Mon
Oct 17 2011 12:22pm
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.

19 comments
Chris Palmer
1. cmpalmer
I mostly enjoyed it except for the monologues/prayers.

MINOR SPOILER:
I can be pacifistic at times and I really understand the need for teaching gun and weapon safety, but why the hell are they suddenly obsessed with disarming everyone? And give the kids a machete or a pick-axe or a pitchfork or something. I mean, the world's gone to hell and they've seen enough death or horror, I think it's time to arm them.

MUCH BIGGER SPOILER:
The only redeeming thing about the "Give Me A Sign" prayer was that I expected it to end with a positive sign (finding the missing person) and not with a major, likeable character getting gut shot. As horrible as it makes me sound, I actually laughed that they were audacious enough to do that, particularly after the prayer...
Roy McCarty
2. kloud213
Spoiler from comic!!

I really wish Carl would shoot Shane already. I also thought rick was going to get his Hatchet, but instead he chose a machete.

On a side not, the tools Carl found on really great. I have that hatchet and Machete. The are from the Gerber Gator series.
Chris Palmer
3. cmpalmer
@kloud213 #2:
I thought the Gerber tools were a great product placement. Now for the cross-over ads for the Gerber Zombie Killing Kit...
David Hawkins
4. dhawkin4
@kloud213 #2

I agree with the the shane comment. That was my fav part of the comics when I first read them.

I want to know if tv critics get more money for being assholes? Everything I've read of critics they can't say simply a show was boring or had flat characters they have to have a paragraph completely degrading all parties involved. Is that because you are a failed writer that couldn't cut it now you have to tear down everyone that's a part of one of the highest rated basic cable shows of all time so that you can feel better about yourself?

PS there aren't many strong female characters physically that go out and kill zombies because at this point in the storyline the comic didn't have any either (Michone has yest to show up) Also, characters in zombie apocalypse entertainment can be strong without mass killing a bunch of zombies.
sofrina
5. sofrina
i think now is the time to consider dumping t-dog, carol and sophia for good. t-dog is inexplicably clumsy! no one chokes in the clutch like that guy. he's the last one i'd want using a gun. in fact, he would be assigned to drive the water truck from now on. (and they better be planning to add that truck to their caravan.) carol is useless. she can't even be quiet for her own sake. sophia's crimes are evident: not doing as she's told. did any adults tell her to come out from under the car? all she had to do was make like a hobbit and stay under the tree roots, but no... twelve-years-old and she can't even figure out how to outrun some zombies and circle around and run back up the ridge.

i'm glad andrea had a come to jesus with the old guy, but what was she thinking trying to reassemble the gun in the bathroom? of course she was going to drop the pieces.

these zombies are working with more than just a reanimated brainstem. as alex says, they are pretty inquistive. morgan's wife was looking through the peephole, that one guy noticed rick and glenn and came over to sniff there dead bits and this guy came back to investigate a sound. what could a sound possibly mean to these things? how could a closed door be interesting? but whatever.

every time they allowed carl to go, i wondered how they could risk the second child like that? wonderful cliffhanger, though.
sofrina
6. Improbable Joe
Every scene with Lori and Shane makes Shane more sympathetic and Lori seem like a manipulative creep. She reminds me of a friend's ex-girlfriend who would never quite go away and let him get over her. She'd hang around and talk to him just enough to make it impossible to move on, but not quite enough that he could legitimately claim that she was leading him on. He wound up moving 500 miles away just to give himself a decent shot at recovering... sort of like what Shane wants to do.

Shane's really the only interesting character on the show to me. Weird, huh? At least he seems to be about something.
sofrina
7. ChakaTodd
I have a lot of problems with this episode. Why not give us a zombie story where the characters do _smart_ things and go through hell for it. Instead we get:

* drive our caravan into a death trap
* don't immediatley recognize the opportunity to resupply
* don't bother to scout the path
* lead vehicle is a LOUD motorcycle, sure to attract any zombies in the area
* find an electronic church bell on a timer and kill it without asking where the hell it's getting it's electrical supply from

This show could be a lot smarter.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
@cmpalmer: Overall it was pretty decent. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the series premiere, but that's probably just a case of worn off novelty. I was also put out by the disarmament, especially as it relates to Andrea. Not the best way to go about things.

