A major criticism with The Walking Dead’s second season that there was to much time spent on the farm doing nothing, which isn’t wrong of anyone to say. The first half of the season is spent with Hershel and family looking for Sophia, and just as you think Rick’s group will be able to move forward to Fort Benning (a place they never get to by the way), they spend the second block on the episode on the farm deciding on what to do with Randall.
So I can see why fans were disappointed after the fast paced first season. On rewatch the season runs much smoother, but week to week this would of been a pain. The major reason for being stationary for so long was to flesh out individual characters. Whatever the writers were trying to do, it didn’t have the same effect as the character development seen in season four with Scott M. Gimple at the helm.
Looking back I can see what was created in this season working so much better condensed into eight episodes. You would still have major moments with Carl being shot, Shane killing Otis, Sophia emerging turned from the barn, and the decision on what to do with Randall. For the most part the events of season one were lifted from the comic series’ first volume (six issue arcs), so I don’t know why they thought the comics second arc would be suitable to stretch out.
All that aside we are know at where I want to get at: the final episode of the season, “Beside the Dying Fire”, and how it makes up for the season. I don’t know if we’ve seen a season final like this since. “Welcome to the Tombs” was action packed but really left the story unfinished, “A” was character defining for Rick, but was really there to set up the next season, and the same can be said for “Conquer” as it tied up loose ends, and gave us a taste for what could be to come. All of these episodes have big show defining moments, but is unlike “Dying Fire” which from start to finish hits all the right notes.
The episode opens with Rick and Carl returning from the woods, fresh from killing Shane, and following a heard of Atlanta’s zombies that found the farm by following the shows recurring helicopter. From then on in it’s guns a blazing, literally. Rick and Carl are cornered into the barn, and let it burn with the zombies inside, while heavy hitters like Glenn, Maggie, Andrea, and Daryl do the rounds driving on the farm to get rid of their unwanted guests, only to realise it is a waste of ammunition and a lost cause. In the midst of it all they leave behind Andrea to fend for herself. The season ends with the crew literally on the road (it wouldn’t be the last time), and the beginning of the “Rick-tatorship”. I don’t know. Maybe this isn’t the best television episode of all time. Maybe it isn’t even in my top five Walking Dead episodes, but it for sure has a great rewatch value, and is a major turning point for the show.