The Walking Dead S2, E1: “What Lies Ahead”

And we’re back with season 2 of AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead. During the downtime, Robert Kirkman kept himself extremely busy. Comic issues 79-90, the novel Rise of the Governor, and a 6-part webisode series have fleshed out (har har) his bleak world in all its gorey, gooey, gutsy glory.

When we last saw our intrepid, moderately stupid, and oh so melodramatic heroes, they had abandoned a psycho on a rooftop (how much you wanna bet One Hand Merle turns up in Woodbury?), befriended a violent gang of dudes who love their meemaws, and nearly got asploded by a depressed, whisper-mongering ex-CDC doctor. On the back end of things, Frank Darabont was fired/forced out/quit, the entire writing staff was fired/forced out/quit, and the production suffered financial fallout from the Mad Men moneygrab. On the plus side, SPOILERS: Shane still being alive promises some soap opera level drama between him, probably preggo Lori, and grunt enthusiast Rick; Grimes and co. are headed to Hershel’s farm; and Michonne and the Governor are expected to pop by next season.

Episode 1 opens with Rick giving one of those monologues that doesn’t inspire me with a lot of hope about the future of this show. The campers push out of Atlanta in search of greener pastures and promptly get stuck in a dead-infested interstate pileup. This was the first of several horror movie setups that scored on so many levels. The slow burn of fear starting with Dale spotting the oncoming herd to Sophia panicking and running off with walkers close behind is top notch work. Rick stashes her in a creek but she does the exact opposite of what Rick tells her to do, forcing the gang to push further into the countryside as they go on the hunt.

Zombie encounter after zombie encounter drops them at a Southern Baptist church. Once again the show lurches to a halt as they all stop to share their feelings. Andrea tries to talk Shane into taking her with him when he goes through with his plot to ditch the group. Shane and Lori continue their bitchfest from last season. Carol prays her boring little heart out. Rick gives another fucking monologue, this time playing the Give Me a Sign trope. The chicks take time out of their busy schedule of being useless to bicker at each other. And Carl plays deer whisperer then gets shot. Sad? Yes. But really, why would you take a defenseless kid out there?

There were some nice touches here. Daryl saved T-Dog’s life and balanced the scales from Merle’s behavior. Carl cowered under a broken down car next to a dead child’s shoe. Dale guilt tripped Andrea into not committing suicide and then had to help her survive the one thing that terrified her the most. Dale spent most of last season moaning about the RV’s innards and now he’s pantomiming repairs. There are also some stupid touches. Shane attempted to rape Lori and now, what, she’s fine with it? The characters are back to being two-dimensional dialogue machines who act because the plot requires them to, not because it’s what a person with any sense would do.

Season 1 had many, many problems, the less-than-stellar acting being the biggest and the ridiculous dialogue trailing a close second. The show suffered from shoddy editing, pointless detours off canon, and, ultimately, not enough bang for my buck. Where the pilot dazzled the finale fizzled and everything in between just sorta sat there taking up space. Season 2 looks to be pretty much the same. Looks like we’re continuing with the theme that women are nurturers who care too much and need protecting while the men are defenders and providers who handle all the difficult things like planning. Whee, shopping! Am I right, ladies? And just like last year we start with something genuinely scary, get saddled with a tedious second act, and wind up with a killer cliffhanger. Thus begins the new season of more or less the same old same old.

Final Thoughts

  • Some ground rules: I don’t care if you want to talk about upcoming eps or future storylines from the comics, but please be a decent human being and preface it with a SPOILER warning. I’ll return the favor and try and keep the comics out of my reviews (unless it’s necessary).
  • Jesus H. Christ on a cracker, I didn’t think it was possible for their Southern accents could get worse, but hoo-boy did they.
  • Way to waste a valuable resource, Shane. Being short on water means you don’t open up a barrel so you can let most of it spill out.
  • In the comics the zombies aren’t much more than brain-craving sheep, too stupid to do much of anything but shuffle ominously. The show zombies are clever enough to track their prey and explore their territory.
  • I never want to see them dissect a zombie ever again.
  • On a quick programming note, AMC’s airing this season like it’s Doctor Who: we’ll have 7 back-to-back episodes this year, take a holiday breather, and be back to wrap things up with the remaining 6 eps starting in February 2012.

Alex Brown is an archivist by passion, reference librarian by profession, writer by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare.

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