stands in the group and that he has Rick’s back.

Herschel is also proving himself to be a loyal member of Team Rick. He had multiple moments in this episode where he admonished other members of the group to trust in Rick’s leadership. He also was a G standing tall with his shotgun like he was in an old western movie and the zombies were rampaging Apache’s coming to scalp him.

Beth should have gotten eaten during the farm attack.

And then there’s T-Dog. Aside from trying to be slick and get Lori and Beth to become his sister wives, T-Dog once again had very little to do. I have found a new appreciation for T-Dog’s facial expressions (the one he had after Rick told them they were all infected was priceless). He seems to be stepping into the role Dale filled of “awesome facial expression guy”. He also has dropped down on the Please Die List because of Lori and Carol’s dual bitchy ascensions and Beth’s all around uselessness.

Final Verdict:
This was a great episode one half high action zombie shoot ’em up and one half character builder. The assault on Herschel’s farm was impeccably done and even though the deaths were totally of the Star Trek Red Shirt variety I was glad to see some people get eaten. Rick’s progression throughput the episode was fun to see too. I can’t really blame the guy for blowing his stack. This group of people foisted leadership on him yet they have always questioned everything he has done. Letting them know what the deal is was a long time coming. Darryl and Herschel’s loyalty to Rick was nice to see too but Lori and Carol were horrible. I don’t know if the writers of this show hate these characters as much as I do but they do them no favors with how they are written.
But the best thing about this episode was the introduction of the woman who will soon be know as Michonne. The visual of her standing their with her gimp zombies on a chain leash is such a cool one and may be one of the best shots this show has done in its entire existence. There were a lot of cool shots in this episode. Another favorite was of the barn burning with Dale’s Winnebago aflame right in from of it. Just really good stuff. This was likely my second favorite episode of the series behind the pilot (which I considered to be perfect). A-

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