‘The Walking Dead’ season finale: Burning down the … barn

After  a second season that tested the limits of its viewers’ patience at times — and at other times excelled as after-the-end-of-the-world melodrama — “The Walking Dead” went out with a bang tonight.

Lots of bangs, as a matter of fact, followed by exploding walker heads. Also fire, as in the fire that burned down farmer Hershel’s barn.

In this case, fire good. Walkers bad!

Some thoughts on tonight’s episode:

The helicopter: As the episode begins, walkers in the streets of Atlanta notice a black helicopter overhead. They stumble after it, a journey that takes them out into the countryside and to the fields of Hershel’s farm. The helicopter not only explains why all the walkers showed up in the countryside at one time but teased us with the possibility of other survivors. Who was in that helicopter?

The badass chronicles: Daryl, with his crossbow and attitude, is a fan favorite on this show. Tonight he didn’t disappoint, tooling around on his motorcycle and snarking at people. Oh, and killing walkers. But Hershel, the mild-mannered veterinarian who has been an annoyance at times this season, grabbed his gun and put down a lot of walkers tonight. He also backed the new, more badass version of Rick who took charge by the end of tonight’s episode.

“We’re all infected.” Rick reveals what the doctor at the Centers for Disease Control whispered to him at the end of the first season. It makes perfect sense — the zombie plague had to begin somehow, after all — but casts a pall over the whole proceedings. If you manage to avoid walkers for 20 years and have a heart attack, you come back as a walker. Bummer.

The prison: The next major setting for the series is straight out of the comic book series. I haven’t read that far in the comics, but there’s potential for a lot of conflict there. We glimpse it at the end of the episode.

Michonne: One of the most-awaited characters from the comic book series showed up right before the final scene, as a hooded, sword-wielding figure  rescues Andrea from a horde of walkers. On “Talking Dead” afterward, the show’s producers confirmed that the hooded swordswoman was popular comic book character Michonne. Creator Robert Kirkman (I think it was) said that Michonne is the first character who’s not just surviving in the post-apocalyptic world but has it all figured out.

I’ll come back to the topic of “The Walking Dead” at some point soon — certainly before the show returns next fall — but it’s been fun blogging about the series this season and I’m looking forward to season three.

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