Frank Darabont’s pilot for The Walking Dead television-adaptation was frightfully captivating. For readers and newcomers alike, the start-up to the new zombie television programme became one of the best examples of the sub-genre in popular entertainment. The entire Season 1 was written and directed with fine finesse and paved the way for a sought after saga. Season 2 still packs a few great gory punches but horrific lagging in occasional episodes does take away some of the taut majestic morbidity of the first season.
After the lab incident ending Season 1, Season 2 picks after the survivors’ escape. Finding themselves on a long stretch of road, littered with cars, lorries and motorbikes, they start looking for supplies. The tension grows as they riffle through the boots, cargo holds and glove compartments of each vehicle, completely oblivious to a hoard of zombies heading their way. As the “walkers” trudge through the cars - the group now aware and hiding in and under a few of them – you are reminded of the magnificence of the programme. With arse-cheeks firm and perched on the end of the seat, you are left in fear about the possibility of a getaway. As they do manage to run away from the groaning mass, they find themselves in expansive woodland to which one of the members disappears into. This simple narrative strand then becomes the catalyst for the groups’ evolving experiences within the world of the walking dead.
Looking for the little girl Sophie, alone in the vast zombie-infested woods, is a boring and irritating plot angle yet it does lead to the survivors finding a new family. Rick et al’s welcoming into the Hershel Greene farm is a pivotal event in the comic series and Season 2 tediously hangs on the minutiae of it. The dialogue and mind-numbing exposition are enough to put many people off the programme half-way through Season 2. One episode is almost entirely devoted to a funeral whilst the rest of the action gets forgotten. The life on the farm is rather dull and only some occurrences (significantly the Barn) grab your attention.
The Walking Dead is great for balancing the reality and the escapist enjoyment of the zombie apocalypse chronicle but sadly Season 2 drones on excessively with emotional realism. It never fails to feel authentic and the acting is always tremendous yet the show often takes itself far too seriously. The writing may at times be a bore and a chore to watch but the acting ensemble’s growing confidence in their portrayal of their characters is continually appealing. Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal and Norman Reedus (getting almost a whole episode devoted to a Rambo-style character examination) are notable mentions - they delve deeper into their characters’ psyches with each episode and better their performances. The new additions to the cast (the Greene clan) do bring about a lot of drama, conflict and passion to the story but never seem thoroughly interesting. The only exception is Lauren Cohan’s Maggie who exudes that country-girl charm and beauty, making her presence all-the-more desired.
Renting or buying Season 2 on DVD/Blu-ray will mean you don’t have to experience the break from episode 7 to 8 (which when televised had a three month hiatus). There are both advantages and disadvantages to this as the break made the end of episode 7 brilliantly tense whilst getting the chance to immediately watch episode 8 was problematic during air-time (the advantage being DVD/Blu-ray viewers needn’t worry). Not only was this divide an important aspect of the scheduling, it also marked the return of the show’s strengths. After episode 8 it becomes as wonderfully blood-thirsty and stirring as Season 1, leaving you with an epic finale and a craving for the next season.
The special features for the second season is to be admired – there has been a lot of thought and care put into the creation of the show and this extends to the bonus features. One stand-out feature is “The Sound of the Effects” that details the intricacy of mixing an atmospheric ambience. Never forgetting the origins of the programme, there is also a segment on the comic book series entitled “The Ink is Alive” which warrants a watch.
DVD/Blu-ray Quality: ****
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth