This season finale made me so happy I could cry.  In fact… yup, there it is… a tear.  A tear of joy and exultation at an episode so epic and mind-blowing I called two of my best friends to scream at them during it.  Let’s get into it!  Spoilers ahead!

We start with the beginnings of a horde, milling about in Atlanta and drawn by the sound of a helicopter.  From there they clump together just by walking in the same direction.  They swarm through the broken-down highway.  We see how, by their sheer number, they are able to knock down fences and anything else in their way.  They spread farther and farther and are attracted to the sudden noise of Carl shooting Shane.

The horde builds and builds

Carl and Rick are about to have a very awkward conversation about what happened to Shane when they notice the zombie horde coming in fast.  They run towards the house, but before they get very far, they are blocked from it by all the zombies.  They head instead towards the barn.

Daryl and Glenn return to the house with news of zombie Randall but no Rick and Shane.  Daryl can tell from the tracks that Shane and Randall were together in the woods, and everyone’s confused that Randall was a zombie without bite marks.  No time for that problem, though, because the household can now see the zombie horde heading towards them.  Plans are quickly made.  Hershel wants to defend his home.  They will try to lure some of the zombies away with the cars, and shoot the ones they can.  Lori finally notices Carl is missing.  I can’t believe it took her so long!  At this point I would have that kid duct-taped to my chest at all times.  Would that make me a bad mother?  It would make sure my kid was alive, so I don’t know that I care.

Inside the barn, Rick puts down gasoline, then opens the doors to the zombies who have gathered outside.  From the loft, Carl drops drops a lighter and sets the zombies ablaze.  Rick climbs up to the loft just in time, and the zombies burn like dry straw.

T-Dog, Andrea, Maggie, Glenn and Daryl tear through the farm in their vehicles, shooting down zombies, but there are too many.  Darryl tells Jimmy to circle to the back of the barn for whomever set the fire.  Carl and Rick jump on top of the camper.  Jimmy opens the door and is devoured immediately.  Rick and Carl are forced to run for it and head to the woods.

Hershel has begun shooting the walkers around the farmhouse.  Lori and Carol search frantically for Carl, but of course he’s gone.  Lori doesn’t want to leave Carl, but Carol convinces her that she must save herself if she wants to help Carl at all.  They call for Hershel, but he won’t leave his position.  Carol, Patricia, Lori, and Beth run for the car.  Patricia is attacked and goes down.  T- Dog and Andrea pull up and Lori and Beth get in the truck.  Carol and Andrea are left behind to fight.  Maggie and Glenn are overcome in their car and are forced to leave the farm entirely.

What I wouldn't give to be Carol in this scene

Hershel fires round after round, and Rick comes up behind him to kill a zombie just as it is about to attack.  He forces Hershel to leave, the three of them getting in a truck and driving away.  Andrea tries to hail Rick but he doesn’t see her.  Daryl is watching the mayhem from his bike on the road and hears Carol screaming.  He drives back and she jumps on the back of the bike.  They speed away together.  Andrea is the only one left at the overrun farm.  The barn burns and turns to smoke and ash in the sky.

The group is scattered.  Maggie is upset, and in comforting her, Glenn says he loves her.  Rick, Hershel, and Carl hit the highway and end up at the meeting spot they had previously arranged for Sophia.  Carl is angry that they’re stopping – he wants to go back for Lori.  Hershel argues with Rick about what to do – Rick wants to stay together and Hershel wants Rick to leave with Carl and keep him safe.  To prove Hershel’s point, a straggler zombie staggers through the disabled cars near them.  Is he alone, or is he just the first of another horde?

T-Dog, Lori, and Beth are headed to the coast.  T-Dog is ready to leave everyone behind, but Lori wants to head back to the highway.  She almost jumps out of the car to prove her point.  T-Dog turns around reluctantly.  They and the others arrive at Sophia’s meeting point, and the reunion is emotional.  Lori asks about Shane but Rick doesn’t mention killing him.  They go through the list of who’s alive and who’s zombie food.  Daryl and Carol want to go back for Andrea, but Rick says she’ll either be dead or already gone from the farm.  There’s no point in going back, and so they trudge on.

