‘The Walking Dead’ 2.01 Recap: “It’s All About Slim Chances Now”

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.


  1. mlemaire

    I could be completely wrong, but as far as I know, Darabont left well after this episode was completed or at the very least written. Not 100% sure, but they might have been past episode 3-5 by the time he left. But again, this is only based on what I’ve read over the past while about the series.

  2. In the “Talking Dead” interview after the show, Robert Kirkman was asked why the zombies didn’t smell the people under the cars. His response (paraphrased as best as I can remember) was: “They have a rudimentary sense of smell, but they’re not bloodhounds. They don’t go around sniffing everything to find food. Hiding under cars would be fine.” This is straight from the mouth of the man who created the source material.

    I’m not sure how far into the season it was when Darabont was fired. I’m pretty sure he was still around for this episode. Even if not, he was certainly around for the development stages of the season. I expect that the first few episodes at least will progress according to his plans, regardless of whether he was on set or not. (Remember that he was fired primarily for falling behind schedule and going over budget, not because the network didn’t like the direction he was taking the series.)

    A lot of your complaints, Aaron, sound like nit-picking because you went into the episode expecting it to suck. Honestly, I thought this was the show’s second-best episode after the pilot. It was extremely suspenseful and had a lot of great character moments. It was a big improvement over the last half of the first season.

    I’m still nervous for the show, however. Eventually, all the behind-the-scenes turmoil is bound to catch up with the series. But I think it will be a few more episodes before Darabont’s absence will be felt.

    • Aaron Peck

      Thanks for your assumptions Josh, but no I didn’t “go into the episode expecting it to suck.” If I did why the hell would I watch the second season? I love the show, and didn’t expect it to suck.

      Surprise, surprise, one of the minds behind the show tries to explain away plot holes. I remember the creators of ‘Lost’ doing that on a weekly basis. It wasn’t easy to believe what they were saying either.

      What else was nit-picking? That I expected a guy who lost enormous amounts of blood to be a little sicker than he looked? That I thought Rick could’ve definitely handled the Sophia situation better?


      • Perhaps it would be fairer to say that you went into the season inherently skeptical due to Darabont’s departure? You basically say as much a couple of different places in this post.

        T-Dog’s injury, I’ll give you that. That part did bug me as well, though not enough to kill the whole episode.

        I didn’t have an issue with the way Rick led the zombies off into the woods. There were two of them against him, and they were faster moving than most the group have encountered (like the ones in the church). He would not have been able to attack one without the other getting Sophia (or him). He had to draw them away from her so that he could pick them off. If Daryl or some of the others had been there with him, his strategy might have been different.

        The smell thing… I don’t know why we should expect zombies to have super-smelling powers. In the first season episode, the characters had to walk right into the middle of a group of zombies standing there looking at them. The smell was just one part of the disguise. If these zombies are just walking by the cars and don’t see anything amiss, there’s no reason to expect them to get down on the ground and sniff around for humans.

        Rick had monologued into his walkie-talkie a couple of times in Season 1. I’m not sure why that suddenly bugs you.

        • Aaron Peck

          I have a problem with his monologue because of its hammed-up writing. Only think missing from it was “Previously on ‘The Walking Dead.'” Seemed like a flowery recap of last season, and didn’t serve much purpose.

          The minute the rain started the zombies began smelling the humans. The MINUTE the rain came down. I don’t know about you but have you tried to ever smell anything in a rainstorm besides, well, rain? (Not to mention they’re still covered mostly in rotting human flesh and blood) Rain has its own overpowering smell. They’re bloodhound zombies only when the script calls for it.

          Also, if the zombies only depart from the norm when something’s amiss, why then does one zombie wander off and into the camper? The only zombie to do something like that out of the whole group? I can’t think of a reason for that happening other than it was called for in the script to create suspense, but only enough for us to be afraid, and not enough for us to think she was actually going to die.

          My problem is the zombies act one way, then another way. We’re supposed to believe they are stupid and brainless, but then they go rooting around in RVs presumably looking for people to eat.

          • This seems to me to be more of a problem with that episode in Season 1 than this one. It was bad writing in the first place to imply that zombies had super smelling. There are dozens upon dozens of scenes in both seasons (pretty much every episode) where the characters hide just out of sight from zombies, and the zombies DON’T sniff them out.

