Walking Dead Season 2 Premiere Review (Mania.com)

By:Joe Oesterle
Review Date: Monday, October 17, 2011


When last we saw our intrepid band of heroes, antiheroes, wanna-be heroes and flawed heroes things had just blown up real good. The move to Atlanta was scrapped, and in the season’s premiere, we witness Rick broadcasting the group’s next move to Fort Benning via walkie-talkie.
The intended recipient of Rick’s message is a man named Morgan. Unsure if Morgan is still listening to his communications, or if Morgan is even alive, the fact that Rick is still attempting to reach out to the fellow who gave him brief refuge many, many weeks ago assures the audience of Rick’s inherent goodness. In one short scene, the viewers are once again reminded that Rick is a man of his word, a man who never gives up, and a man who believes he is capable of protecting his team from harm – zombified or otherwise.
   Now I’d like to state right here that I was not blown away by this episode. I reviewed every episode from last season, and if memory serves I never gave out a grade lower than a B+. I believe I also served up a couple of A+’s. This week’s offering however only registered a B with me. I realize part of the problem was reintroducing the established characters to the viewers (and introducing them for the first time to the newbees to the show) but things moved at a slower pace than I expected or wanted. I’m not saying this wasn’t a good episode, it was good, I have just come to expect great.
   A big part of the success of the show is how the writers, actors and directors have effectively built genuine tension in the not only the extraordinary but also the ordinary. This week, there was plenty of tension, but not all of that suspense paid off. Tension is what makes this show the unqualified bit of can’t miss TV it has become, but last night just fell a little flat as often as it worked.
   Things started off promisingly enough as the caravan slows to a crawl on the highway due to a gridlock of corpses and Fords. The isolated baby bottle on the asphalt certainly sent out a message of grimness to come. For a second though, things were looking up for our gang when Shane found a stash of Sparklett’s and everyone realized there was food, fuel and weapons. It didn’t take long for another bad omen to materialize. Carol found herself a nice new shirt – a red one. If you’re a dedicated reader of Mania.com, you most likely know the pop cultural significance of a red shirt. Suffice it to say for those unaware of the symbolism, I don’t expect Carol to make it to Season 3. I wouldn’t really hold out much hope of her getting through episode 3.
   By the time Rick noticed the walker in his gun scope was only one of dozens, things got real hairy real quick and everyone did their best to go unnoticed by the famished undead horde – even if that meant hiding underneath a pile of rotted dead guys.
   Just as it looked like the zombie parade had passed by and Rick, Lori and Carl were going to have a happy road trip story that topped their Grand Canyon vacation yarn, Sophia makes an ill advised early flee from her safe spot under the car and she quickly became zombie bait. Rick seemed to be after her right away, but somehow it took him a while to catch up with the girl and her cumbersome predators. I don’t want to nitpick, but as Rick was running to catch up, I was trying to remember if these zombies could run themselves. The way I recall, they were pretty slow zombies – not really sprinters, if anything maybe speed walkers, but I just remember them plodding about. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should have watched the marathon that preceded tonight’s show to prepare me for moments like this. Regardless, it seemed like there was a lot more ground covered by the faster than normal zombies than I felt was believable based on zombie speed times in the past.
   By the time Rick catches up with Sophia, pleads with her to stay in her hiding place while he crunches a couple of zombie heads, she makes yet another bad decision and high tails it out of her swampy cubby hole, presumably back to the highway. The group’s resident hunter, and bow-slinging badass, Daryl, confirmed Sophie listened to Rick’s advice but not before a bitter Shane sent a slight bit of second-guessing his police partner’s way. Her trail gone cold, the group is left to wonder what happened to Carol’s daughter.
   Keeping in mind this story has been at least as much about how the living, breathing humans who have managed to survive this accursed new world order are at least as monstrous as the hungry, mindless creatures who roam the countryside looking for human flesh to feast upon, my money says she’s been taken in by a seemingly kindly organized community, but mark my words we’ll find out their obviously terrible secret soon enough.
   And so tension and silent acrimony spreads throughout the group. Carol is calmly hysterical Rick called off the search party before dark. (I will assume she was hysterical, because Melissa Suzanne McBride, who plays the short-haired mother didn’t seem nearly as frenzied as I would have expected. That said, this character’s maternal instincts haven’t always been stellar.
   Andrea and Dale are at odds. Shane and Lori aren’t palling around much anymore and actor IronE Singleton must still be fuming over the idea to name his character, “T-Dog.”
   Speaking of T-Dog, it was interesting Dale chose him to confide in the fact that the Winnebago has been road ready for over a day. What I found more interesting was Dale’s utterance of the second Star Trek reference. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” This confirmed for me the red shirt was a deliberate message. Carol signed her death warrant when she picked it up, the recitation of Spock’s unselfish incantation hammered it home, and her bargain with the Jesus statue made it official. Oh well, I don’t like women with short hair anyway.
   Following the sound of a steeple bell, our rag tag protagonists come upon a chapel containing about a half a dozen mind-numbed, beastly inhabitants and quickly make short work of them. Of course I was raised Catholic, so had Rick, Shane and Daryl walked into St Mary’s church 45 minutes into mass on any given Sunday, they might have shot a good number of vegetative but mostly non-violent parishioners. (I say mostly, because I did grow up in New Jersey.)
   As the episode came to a close, it seemed as if Rick’s invocation of Christ may have done the trick. There, in the middle of all this chaotic and brutal carnage, a deer stood alone - strong, proud, and innocent. Realizing the joy on his son’s face, Rick silently implored Shane to not take aim though it meant possibly denying the group with a long-needed bit of fresh sustenance.
Instead the two men hung back and took in a moment of tranquility in a world gone mad. As the young boy approached it appeared that Jesus had heard Rick’s plea, but in the next instant it became abundantly clear that religion may not have a place on this hell on earth as both Carl and the deer were collapsed by a bullet that tore through their uncorrupt bodies.
 Joe Oesterle’s latest book, “Weird Hollywood” is in bookstores near you. Follow the book on Facebook – Weird Hollywood and Twitter @WeirdHollywood for daily updates.

Mania Grade: B
TV Series: The Walking Dead
Episode: What Lies Ahead (Season 2 Premiere)
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn
Written By: Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkwood
Directed By: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Network: AMC
Series: Walking Dead