"Beside the Dying Fire," Episode 13 of Season 2, packed in more walkers than we could count. They were drawn to the farm after [SPOILER ALERT!] Rick stabbed Shane last week. The attack caused Shane to shoot off his gun, which brought Carl to the scene. Yet another bullet — shot by Carl into Shane's brain because Shane had turned into a walker — proved to be the siren song for an entire herd of walkers. There's a hipster walker, redneck walker, doctor walker ... we learn that all this time this herd has been hoofing it from Atlanta and finally found themselves around our band of survivors' neck of the woods, just in time for the season finale. And once they heard that gunfire — well, where there's guns, there's human brains, and what self-respecting zombie can deny himself/herself that?
The survivors at the farmhouse see the walkers approaching. Rick and Carl, still out in the field by Shane's dead (for a second time) body, see the walkers approaching. Those in the house arm themselves. Rick and Carl run, trying to avoid being seen, and realize they can't make it to the house. They instead seek shelter in the barn, walker herd hot on their heels.
The men of the house (plus Andrea and Maggie) jump into vehicles in an attempt to corral and shoot out as many walkers as possible. The women of the house freak out when Lori realizes Carl is missing.
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Meanwhile, Carl is with Rick, who is dumping fuel all over the barn. He hands Carl his lighter and ushers his son to the rafters. Rick opens the door, baits zombies to come in, and climbs up the ladder as Carl drops the lighter. Barbecued walkers, anyone?
The survivors take the burning barn as a good sign — that someone deliberately set it to distract the herd. Jimmy pulls by the barn in the RV and sees Rick and Carl. Father and son jump on the roof to safety. But no good deed goes unpunished, and a number of walkers break into the RV. The vehicle that was once such a safe haven for the group becomes Jimmy's deathbed as hungry zombies rip him to pieces. Rick and Carl sneak away as Jimmy's blood is splattered on the windshield.
Back at the house, the women folk are too frightened to do much more than yell and run. Lori leads them out of the house as Hershel takes out walkers one by one, determined to defend his farm. He doesn't hear the women leave. Too bad, because Lori leads them into the thick of the herd — and Patricia pays the price. She's bit and torn at, her neck a gaping hole. Beth can't let go of Patricia's hand, despite the zombie feeding frenzy. T-Dog, who had been herding/shooting walkers in his truck with Andrea, drives up just in time to save Beth and Lori — but where is Carol? Andrea jumps out to save her. T-Dog can't wait ... can't wait ... can't wait ... and so he drives away, leaving Andrea and Carol stranded.
Meanwhile, Glenn and Maggie, in another vehicle, are now surrounded. Glenn tells Maggie to drive off the farm. Not until the herd tries to take apart the SUV like it's a human skull does she oblige.
Back at the house, Rick and Carl finally make it over to Hershel, still shooting zombies in front of his home. Rick wants to know where Lori is. Hershel wants to stay and protect his farm. Neither gets his answer/his way because even more walkers are advancing, so Rick drives Carl and Hershel off the farm. Andrea tries to flag them down, but to no avail. She is left alone.
Daryl, on his motorcycle away from the farm, watching the scene go down, hears a scream. He drives over and rescues Carol, who had tried running. They drive off the farm.
Back in Rick's truck, Hershel watches, sorrow plain on his face, as they drive away from his home forever. The inferno engulfs the barn, sending it to the ground as walkers mill around. It's eerily reminiscent of the midseason finale, when Shane opened the barn door and unleashed the undead friends and family Hershel had been housing there.
It's daytime now. Rick drives to the highway, back to the supplies that they had left for Sofia in case she had returned as a human looking for her fellow survivors, not as the walker she turned out to be. Carl wants to wait there for his mom. Hershel says it's not safe. Rick agrees, and starts to rationalize to Carl why they have to move on without his son's mother. And then they hear engines. It's Daryl and Carol! And Glenn and Maggie! And T-Dog and Lori and Beth! All is right with the world again — except it's not. Jimmy is dead. Patricia is dead. But Andrea? And Shane? Well ...
Turns out Andrea's doing OK for herself. She's running through the woods, chased by a pack of walkers. She has guns and ammo — but not much. But she's surviving.
That's what the others are going to have to do when Rick's truck is just about out of gas. The group pulls over by some old ruins and Rick instructs them on the plan — they will secure the area, camp for the night, find supplies in the morning. Nearly everyone disagrees, saying it simply isn't safe. Daryl brings up the point that Randall turned into a walker without even getting bit.
"What the hell happened?" asks Lori.
"Shane killed Randall like he always wanted to," Daryl replies.
And then Randall got Shane?
No, Rick explains. "We're all infected."
That's right. Everyone is a living walker waiting to be the walking dead. Rick reveals that's what Jenner told him before he blew himself and the CDC up way back in the first season finale.
Shock and horror run through the group. How could Rick keep something like that to himself?
Rick walks away. Lori walks after him, trying to comfort her husband.
"I killed him," Rick says. "I killed Shane." Well, so much for comfort.
Lori is pissed. She's shocked. She's hurt. She's the one who goaded Rick into this after all, isn't she?
Back in the woods, Andrea is slowing down. She's gotta be almost completely out of ammo by now. She slams one walker against a tree. She shoves a knife up the nose of another one. But then she falls. A third walker is right at her, right on top of her, and then — a flash of silver. A dead walker, killed by a blade. As the body slumps over, a hooded figure is revealed standing behind it — a hooded figure holding two leashes on which armless zombies are attached, swaying, silent in her command. Holy OMG. This is incredible. Like, pause the show, laugh, jump and down, and squeal a little awesome. This is Michonne. (Danai Gurira, who has starred in "Treme," will play this favorite character from "The Walking Dead" comic book series, creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman revealed after the season finale, during "Talking Dead.")
It's night back at the makeshift camp where the other survivors are waiting out the darkness. They have varying degrees of confidence in Rick after his revelation about the infection. They hear a noise, and Rick stands up to lead. Everyone has different opinions on how to investigate the sound. Carol demands someone do something. Rick's had enough.
"I am doing something," Rick snarls. "I'm keeping you alive. I killed my best friend for you people, for Christ's sake."
The survivors look at him in horror. Rick tries to explain his point of view, remind everyone of the poor decisions Shane kept making and how he kept putting the group in danger. Rick gets badass. He tells the group that from now on, it's his way or the highway.
"This isn't a democracy anymore," he says. ("This is the beginning of the 'Ricktatorship,'" executive producer Glen Mazzara said during "Talking Dead.")
Lori looks at him like, "Who have you become?"
Ricks walks out of the ruins, seemingly to check out the noise. As the camera pans out, in the distance, not too far away, we see a compound. It's a prison. And the stage for Season 3 is set.