The Walking Dead: Season 2 Overview
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.
Days Gone Bye…
Before I begin talking about the second installment of this popular horror show, I’d like to cast your mind back to Rick and his fellow survivors’ first outing. The opening episode was without doubt one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen for a TV show, that opening 90mins completely stunned me from almost every angle it explored. The introduction of Rick and his exploration of the new twisted world around him was amazing to see, it started a journey that I hope will go on for many year’s to come as he and the other characters face an unimaginable hell on Earth.
Let’s not forget that the ‘zombie-survival’ genre has had an exhausting decade, with so many independent, cult and blockbuster films all having a go at representing these disturbing-loveable creatures. We’ve had titles such as the countless “…of the dead” series being created or remade, comedy horrors like Zombieland & Shaun of the Dead adding some humour to all that flesh-eating, as well as foreign films mixing the undead with iconic villains, like the Nazis, in Dead Snow. It’s incredible that The Walking Dead has managed to find its own corner in this overgrown market of horror and have its voice heard. So why is it that after so many interpretations of the undead that we still want to watch a show that deals with them on a weekly basis?
Well, for me the answer to this lies in something Robert Kirkman said in his first comic. He spoke about how his passion for zombie movies influenced him when writing but more importantly, he said, “I want to explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them.” stating that the thing that interested him the most was what happens to the characters after the movie has ended. Life doesn’t just stop when the credits roll, these people are now part of an apocalyptic world that is dangerous, infectious and violent, so how do you cope with that on a day-to-day basis? That was the question that he tried to answer in The Walking Dead comic series and that’s why this series already had a huge fan base before it even hit the air. He also added, “I’m in this for the long haul”, a quote that I believe separate’s this vision of a zombie filled world from any other.
“I’m sorry this happened to you…”
With that in mind I for one was very shocked at how up-and-down the first season became. The introduction of new characters from outside of the comic world was frustrating. With the exception of Daryl that is, the rest were all very poorly developed and had stereotypical personalities. First there’s Merle – your typical racist, white trash redneck, then there’s T-Dog and as the name suggests he’s the poorly conceived typical African-American character that you’d find in a teen movie and a few others who didn’t really add much to proceedings.
The deviation from the story arc of the comics wasn’t too bad but the stuff about the Mexicans protecting the granny home was a complete joke, which was the only episode that’s made me really question the existence of this show. Thankfully though the decision to change up the writing team as well as halving the budget and doubling the number of episodes was made for the second season. The resulting mini-transformation has produced a much more consistent series, enhanced story and character development and allowed for tension to build between major events in the story. Although, things may have gotten a little stale on the farm, this season has needed the change in pace, hopefully now moving forward it can build on this layout and make the following seasons addictively entertaining yet thought provoking and inspiring.
“This isn’t a democracy anymore”
Overall, I’ve found season 2 to be very entertaining and on the most part, fun and exciting. This hasn’t been groundbreaking by any means and there were some episodes that just dragged on way too long. The decision to stay on the farm is probably what most fans are annoyed with and I sympathies with them for the most part. Like I said before, it’s good that the show has slowed itself down because otherwise there’s no way to engage with the characters, instead you’d just have a bunch of 1-hour gore-filled zombie specials with lots of bloodshed and a tepid plot.
So I’m glad that the decision was made to ground the characters and allow them time to develop and build relationships with each other, that way we actually care when one of them is ripped to pieces by a pack of wild walkers.
Although this was a great idea it didn’t quite work, as it should have done. That’s where I agree with audiences, especially those who are fans of the comics. There were some great individual episode such as Save The Last One, 18 Miles Out & Pretty Much Dead Already, which all contained some sort of key incident that injected tension, drama and excitement into the series. Between these though we had some really calm, uneventful ‘filler’ episodes that dealt with the aftermath of either a death in the group or the consequence of a decision that had been taken.
I’m speaking about the Cherokee Rose & Secrets installments that just featured a string of individual conversations that took place across the farm. It’s good to calm things down between big events because it allows the characters time to come to terms with whatever has happened. However, this season just took too long in moving on to the next defining moment.