@kloud213: SPOILERS YES! I am really sick of him. He really is a character that works best in very small doses. Stretching him out into a second season only makes sense if he really does go lone wolf and then turn up in future episodes (Woodbury? the prison?) or if they plan on killing him off at the end of the season. END SPOILERS

@dhawkin4: Well yes, of course TV critics get paid more to be mean. The "failed writer" prerequisite is part of my contract as stipulated by the Guild of Asshole Reviewers of Insanely Popular TV Shows, of which I am a charter member. As per the Internet Trolling Act of 2003, I can't say anything nice about the actors, crew, or writing staff, and am only allowed be a ginormous jerk.

@sofrina: Sophia is only 12. I was pretty useless as a kid, so I don't fault her for that. And Carol is weak by nature. And T-Dog, well, I don't really know what to say about him because in all honesty I keep forgetting he's there until he does something stupid. The only reason they're still there is because they're plot devices.

I liked that the zombie found a closed door interesting. It adds another layer to them. It's as if whatever bit of humanity is left in them allows them to remember that there are often things - and people - behind closed doors. I suspect that, unlike in the comics, the show will get into the philosophy about the walkers. If they have even the tiniest vestige of humanity then what are the moral/ethical implications of killing them?

@ImprobableJoe: See, to me, the only thing Shane is about is getting in Lori's pants. Every scrap of dialogue, every side eye, every grumbling act all revolve around or is in direct reaction to Lori and Rick. On the flip side, the only thing Lori is about is playing damsel in distress to Shane and Rick, so there's that.

@ChakaTodd: Unfortunately, that doesn't make for very dramatic television. I will concur on the hog. What a dumb idea that was. No wonder they got attacked by a herd of zombies. (I prefer the term 'murder'. Sounds more fitting.) And they do manage to waste a lot of scarce resources.
sofrina
9. bryan rasmussen
murder is already taken for crows though, wouldn't be right to take it.

How about a shuffle of zombies.
sofrina
10. bryan rasmussen
"This show could be a lot smarter."
I just figure it's an exercise in world building.
The creators asked what would be the minimal condition for a plague of zombies to destroy a world very similar to ours, and the minimal condition they hit on was that everyone had to be really stupid.

Probably all the people who died and got turned into zombies were idiocracy level morons already.

The center for disease control guy's dialogue should probably have been something like:

"Lot's of 'tards lead kick ass lives. My ex-wife was a tard and she was a top paid research scientist until she walked out into a herd of zombies wearing nothing but 100 pounds of cowbells. "

Actually I would probably watch that show. This one I'm probably soon giving up on.

P.S:
Shane is probably a genius on this world. Rick an extremely eloquent public speaker.
sofrina
11. BigEdMustapha
What kind of zombie fans are you? In what zombie movie are the characters smart? The plot citizen kane-esque?

You watch for the zombies and the gore. And if it has halfway decent plot and characters, it's good. Like Dawn of the Dead.

If you know anything about zombie cinemea or tv, you know what you're getting so dispense with the elitism already. The hot air coming from this thread can fill a balloon.
Irene Gallo
12. Irene
Entertainment can and should be well crafted, there is nothing wrong for wishing it so.

@4 and @11,
Feel free to take issue with the article's points but refrain from personal attacks and name calling. Let's keep the conversation interesting and on target.
David Thomson
13. ZetaStriker
The gun removal thing did bother me . . . but it was primarily because of who she is in the comics. I totally understand why Dale did it. If Andrea had assembled that gun and fired a shot at that zombie, she'd have brought the entire herd back around and doomed everyone but probably T-Dog and Darryl, who were further away.

