The Walking Dead, Season 2 – TV Review
***WARNING: Spoilers abound for the second season of The Walking Dead.***
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
The second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead was frustrating at times, specifically during the first half. But even during its weak points, it still managed to be one of the most thrilling and compelling shows on TV.
Society as we know it collapsed after the dead began to rise for reasons unknown. The world is now in a state of perpetual chaos as zombies (or “walkers” as they’re called in this world) roam freely. Following the destruction of the Center For Disease Control, former police officer Rick Grimes, his wife Lori, their son Carl, his best friend Shane (who was sleeping with Lori until recently, when it was discovered Rick had survived the initial outbreak), and their group of survivors work to plan their next move. Suddenly, Carl is accidently shot by a hunter, and the group rushes to find help. They come across a farm owned by a doctor named Herschel Greene. As Herschel and his family rush to nurse Carl back to health, young Sophia becomes lost during a walker attack. The group temporarily relocates to Herschel’s farm as they frantically search for the girl. But Herschel, a conservative traditionalist, has some philosophical differences with Rick, and especially Shane. Tension mounts, and chaos is never far away…
The first half of the season had no shortage of quality content. There was Lori’s pregnancy, Shane’s conflicts with Rick, the tension with Herschel, Darryl’s emergence as a bad ass loner, and the growth of Glenn and Maggie’s romance. But the linchpin that held that entire portion of the season together, the search for young Sophia, grew stale in a hurry. It actually became annoying the more the characters brought it up. When they finally found her (she’d been under their noses the entire time), it was an amazing moment. Zombified Sophia got one of the best reveals I’ve ever seen. But there was also a sense of relief that they’d finally found the damn kid, so we could move on to something new (and hopefully better).
The problem with the Sophia story arc, in my opinion, was that the only real investment we had in the character was the fact that she was an innocent little girl. We didn’t know very much about her at all. Her disappearance obviously had a terrible effect on Carol, but Carol’s a pretty minor character in the grand scheme of things. We’re invested in her, but not nearly as much as someone like Rick, Lori or Shane. Thus, it’s not as important that we find this little girl alive. At the end of the day, it came off as simply an excuse to keep the group on Herschel’s farm while they looked for her.
Thankfully, things really kicked into high gear after midseason. We saw more walkers and more tense action sequences, which in turn meant less standing around the barn talking. Shane’s anger and frustration escalated to madness. The weight of being the leader grew heavier and heavier on Rick’s shoulders. Eventually, Shane’s intended murder of Rick backfired on him, as Rick is forced to murder his former best friend. Mere moments later, the barn is overrun by a herd of walkers, and the group is forced to flee for their lives. After all his arguments with Shane about doing the right thing and talking the high road, Rick is more like him than ever as we close the season. The burden of having to make so many hard choices in a world that has changed so radically has in turn changed him. While Shane might have been the most interesting character on the show this season, in the end things were really about Rick, and his need to adapt. Almost everything this season, including the loss of Sophia and Dale’s sudden death, built up to that moment in the field with Rick, Shane, and eventually Carl. After that, it was all build up for season 3.
One of my favorite aspects of this season was Glenn’s relationship with Maggie. They were thrust together by circumstance, and might not have given each other a second look before the world went to hell. But nonetheless, they grow to love each other despite the horror they live in. Things never felt contrived or forced, and it was all supremely acted by Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan.
The show is staying fairly faithful to the comics, but not so much that it’s predictable. They’re keeping the major plot points intact, but the specifics are changing. Dale’s death was a major swerve, as he stuck around significantly longer in the books. Sophia is actually still alive on the page. Shane’s death was expected, given both his fate in the comics and the direction they were taking him. But on TV, his death had much greater ramifications for Rick. Given that in episode 13 we get the first appearance of Michonne, as well as a look at the prison that will eventually become home for the group, it’s likely this loosely faithful trend will continue into season 3.
Ultimately the greatest strength of The Walking Dead, both on the page and on screen, is that it’s really not about zombies. It’s about people, and how they behave when placed in extreme circumstances. I had a major bone to pick with the Sophia storyline this season. But when you consider how well everything else came off, not just from a story standpoint, but in terms of acting, effects (specifically that awesome zombie make up) and pulse-pounding music, it fades to the background a bit more easily. The Walking Dead has earned its must-see status, and needless to say, I’m not the only one anxious for more.
Image 2 from screenrant.com. All other images from amctv.com.