Best. Episode. Ever.
Oh that’s all I had, you need more? Fine, okay. Coming off the great cliffhanger with the group’s finding of the CDC last week, the finale had a lot to prove. For one, introducing such a radical new idea so late into the season, which is found nowhere in the comics, and have it make sense. This tense, violent, nerve-shattering, punch-you-in-the-gut-every-five-minutes episode did just that. And much, much more.
For one, we got to see Rick in his hospital bed as the world was falling apart around him. In the hallway outside of Rick’s room, Shane witnesses a mass execution of seemingly innocent civilians by the military, and hurriedly blocks off Rick’s room to protect him from the walkers. Since we never got anything about the actual downfall of society in either medium of The Walking Dead, it was really cool to see the governmental reaction (I’ve yet to see a zombie-apocalypse show where they don’t kill innocents) and Shane’s inner turmoil on deciding what to do about Rick.
After that, the finale didn’t miss a beat. From walking into the CDC, the group met Dr. Jenner, whom we all met via video logs last week, and received the nice amenities of wine and hot showers. The former of which get more than a few drunk pretty quickly. Despite some silly scenes early on (Carl responding to a sip of wine with an overenthusiastic kid reply of “Eww yuck” and Shane wallowing in his self-hatred with a bottle of wine in the shower) the beginning of the episode definitely had that “calm before the storm” air going on.
After the group questions Jenner about what he knows concerning the virus, he shows them a slide show of a person’s brain undergoing the zombie transformation, ending with a bullet zooming through its head. Further revealing this was his wife, it was pretty easy to imagine what he went through, after seeing Amy turn last week. But, of course, all good things must come to an end. Jenner admits that the generators are shutting down, and without power the building’s decontamination (a.k.a. explosives) procedures will go into effect.
Seeing Jenner lock down the room everyone is in to wait out the last thirty minutes of the countdown was pretty nerve-wracking stuff. Given that the show has pretty much abandoned the comic storyline, I was really worried for basically all of their survival. And when Andrea announced she would stay after Jenner finally relented and opened the doors, I practically yelled at my television. Dale convinces her to leave after an emotional retort to Andrea’s grim attitude, and they just make it outside before the building erupts in flames.
I liked the general tension that ran throughout the episode; the closed spaces really funneled all the problems and dramas of the group and forced some to face them head-on. Like Shane confronting Lori about what we saw during the opening scene, trying to convince her he really thought Rick was dead. Then proceeding, in a drunken stupor, to attempt to have sex with her, and getting three nail marks on his neck for trying. This stuff, along with the giant timer counting down the doomsday clock, really sped this episode along nicely.
The ending, despite a nice big ‘splosion and zombie heads flying, needed something more, though. I really don’t know what I was waiting for, but just the group driving away into the distance was definitely not enough. The previous couple of episodes were pretty consistent in giving us little treats and surprises at the end to bring us into the next show. It in no way hurts the show by not having that “hook”, but it’s always fun to have that moment right at the end that has everyone talking and questioning until the show’s return. I guess we’ll just have to do with pondering over what Jenner whispered into Rick’s ear. I could speculate stuff from the comics, but it would be just that – pure speculation. An exploding building just wasn’t enough story-wise to tantalize us in waiting for season two.
But who am I kidding? I would have been antsy for season two even if this finale was a complete stinker. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t. Was the complete opposite, in fact – a great, tension-filled, explosive conclusion to the pretty stupendous first season of The Walking Dead. Here’s to season two and finding out what the hell happened to Merle. See you guys next October.