Season two of The Walking Dead begins, with our small band of mismatched survivors still trying to understand what caused the zombie virus to all but eliminate humanity, as well as struggling not to destroy their fragile union from within.

Check out our review below…

The Players:

Directors:  Ernest Dickerson and Gwyneth Horder-Payton

Writers:  Ardeth Bey and Robert Kirkman

Cast:  Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Laurie Holden

“What Lies Ahead”

[Spoilers ahead!]

The survivors, led by former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, leave the recently destroyed Center for Disease Control in Georgia and decide to move on to Fort Benning, an army post in Alabama.  But the plan falls apart after a devastating zombie attack forces survivor child Sophia to panic and run and hide into the woods, her fate unknown; further, Rick’s young son, Carl, is shot in a hunting accident that provides the episode with a cliffhanger ending.

The Good:

  • Zombies, zombies, zombies:  This show must just have hundreds of gallons of fake blood and goo lying around backstage—if there’s one thing that The Walking Dead has in abundance (of course), it’s excellent zombie makeup/actors.  The faceless walking corpses that stagger and moan throughout the show are some of the most convincing that Hollywood has ever tossed our way.
  • The Attack: The surprise zombie attack that sets the plot in motion is a doozy—seemingly never-ending (in a good way), it’s a devastating, nerve-shredding sequence.
  • Dale:  One of the few characters on the show to rise above disaster movie stock character cliché, Dale and his secret—that his RV isn’t really broken down, but that he’s only pretending so that the group cannot move on and abandon Sophia—gave his character a depth that most of the others have yet to attain.

The Bad:

  • Clichéd characters:  The major weakness of Season One is apparently here to stay, at least for awhile: most of the major characters in The Walking Dead feel as though they’ve stepped out of a 1970s disaster film, with a former police officer with a heart of gold, an evil white supremacist, a former civil rights attorney (also with a heart of gold!), a wacky Asian sidekick/comic relief, and let’s not forget Rick’s wife, who carried on a love affair with—dum dum dummmm!—Rick’s best friend, a conflict which seems to exist solely because the writers thought there needed to be some kind of internal conflict in the group when the zombies weren’t around and this was the best they could come up with.  Which leads us to The Bad #2…
  • Wheel-spinning:  The midsection of Season One suffered from a group of writers content to spin the wheels of plot to stretch out the season to its climax (and, considering that they had to do so with a season that was only six episodes long does not bode well), and elements of that—i.e., will Rick find out about his wife’s affair?—continue to stain the show.  Further, a problem that seems to be developing in The Walking Dead is the show’s overall structure—the group devises a plan, the group moves forward with the plan, the group’s plan fails due to a zombie attack or interference by evil survivors, the group starts all over again.  It’s the typical zombie movie plot, and it works damn well… in a single, two-hour zombie film.  In a long-running TV show, however, it can get old quick without larger, more interesting character and plot arcs to hold it together and give it direction.  And in a zombie infested world in which there may be nothing for the survivors to do but move on from one destroyed or abandoned city to another, and on a show in which many of the characters have yet to be fleshed out, “more interesting character and plot arcs” isn’t something that seems to be looming in abundance.

Overall:

The Walking Dead still knows how to scare the hell out of its viewers, and it’s too early to tell if the plots and characters of Season Two will thicken into something a little more substantive than what Season One had to offer, or remain in Stock Character Hell.  That said, the show’s title still feels like it applies to more than just a few of its main characters, but hey, it’s got zombies.  Lot’s of zombies!  And sometimes, that’s all a guy can ask for.

Rating:  7/10

The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.