There’s been a lot of discussion about the similarities and differences between Robert Kirkman’s comic and Frank Darabont’s television adaptation, but for the most part, I’ve embraced the changes that have been made. For instance, Kirkman would never insert a flashback into his story, but tonight’s season finale opened with one, going back to the early days of the outbreak when Shane attempted to rescue Rick from the hospital. We all know how that turned out, but I was a little surprised to see the military acting so callously – shooting anyone they came in contact with regardless of whether they were infected or not. To be fair to Shane, he had no shot of getting Rick out of their alive with all those machines, but even though he was kind enough to block the door with a hospital bed to keep the walkers out, that doesn’t make up for his adulterous betrayal.
Back in the present, Dr. Jenner welcomes the survivors into the CDC facility, but on one condition: that everyone submits to a blood test, just to make sure no one’s infected. Once everyone checks out, Jenner takes them on a tour of Zone 5, and before long, the survivors are laughing, drinking wine, and generally just enjoying themselves for the first time in a long while. Jenner isn’t impressed, and neither is Shane, who feels like they should be getting the answers they came for instead of getting wasted. But he doesn’t like what Jenner has to tell him – that most of the scientists left to be with their families when the outbreak hit, and others just committed suicide – and so Shane decides to wash his sorrows with a little booze.
Actually, it was probably more like a lot of booze, or he would have been smart enough to walk away after discovering Lori perusing the building’s makeshift library all alone. At first, it seemed like he was just trying to apologize for the way he’s been acting lately, but the more that Lori pushed him away, the more aggressive Shane became. He swears that he didn’t lie about Rick being dead and couldn’t do anything to save him (which is true), but forcing yourself on someone isn’t exactly the way to their heart, and Lori let him know it by scratching his neck. He definitely looked sorry about it the next day after he sobered up, but the damage was already done. Plus, it’s not like his feelings have changed any, and you can bet that Shane is going to become more of a liability the longer he’s around. Just wait until Dale tells Rick about what he saw in the woods.
Most of the survivors were nursing a hangover the next morning, but they still wanted some answers, so Jenner decided to show them what he’s been working on. TS-19 is a test subject who was bitten and then agreed to let the scientists record the infection process to better help their understanding of the virus. Oh yeah, and it just so happens to be Jenner’s wife. He’s still mostly in the dark on what the virus even is, but he does know that resurrection times vary (as quick as three minutes or as long as eight hours), and though it restarts the brain stem, the brain itself remains inactive. Apparently, the French were the closest to figuring out the cause, but they ran out of time when they started losing power in their area.
For the time being, Zone 5 is still up and running, but as Dale is keen to point out, there’s a clock on the wall of the control station that’s counting down, and he wants to know what happens when it reaches zero. As Jenner explains, that’s when the basement generators run out of fuel, thereby activating a facility-wide decontamination which, as we've already witnessed, means the place will go up in flames. The survivors aren’t happy about this new development, and even less so when Jenner decides to lock everyone inside. In fact, even if they wanted to leave, they’d still have to find a way out the building, which has been automatically locked down.
That doesn’t stop Shane and Daryl from hacking away at the metal doors with a couple of fire axes, but as Jenner quite matter-of-factly points out, they were designed to withstand a rocket launcher. I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny, but the way that Noah Emmerich delivered the line made me laugh anyway. As we saw at the end of last week’s episode, Jenner is more than prepared to die, but the rest of the group has different feelings on the matter, and after they beg him to give them a chance, he finally opens the door with four minutes remaining. Rick thanks him for the help, but all Jenner can say is, “The day will come when you won’t be,” before whispering something into his ear. So what did he say? You’ve got me, but from the expression on Rick’s face, it couldn’t have been good. (UPDATED: Now that I've had more time to think about it, Jenner probably told him that Lori was pregnant. I can't believe that it didn't even cross my mind yesterday, but it would certainly be keeping in line with the comic.)
Not everyone is going, either. Jacqui has decided to stay behind to avoid suffering a similar fate as Amy and Jim (to which I say “Good riddance”), and a defeated Andrea wants to stick around too until Dale changes her mind by essentially guilting her into leaving. For a second there, though, it actually looked like Dale had given in as well, and if nothing else, that little moment should serve as the catalyst for their eventual relationship, since it’s been written on the walls for weeks now. And while that’s going on, the others are desperately trying to break one of the windows upstairs to no avail. Fortunately, Carol just happens to have the grenade that Rick picked up in Atlanta in her bag, and after the blast shatters the glass, everyone makes it to their respective vehicles just as the CDC explodes.
It was a great bookend to the season, with the survivors driving off to whatever other dangers may be awaiting them, but Season Two simply can’t come soon enough. The bad news, of course, is that it looks like we’ll have to wait until late 2011 at the earliest, so in the meantime, you might consider picking up some of the graphic novels and enjoying the story that way. At the very least, you might get an idea of what happened to Merle, as there’s been a lot of online speculation that he’ll become a pivotal character in the series. The idea is simply too good to ignore, but whatever Darabont and co. decides, you can be sure that I’ll be along for the ride.