As for T-Dog, I totally understand the complaints, but I like him. He's more of a running joke than a character, and we've even appropriated his name as slang for "running and leaving someone behind". Because it's what he does whenever he's in the slightest bit of danger. It just seemed so fitting that he was the one not to hide when the herd came. XD
sofrina
14. sofrina
@8 Milo1313 - far be it from me to tell you who you are (or were), but i think you're selling your 12-yr-old self short. at that age i was in charge of the house every night while my parents worked. that's homework, dinner (heated up), chores, baths and bed. i was also in charge of getting myself and my brother up and on the schoolbus on time every morning.

while i can allow that this sophia character has led a sheltered life,
what we've seen is pretty inadequate for a kid her age who is this deep into this situation. the domestic violence coupled with sophia being an only child - aka independent by nature - is a perfect recipe for a spunky, resourceful kid. too bad they opted to make her act like a 6-yr-old. unless they tell us she was never allowed out of the house before the plague... she's on my "ditch the deadweight" list.

@11 BigEdMustapha - i watch zombie movies for gore, but not a television show. a series needs more to carry it than that, otherwise the episodes are all the same.


@9 BryanRasmussen - someone at nymag.com suggested a 'stagger' of zombies, but i love 'shuffle!'
Alex Brown
15. AlexBrown
@bryan: Shuffle works for me!

@BigEdMustapha: I refer you to sofrina @ 14. Taken the works right out of my mouth.

@ZetaStriker: T-Dog is far less annoying to me than Shane. I'd take him over Shane in a heartbeat. I haven't decided if T-Dog is comic relief by intent or accident.

@sofrina: You were a better kid than I. At 12 I was an only child of a single mother and lived on soap operas and books. I was home alone A LOT and anytime anyone rang the doorbell I would panic and call my mom convinced someone was going to break in and murder me. If we were in a zombie movie, I'd make it to the end of the second act by luck, but I'd still get killed.

Considering both kids had only just had a serious conversation about going on vacation to the Grand Canyon in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, I'm guessing survival strategy isn't their strong suites. I assume the directors were trying to show that Sophia was trying to listen to Rick's advice but lost track of time and ran off too early, but, given the history of the showrunners' poor decision making skills, that's probably giving them too much credit.
James Knevitt
16. jknevitt
As soon as Andrea suggested to Shane that the two slip away together, I turned to my wife and said "Get rid of the two most annoying characters on the show in one shot! Perfect!"

It seems like one of the smartest ideas the writers have had so far.
Jordan Wright
17. Anthropocene
So having just watched episode 1 season 2, I'm a little disappointed. I was hoping they'd get into some sort of back story. I understand there's a certain element of suspense having characters you're always cringing over, awkwardly stumbling into scary situations, but jeez...

And for anyone who says I need to read the comics, no, I don't. This is a television miniseries and it needs to be a television miniseries that's standalone by itself. It needs to create this fantasy world and support it within the medium it's being portrayed in. hire some better writers to adapt it.

I want all these characters to end up dead. The suicidal sister Andrea, she needs to go. The overly simplified stereotypes. Why doesn't anyone know more about how this shit happened? How could the stupidest bunch of people be the only ones to survive? How did it spread so fast? Why don't they have a gassed up tank to just roll over these f***ers? Car dealerships and RV lots are notoriously on the outskirts of towns (cheaper rent/leases etc.) so why are they still driving around beat down old RV's and cars? They should all have a new H2 or mustang or luxury celebrity van/bus... (At least "I am Legend" got that one right)

Nobody in this show makes any sense. It needs smarter writers to include better science, better motives, better situations... I think your average TOR commenter is a better writer. Anxiety just for the sake of having some dumb b***h do something stupid just so you end up yelling at the screen "look behind you" is enough to get it through one season. But it's not enough for me to want to just keep coming back. This show needs to address the elephant in the room, why aren't the dead decomposing? Some seem to be, others still look brand new. Some wither away (because they need to feed apparently) others have gaping wounds but are healthy as horses otherwise. You'd think two weeks tops. In the tropics a body can end up maggots in 24 hours, in the desert maybe longer... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decomposition Whatever time frame you're looking at- this topic needs to be addressed in the show. Is there something preserving them? We've seen crows picking at the bodies... the zombification process obviously doesn't affect animals.