As for the individual characters in this season, well it’s been a mixed bag at times but on the whole I’ve been happy with how the likes of Rick, Shane and Lori have led the show. Rick in particular has been the usual pressured leader of the group, taking on the punishment of Sofia’s death and struggling to maintain his alpha male status with a volcanic Shane erupting at the most difficult moments. At times though Rick has been a bit too righteous as the group’s leader, especially when dealing with Randall and Hershel.
Shane on the other hand has been a fantastic enigma and has really brought a lot of conflict to the farm and been an integral part of the dual that existed with Rick. Jon Bernthal has done a fantastic job and it’s a shame to see him go. Most fans were surprised when Shane survived the first season due to the fact that Carl shoots him in the first volume of comics. The writer’s have done a great job in taking this character forward into uncharted territory, allowing his rage and jealous over Lori to escalate to an uncontrollable level.
The only real let down to this season for me in terms of the trio that spearhead the cast is Lori. Particularly in the latter half of episodes, she’s been unpredictable, inconsistent and somewhat confusing in her actions and words. Dealing with her former relationship with Shane and Rick’s return must have been excruciating for her to deal with, but the lady Macbeth style of control over both of them was unnecessary and clumsy. The last few episodes saw her try to manipulate Rick into killing Shane, then her apologising to Shane and then her disappointment in Rick when he kills Shane in self defense. The last conversation between her and Rick was perhaps the prime frustration in her character’s actions because it just felt so ridiculous that she would be mad with her husband for defending himself. Everyone knew how out of control Shane was and it was surely a matter of time before he tried his luck with the leader of the pack.
As for the rest of the cast, well again there have been some great additions to the story and then some new faces that may as well have been killed in the first episode. T-Dog is truly unbelievable; this guy for me is becoming nothing more than a mascot for the show, please do something with him next season – kill him or set him free! Glenn’s relationship with Maggie has been chaotic at times but a touch of young romance is something that can’t harm the series. Hershel has made the transition from page to screen well, he doesn’t seem as rough and tough as he does in the comics but he’s been a strong part of the story and I’m glad he survived the battle of the farm.
As for the rest of the farms characters well…who cares? They were there, they did nothing, and they got bitten – pure cannon fodder. We’ve said goodbye to Dale in the most gruesome of ways (boy, will I miss that hat), this was a bit of a shame because although his wobbly head annoyed me when it was giving all those moral-filled speeches he brought another angle of conflict to proceedings. His side duel with Shane was intriguing to watch and his opposing stance to Randall’s execution made that episode a lot more interesting. With both Shane & Dale gone it’s hard to know where the next source of conflict will come from.
Andrea has toughened up, learning from the best in Shane. She’s separate from the group and now she’s with the much-welcomed Michonne character that fans will love. Carol’s had one hell of a traumatic post-apocalyptic time, losing her husband and daughter in the space of two seasons has put a lot of pressure on her and she’s not been able to develop beyond a grieving widower and parent. Now that she has nothing left to lose hopefully we can see her develop and maybe fit more into Dale’s role as the moral voice within the group.
Speaking of morals, or lack of them anyhow, the character of the season award has to go to Daryl, ironically enough he’s one of the few personalities purely imagined for the TV series. He’s been a joy to watch, his relentless hunt for Sofia (or “Sofeeeeeeyaaaaaaa” as he pronounces it) followed by his isolation from the others has been a great individual thread within the show. For me the Chupacabra episode was one of the best for pure character development and SPOILER ALERT … when Merle returns next season it will be fantastic to see how these two interact in real life.
All in all, this season has been necessary to establish a foundation for how the show will work on a season-by-season basis. Allowing more time for character development and less time dedicated to countless zombie battles will make things a lot more appealing for this type of serial. Moving forward, a new enclosed setting, the addition of new characters and another bunch of undead brawls will hopefully keep the tension levels high and the show moving forward.
Best Episode | 18 Miles Out
Best Moment | Shane’s Reanimation
Best Character | Daryl Dixon (this was a close call between him and T-Dog
Best Death | Dale
Best Zombie Kill | Daryl’s Crossbow through the Eye (from Chupacabra)