            Is this episode inconsistent with that one scene from the first season, or was that earlier scene inconsistent with every other episode of the show? Not to mention common sense. If you were covered from head to toe in rotting animal gore, that smell isn’t going to instantly go away just because you get rained on for a few seconds. Even the biggest fans of the show have to admit that the first season had extremely erratic writing. The rain scene was a prime example of that problem.

            If we’re assigning rules to zombie behavior, it’s been pretty clearly established that zombies only attack people they can see or hear directly in front of them. And that includes that rain scene. The smell thing never made sense. IMO, it’s for the best that we don’t try to make that a “rule” now.

  3. Robert Kirkman explained that the Zombies are not blood hounds and don’t sniff around to find alive humans. There smell is the same as a normal person and they would have to be crawling on the ground next to them to smell there’s live humans under the car.

  4. JoeRo

    I’m on board with Aaron on this one I have to say. The zombie smell thing was driving me nuts when I saw it. If they’re not blood hounds you’d never know that based on season one. I don’t care how hard it was raining when that gore began to wash off of them, the natural smell of an unwashed living human being is never going to overpower the stench of a rotting corpse … unless you’re a bloodhound. It would’ve been better for me if the survivors awoke one morning to find that the kid was just gone, no explanation necessary (also no retcon). Also T-dog slicing his arm wide open would not only be life threatening, but would be the equivalent of spraying eau de tasty zombie snack all over himself.

    When Sophia ran off I literally said “here we go.” I generally hate children in film and television as writers are rarely content to have them remain part of the set dressing. Losing one of the kids in the series premiere, then spending the rest of the episode looking for her, was a cheap way to create tension and generate sympathy in the viewer (cause everyone cares bout kids!). I’ve always disliked the use of children as generic emotional generators since trying to evoke a mama/papa bear sense of horror when seeing one lost or harmed is largely lost on me. Putting a child in harms way is one of the laziest forms of writing, perhaps only surpassed by having women eating ice cream in their pajamas and talking about men. The whole episode I was expecting to see Lori and Carol sit down in the RV, mow down on some Chunky Monkey whilst high-fiving and calling each other “girlfriend”. Wouldn’t have been out of place in that episode. Honestly.

    To wrap it all up the episode ends with that bizarre scene with the deer, which as Aaron points out just rings false. Deer are skittish creatures, and besides a zombie apocalypse is not the best time to give junior a communing-with-nature moment. But if that weren’t enough, looks like we’ll get to spend next week worrying about not one, BUT TWO kids! Huzzah?

    • Lahrs

      I may be unfairly comparing the show to the comic, but if they do follow the comic with Carl, I think you would change your mind about kids in the show (at least this one, I agree with you on kids in general cheaply used to create sympathy).

      Carl has a dark decent as he grows up during the apocalypse. It is one thing to show the adults learning to adapt, but a kid adapting can be just as, or more so, intriguing if done right. The comic does it right, the show, not so sure. When I saw season 1, I was impressed with the entire cast except the actor who played Carl, which has me a bit worried, though I did like how he became more aggressive, going after the weapons and wishing to go on the rescue.

  5. Lahrs

    I am a huge fan of the comics, so a few of the events in the series, such as the “surprise” ending of the premier, was not actually a surprise on screen. In the comic, the nervous hunter believed Carl was a zombie and shot him, which I believe is more plausible.

    My biggest gripe in the episode, which seems the consensus, was T-Dog’s injury. Even if the zombies are not bloodhounds like Kirkman says, the way the show portrayed his cut spewing blood all over the ground as well as him, in the end felt too anti-climactic. What was the point of having him get cut if nothing was to come of it, not even a zombie look.

    After 89 issues of the comic, I cannot remember the zombies ever going after someone for bleeding, it has always been from seeing or hearing them. In that regard, there is consistency. Though the comic did not have the scene of Rick and Glen moving through the city covered in guts to hide them.

    There have been some interesting departures from the comic, and I have enjoyed the familiar, yet different takes on the story. I definitely do not have the “I hate it because it is not identical to the comics” attitude. For instance, the CDC is not in the comic, but I thought it worked well in the show.

