What They Say:
Rick leads the group out of Atlanta; the group is stopped by a threat unlike anyone has seen before; the search for someone who has gone missing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I hadn’t read the comics prior to the first season, my enthusiasm for it was high based off of recommendations from friends. As soon as the season finished and that high was holding on to me, I started in on the graphic novels and finished the first eleven rather quickly. Though the two diverge, I definitely became a fan of both and watched the Blu-ray edition of the first season in September in order to prepare for going into the second season. All the elements of the series, whether in comic or television form, appeal highly to me because it is all about the characters, the starkness of it and the way it deals with people pushed to the edge that have to retain who they are in order to do more than just to survive. While there’s been a lot of drama about the series over the summer from a production point of view, that’s all noise in the end as what’s on the screen is what will matter to most of the viewers, especially with an AMC audience.
While the first season spent all its time in Atlanta, introducing some new characters that weren’t in the comics and ratcheting up the tension rather well, the second season kicks off with getting the hell out of there. And it’s a good plan overall since everything there has gone so badly and the revelations at the CDC is pushing them to try and find something to latch onto after hearing how bad it is. Of course, even though a lot of people were heading to Atlanta when it all went bad, a lot were heading out of it too and that has them running into a pretty massive pileup along the way that slows things down in a hard way. It’s a scavenging mission while trying to get everything up and running again, but even that has philosophical problems to it as Lori calls it out as graverobbing in a way. You can understand it, but at the same time you want Rick to just say that the whole world is a grave now and this is what they have to do to survive it.
A large part of this episode deals with Sophia as she goes missing after their time on the highway has them encountering what they’re labeling as a herd, a fast moving group of walkers that come out of nowhere and move on quickly if nothing actually distracts them. The attack by the herd is a big moment here as they all cope with it as best as they can, though Andrea nearly loses it through circumstances that put her at even more risk. What that leads to is a very intense discussion later on between her and Dale where Dale feels protective of her and she just wanted to die back in Atlanta and blames him for taking away his choice. Considering how badly things went down at the CDC and the way she was forced into this choice, it certainly puts their relationship in a very tense but believable way.
The same kind of tension is coming up in spades when it comes to Shane and Lori as well as Carl. With what he did to her back at the CDC, he’s been backing off as much as possible and intends to move on by himself at some point when he can do it quietly. Because he wants to do that, he’s pushing Carl away which is hurting the kid a good deal after the time the two spent together as well as giving Lori the cold shoulder. Similar to Andrea, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from now that he’s thinking straight and trying to do what he can to put it right in the only way he knows how. Lori gets it in her own way, but at the same time she doesn’t want to lose him or see Carl go through what he’s already going through with the distancing.
With the opening episode of the second season, The Walking Dead sets the pace well by spending the majority of its time working through character exploration via tense situations. The world is tense in general of course at this state, but the strength of the show has been how they all survive and cope with it. With Sophia going missing being the catalyst, the group is split repeatedly in different ways and that draws out a variety of interactions that both add to the tension and shows how many subplots are at work here. The series was one that I felt was very strong in its first season as it found its own way compared to the comic, but here it’s starting to blend more of the situations from the comics with the different cast that has grown here. This keeps it moving in familiar but different directions and that combination keeps it thoroughly engaging. The Walking Dead brings in plenty of neat bits here, lots of characterization and an ending that demands you come back next week without fail.