What happened to that helicopter? Where are the other survivors? You know the military has plenty of locked down shit that would have made it through all this- even more so then the CDC building that was seriously high tech btw, but what? There’s nothing else like that out there? But without knowing how it all got started, it's a moot point, and it needs to be addressed.

The show is now just frustrating me, not even because the characters are stupid, or the writers are stupid, or the plot is stupid... It's because the show assumes I'm stupid and that all i care about is wanting to be anxious all the time...
Alex Brown
18. AlexBrown
@jknevitt: Given what Andrea goes through in the comics, it's likely that similar things will happen to her on the show, so I'm rather ok with keeping her around. Shane, however, needs to go. Now.

@Anthropocene: Well, those certainly are some charges. Honestly, I think the not understanding how the zombie apocalypse got started isn't a concern on the show because it isn't a concern for the characters. It doesn't matter where the curse came from because it doesn't help you survive. Not that you'd have the means of figuring it out anyway - as Jenner proved last season. Even if his team had figured it out, the infrastructure for carrying out vaccinations or cures would have long since crumbled.

As for the decomposition process, it's less than a year. Assuming first that the infection (or whatever) makes them ambulatory, it's probably a pretty good assumption that it also slows decomposition. Even if it didn't, the fact that there are nearly 7 billion people on earth and that people don't live very long in the zombie apocalypse, it's safe to assume there's always going to be new walkers running around. At least for the first few years. There's no evidence yet to say whether or not the walkers can die of starvation or if they just lay there moaning for all eternity like Bicycle Girl from season 1, but in such a short time frame it's just too soon to start speculating.
Jordan Wright
19. Anthropocene
@ Milo1313: It's exactly that it isn't a concern for the characters that worries me. If 7 billion people on the planet can suddenly go away in a few weeks time (probably less cuz Rick couldn't survive without fluids that long) how the heck was it so contagious?

“It doesn't matter where the curse came from because it doesn't help you survive” Huh? You’re kidding me right? The science of it all is exactly what’s going to keep you alive. Remember the scene where they smear guts on top of themselves as camouflage? Or understanding how to kill them? It’s not about a “cure” it’s about the cleanup and protection. It’s about raising and releasing carrion beetles into the local biosphere to pick these skeletons clean, it’s about raising large predators to protect you. Cadaver dogs to bark when they smell em’ coming, having booby traps that lead zombies en masse over cliff faces (herding them into mass graves) seriously. Someone please use your brain to work something out.

As for decomposition it’s all about temp, moisture, bugs etc… But here it is in 4 days http://youtu.be/R1CD6gNmhr0 So that’s a baby pig, lets call it 6 months for a human in that southern hot moist climate, so OKAY- they are being preserved somehow- address it.

And no it’s NOT too soon to start speculating about anything. Speculating means asking smart questions and trying to figure out good answers. It means staying alive. It means having hope, it means having something to work for. It means good writers asking good questions and creatively showing examples of it through the drama. Don’t brow beat us with pseudo science like star trek, but just don’t address anything either- that’s just bad writing.

ChakaTodd asks good questions, why is the lead vehicle so LOUD? Why is there an electronic church bell on a timer and where the hell is it getting it's electrical supply from?

But Alex’s original article hits the nail on the head: “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.”

I really want to like this show. I really do. I love zombies. I love the pop culture surrounding zombies. For holloween I want everyone to be zombies, (mostly amy winehouse, osama bin laden, steve jobs, and gadhafi zombies but hey im not picky michael jackson's still funny too) But please please please I want this show to be better...

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