'The Walking Dead' Season 2 finale: 'Beside the Dying Fire' everything changes

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twd-s2-finale-group.jpg ***It should go without saying, but if you haven't yet watched Sunday's (March 18) season finale, then you risk having it utterly spoiled by reading past this point.***

It turns out that "Beside the Dying Fire" is where everything changed -- at least for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). The character at the center of AMC's "The Walking Dead" emerged from the Season 2 finale a changed man.

In an episode not short on "holy crap" moments, a lot happened to advance the story of our merry (okay, maybe not so merry) band of zombie-apocalypse survivors.

-- Rick killed Shane ( Jon Bernthal) at the end of last week's episode for two reasons: He thought Shane would kill him if he didn't (he's right) and he thought it was what his wife, Lori ( Sarah Wayne Callies) wanted him to do. And, make no mistake -- she did want only one man to emerge from their showdown. It turns out the wrong one came back and Rick now realizes that.

It's hardened his heart, but he's still got a son and a baby on the way so he's going to do whatever he can to keep them alive. Including declaring himself a sort of despot.

"If you're staying," says Rick when the remnants of the group threaten to splinter, "this isn't a democracy anymore."

-- Which brings us to the next point. Who's left after the farm was completely overrun by the biggest herd of zombies we've seen so far? It's probably easier to list who didn't make it: Jimmy, Patricia and the RV. The first two went down on the farm as zombie food, the last was left behind -- and maybe it's fitting that it should stay close to Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) who was buried nearby a couple of episodes back.

-- We no longer need to wonder what Jenner whispered to Rick at the CDC in the Season 1 finale. As most canny fans have suspected, it was something about the nature of the zombie virus: It turns out one doesn't need to be bit or even come into contact with zombie blood to get infected. Why? Because everyone is already infected. The only requirement is dying.

"We're all infected," says Rick when the group questions Randall's zombification. "At the CDC, Jenner told me. Whatever it is, we all carry it."

-- Who was that hooded figure with the sword? We don't think it's much of a spoiler since AMC released a statement as soon as the episode aired announcing the casting of Michonne. She made her first impression on us in the finale when she saved Andrea from a walker with one slice from a samurai sword.

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-- What was that huge complex the camera panned out to at the end of the episode? I'll say this: Rick's looking for a secure place to take his group and hunker down for the winter. That may just be the answer.

A few more random thoughts:

-- The herd that converged on the farm was first set in motion by the same helicopter Rick saw hovering over Atlanta in Season 1. A nice tie-in.

-- Patricia died in much the same way as Otis -- once the zombies had her it distracted them long enough to allow Lori and Beth to get away.

-- The "Mad Men" "Zombies Are Back" trailer? Love it!



What did you think of Season 2's final episode? Share your thoughts below...
Photo/Video credit: AMC