We finally get a glimpse of Andrea, still very much alive and running through the woods with a pack of zombies on her trail.  She is low on ammo and smashes one zombie’s head against a tree trunk.  She runs on, shooting the walkers she comes across, but they just keep coming.

The group that camps together on an abandoned road stays together

Rick’s car runs out of gas.  He doesn’t want to separate again and suggests they stay there and search for gas and supplies in the morning.  The group is scared and argues – no one wants to camp out in the open.  Rick wants a place to actually live in and fortify. Daryl tells Rick that he found Randall and guesses that Shane killed Randall.  Rick’s silence is confirmation.  Lori wonders if the herd then got Shane.  Rick again doesn’t mention that he killed him, but the question persists of how Randall became a zombie.  Rick says, “We’re all infected.  Jenner told me.  Whatever it is, we all carry it.”  He thought it best that people didn’t know, but everyone is angry that he kept it secret.

Rick walks off a bit from the group and Lori follows.  Rick tells Lori that he killed Shane when he came at him.  Shane had planned the confrontation and Rick had no choice.  He admits he knew what Shane was doing but didn’t stop him; he just wanted it over with.  Seeing Shane turn was his proof that what Jenner said was true.  He tells Lori that Carl shot Shane, and this is what seems to affect her.  She avoids his touch and gives him the look of righteous indignation that I’ve come to hate.  At this point I yelled “How dare you?!” at my T.V.  Lori has been pushing Rick to do something about Shane, whispering in his ear, and now she has the gall to act disgusted that he killed Shane before Shane could kill him?

Back in the forest, Andrea is forced to get close and personal with zombie killing.  Just when it seems her luck has run out, a hooded stranger appears and beheads the zombie attacking her.  MICHONNE!!!!!  It’s MICHONNE!  Michonne in all her sword-wielding glory, with two zombies chained to her.  If you haven’t read the comics, she’s just a mysterious figure to you, but let me assure you that she is AMAZING.  This is the point at which I had to call my friends and shriek with excitement.

The group at the campsite is grumbling.  Carol tells Rick to do something and he fires back, “I killed my best friend for you people.”  He tells them to go and try things on their own if they’d like to, but if they stay they need to accept that “this isn’t a democracy anymore.”

As the camera pans away, we see a prison in the distance.  For readers of the comic, it’s the prison, the place we’ve been waiting to see.  Season three promises to have even more drama and action!

Now THAT is a season finale!  The zombies in the beginning follow the same trail that Rick and the group take through season one and end up where they are at this very moment in season two.  It’s a very sly and clever reminder of the trek they’ve already made, a sort of zombiefied version of the usual beginning recap – “this season, on The Walking Dead…”

Rick really took charge this episode, not only saving himself and Carl but confronting those who doubt his leadership.  Was he right not to tell them about what Jenner had revealed to him?  He wasn’t sure that Jenner was telling the truth, so sharing this information with the others would have upset them for (potentially) no reason, had it turned out to be false.  He could have brought it up once they were at the farm, but Hershel and the farm represented a new hope.  They thought they had found a safe house, and a place to stay zombie free.  Seeing the uniformed zombies with Shane at the office building was where I think Rick first started to believe Jenner might have been right.  Dale was shot in the head, so there wasn’t a way to know there.  Seeing Shane turn was his final answer, but he didn’t have time to share his findings with everyone else.  So ultimately I understand why Rick didn’t tell everyone what Jenner said.  I don’t think I would have kept it quiet though.  Not knowing this was a possibility puts everyone in danger.  Say Dale hadn’t been shot in the head, and Andrea was wailing over him the way she did with Amy, and he came back when she wasn’t expecting it?  It is what it is, and Rick can’t go back in time, but I can also see why everyone else is miffed.  He was waiting for proof, but they were the potential guinea pigs.

This was an action packed episode, to be sure!  What did you think?  Was Rick right to keep what Jenner told him a secret?  Are you eager for season three already?  I can’t wait to see Michonne shake things up!

Miss an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’? Check out our recap of last week’s ‘Better Angels’.