    I am still trying to decide if I liked the episode, but I think a lot of the problem I am having has to do with the numerous commercials interrupting and killing the tension and pacing of the episode. The 90 minute premier was actual only an hour long, leaving 30 minutes of commercials, or one minute of commercial for every two minutes of show. I honestly do not know if that is a directing issue, a script issue or if AMC gets to decide when the commercial breaks occur, but the placing of the breaks also destroyed a lot of the pacing in the episode. I want to rewatch the show without interruption and then make a full decision on whether it was good or not.

    • When the show’s entire writing staff was fired after Season 1, I believe a lot of that was because Kirkman was unhappy with the way the show strayed too far from the comics. Now that he’s solely in charge, he’s likely trying to bring it more in line with the original material. If the “Zombies can smell us!” scene didn’t come from the comics in the first place… well, there you go.

      Commercials are inserted by the network. Typically, a show’s creators will edit the episodes with act breaks in mind at the usual 15-minute intervals, but if the network decides to shove in more commercials more often, that can very easily break the flow of the story. You see this a lot in the syndicated versions of many TV shows, which will cut out in mid-scene for commercials (or fade to black like a commercial is coming, and then fade back in without a break) because the new network decided to put commercial breaks in different spots than originally designed.

      • Aaron Peck

        Sure, but the writers of season two should stay in tune with the rules set in season one. Can’t just fly about willy-nilly and go back to the “source material” explanations when the show has already set certain rules that the zombies live by.

        • Lahrs

          I do not disagree that there needs to be set rules and consistency, but if Kirkman was trying to realign the show with his vision of the comic, then this change can be expected, even if at the moment it pulls you out. It would not be the first time a major show has altered the rules. That isn’t an excuse, just an observation. However, if smell ever comes up again, it needs to stick with the new rules or it really does become a mess for convenience sake.

          The other inconsistency, and one I find more glaring, is the speed of the zombies. Either they are fast or they are slow. This may seem like a nit-pick, but I feel it is very important to set up why the zombies are a threat. If they are fast, one or two zombies can be very deadly and would justify Rick leaving Sophia behind to hide while he tried to take them out separately. If they are slow, one or two zombies is not an issue at all, and there was no justification for leaving Sophia behind. The slow zombie/horde threat was set up from the very beginning, so seeing two zombies running after Sophia was the biggest rule breaker, not the smell.

          In the end, the viewer is going to have to decide if these are a deal breaker or not. I cannot fault anyone who cannot enjoy the show due to inconsistencies, they are there. At the moment, I am willing to overlook them.

  6. i went in with zero expectations , just another episode and Aaron is “dead” on with his review. reactions seemed forced. scenes stretched for no reason. the ending made me laugh. not because of what happened but where it was in the episode.

  7. I haven’t read through all the comments, but I agree that a lot of what you described in the episode sounds poor. Then again, I thought the first series was full of similar annoying flaws. It was good, but not the incredible thing it seemed to be acclaimed as.

    I’m looking forward to it nonetheless. It was enjoyable, even if not brilliant, and certainly superior to much of what else is classes as TV these days. Pity it couldn’t be better though.

  8. Eh, whatever. I still liked the premiere. The complaints against it seem like mostly nit-picky things to me, and certainly don’t outweigh the good parts of the episode – like that wonderfully gruesome scene where Rick and Daryl disembowel a zombie, or Andrea’s powerful speech about how she just wanted to die on her own terms but had that option taken away from her.

    I’m still worried for the rest of the season, but to me this was a clear improvement over much of Season 1 (especially those stupid episodes with the gang-bangers in the old-folks home). To each their own.

  9. Here’s my take on the whole “zombie smell” thing. Last season, they covered themselves in zombie blood so when they walked amongst them, the zombies wouldn’t wonder why they DIDN’T smell like the other zombies…not because they didn’t want to smell like humans. In other words, zombies can no more smell a human than you or I could (they ARE former humans, after all!), but they CAN smell another zombie, as all of us could.

  10. I, for one, really liked the premiere. It felt like a fluid continuation from season one. I wasn’t expecting anything grand, just more of what season one gave us.

    It’s interesting how much they’re using the kids for intensity. Honestly, I hope they just kill ’em off. How else are they going to explain the aging? Just like Walt on ‘Lost,’ get rid of ’em!