"This isn't a democracy anymore," warned Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) to end Season 2 of The Walking Dead. In the second season finale, "Beside the Dying Fire," Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs) return to the Greene family farm after putting down an erratic Shane (Jon Bernthal) — twice. The gunshot attracts a horde of walkers towards the Greene family farm, imperiling a pregnant Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Rick's group of Atlanta survivors who spent the season hunkered down on the farm. By the end of it, Jimmy (James Allen McCune) and Patricia (Jane McNeill) are dead, torn apart by zombies. But the Ricktatorship lives.
After suffering devastating losses on the Greene farm — where a zombified Sophia (Madison Lintz) stepped out of the barn before Dale's (Jeffrey DeMunn) death by walker — Rick's leadership is questioned.
Rick "becomes a dictator" to keep the survivors together, Lincoln said on a 2012 episode of Inside The Walking Dead. "'This is the way it's got to be.' For the safety of the group, we keep the group intact."
"That is such a powerful statement in the show and the group because it leaves such an open-ended situation," said Steven Yeun, who played Glenn. Added T-Dog actor IronE Singleton, "We might need that toughness. Whatever's going on with Rick, we might need that to survive this world. It could be a good thing, but he has definitely changed."
The episode, aired on AMC on March 18, 2012, would end with two teases of the third season: a shadowy samurai later revealed to be Michonne (Danai Gurira) and a glimpse at the West Georgia Correctional Facility.
"We really wanted to go out with a bang," Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, who co-wrote the episode with then-showrunner Glen Mazzara, said in a 2012 interview with EW. "We just had two very major, very emotional deaths and we wanted to open the finale with a big action beat that was still very dark and traumatic. We did lose Jimmy and Patricia. But we did want it to be like, 'Hey, isn't this kind of fun? Guys are riding around in cars, on motorcycles, shooting guns and fighting zombies.'"
"We wanted to have kind of a cleanse-the-palette beat at the beginning of the finale," Kirkman said.