The Walking Dead "Beside The Dying Fire" REVIEW

TV REVIEW Gunfire galore and big bombshells

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THE ONE WHERE The farm is over-run and abandoned, and Rick reveals that they all carry the infection.

VERDICT A fantastic episode, which consolidates a strong run of stories, ends the series on a high, and leaves us confident about its future. Those pedestrian early-season episodes are now just a distant memory.

The Walking Dead is more about character than zombie carnage, so expecting to see some in every episode would be missing the point quite spectacularly. Still, we deserve the occasional bit of blood and thunder, so it’s hugely satisfying to be presented with so much thrilling action here - Glenn’s hanging-out-of-a-car heroics are a particular highlight.

There are some artful images (like the burning barn collapsing, with zombies silhouetted in the flickering flames), and some great character moments. Glenn’s declaration of his feelings for Maggie is a real “sorry, got something in my eye” scene, but Rick’s confession to Lori – where he goes into much greater depth about his feelings than he had any real need to – blows it out of the water. Breathtaking stuff, perfectly played by Andrew Lincoln.

Then there’s that bombshell dropped by Rick. We guessed what Jenner whispered in Rick's ear last week, but it remains a game-changing revelation – albeit one that doesn’t change their day-to-day reality all that much (all it really means is that the old and infirm must henceforth be treated like a ticking time bomb). Rick’s “my way or the high way” speech as he tires of having his decisions questioned is arguably more significant when it comes to series' furure path. Rick’s morality became much muddier in the comic, but there was no guarantee that the TV version would follow suit, and no guarantee that killing Shane would make him more ruthless. Well, it looks like it has.

Minor grouses? Well, once again, it’s sometimes a bit hard to make things out in all the murk (it took a while for this reviewer to figure out exactly who’d jumped on the back of Daryl’s motorcycle). And the two deaths-by-zombie have little or no impact. Patricia and Jimmy had “zombie-fodder” tattooed on their foreheads from the very start, and were never adequately fleshed out. Still, after the shock deaths of Dale and Shane it’s almost a relief to see a couple of ciphers kicking the bucket, instead of a character we’re heavily invested in.

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE T-Dog gets to drive a car, and have a brief argument with Lori! By the Dog’s standards, that’s an eventful day.

THE HOODED ONE You’ll know this, of course, if you’ve read the comics, but the shadowy figure with the samurai sword (and two armless zombies in two) is the kick-ass Michonne , probably the print version’s coolest character. Once she’s properly introduced in series three, The Walking Dead will have two fearless women warriors on its roster. Dania Gurira has been cast, and we simply cannot wait to see her in action – or to see the whole gang move into the prison glimpsed in that wonderful final reveal.

NITPICKS Why don’t Rick and co leave a note for Andrea in the place where they left the supplies for Sophia, in case she has the same idea about heading back to the highway? At the very least they could scrawl “heading east”.

BEST LINE Hershel: “Christ promised resurrection of the dead… I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”

Read all our The Walking Dead season two reviews .

The Walking Dead airs in the UK on FX .

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Deputy Editor, SFX

Ian Berriman has been working for SFX – the world's leading sci-fi, fantasy and horror magazine – since March 2002. He also writes for Total Film, Electronic Sound and Retro Pop; other publications he's contributed to include Horrorville, When Saturday Comes and What DVD. A life-long Doctor Who fan, he's also a supporter of Hull City, and live-tweets along to BBC Four's Top Of The Pops repeats from his @TOTPFacts account.