The ‘Walking Dead’ has returned, but with the departure of producer Frank Darabont, will the series live up to the high bar set by last season? That’s the question I had going into Sunday’s Season 2 premiere.
Brief Episode Synopsis: We meet up with the gang right after the explosion at the CDC that ended the first season. They’ve decided to move on from Atlanta and head to Fort Benning in hopes of finding survivors, supplies or both. Along the way, they come to a large roadblock created by stranded cars and an overturned semi-truck. They decide to stop and collect supplies and gas from the surrounding cars. A large horde of zombies greets them a few moments later. After a brief panic, Carol’s young daughter Sophia runs off into the woods, chased by two “walkers.” Rick saves her from the zombies, but the two get separated and the girl goes missing.
Thoughts: First off, I want to say that, in my opinion, ‘What Lies Ahead’ has a decidedly different feel from last season’s episodes. As we all know by now, Frank Darabont had a highly-publicized departure from the series over the summer. The man who’d been the heart and soul of Season 1 was suddenly fired. We all wondered how the series would turn out. Would it keep that unique, personal feel? Would it retain the creepy-as-hell mood? Or would it succumb to more zombie gore, and less character interaction?
While I can’t answer those questions just yet, it seems to me that Season 2 feels different from the outset. Rick’s monologue into the walkie-talkie sounds unnatural and forced. The dialogue is ever-so-stilted in its delivery, and not true to the form in which it’s being transferred. It’s a walkie-talkie. Get to the most important stuff and move on. Waxing poetic seems just a tad silly.
I have a bone to pick (pun definitely intended) with the horde scene. In the first season episode ‘Guts’, Rick and Glenn smeared themselves with zombie entrails and smelly zombie insides in order to walk amongst the zombies without being smelled or detected. Only after the rain started washing off the blood and guts did the zombies realize that they were human. When the horde moves through the roadblock in this episode and everyone hides under the cars, I laughed. Really? So we’re totally forgetting that zombies can smell humans? The zombies pass right by without peeking under the cars or smelling something human-y. The only time they’re alerted to human presence is when a couple of the members of the group make involuntary noises. That was annoying.
Rick acts stupidly when he goes off all Superman-like to save Sophia. I don’t mean that his character is stupid; I mean that the way the scene plays out, what the script calls for, is a little ridiculous. How many times have we seen Rick and the guys easily dispatch of a couple of zombies using whatever is around? Going into the forest, I’m sure Rick could’ve picked up any number of giant sticks or blunt objects. Hell, even when he tells Sophia to hide, he could’ve got a big stick or stone lying around there and bashed the zombies to bits – especially when the first one nose-dives into the freaking river by tripping down the embankment. I’m sorry, but Sophia doesn’t need to be lost in the first place. As we’ve seen over and over, these guys have easily dispatched zombies without thinking much of it. Even without guns. It just feels like the missing girl subplot is forced into the story instead of happening naturally.
The show still retains its creepy mood, which is nice. A minimal soundtrack makes for a more suspenseful experience. Most horror movies have the generic horror soundtrack that builds and builds relentlessly until something jumps out from around the corner, be it harmless cat or ferocious monster. I like how ‘The Walking Dead’ does it. There’s hardly any music, just lumbering zombies and people looking scared. That’s how it should be.
The ending is a huge surprise, although there’s absolutely NO WAY that a deer would let a human get that close to it. I’ve been around plenty of deer who find their way into our yard, and they spook at the slightest noise. That deer would’ve been off like a shot, and little Carl Grimes wouldn’t have a hole in his stomach from a mysterious hunter’s bullet right now. The ending caught me by surprise, but is highly implausible.
Speaking of implausible, T-Dog slices his arm clean open on a car’s door and spills blood everywhere. He seriously soaks his entire shirt in it. Not only do the zombies not instinctively swarm to him, he acts like nothing ever happened after he gets bandaged up – like all that blood he lost was just a flesh wound. If he’s not dead, that guy should be under some serious distress for quite a while after losing that much blood.
I’m still on the fence about this season. The entire horde of zombies scene kinda irked me. They would’ve smelled those people lying under those cars. Not to mention the one who casually walked into the RV to check things out. He would’ve definitely smelled Andrea in there if we were still playing by the rules established in Season 1. And if one zombie is smart enough to walk into an RV looking for something to eat, then why aren’t a few others smart enough to check under cars?
We’ll see where this season goes, but the first episode left a bland taste in my mouth. If it wasn’t for the overall creepy atmosphere, I don’t think I would’ve liked it much at all.