Last week I took some time to run down all the ways in which this week is awesome, starting with tonight’s second season premiere of AMC’s zombie apocalypse survival horror drama The Walking Dead. I predicted a 35% chance for disappointment, thinking ahead to the season as a whole rather than just the first episode.
So how did it do? Am I still as enamored with Rick and Co’s fight for their lives? I can tell you, but THERE BE SPOILERS!
To answer the questions: pretty damn good, and yes, most definitely. My enjoyment of any one episode of TWD can be graded by how many times I shout, “That is fucked up!” during a broadcast, and the premiere got three. Throw in some good gore, some developments to further round out the characters and your mandatory cliffhanger ending, and you have what I think is a solid start.
THINGS I LIKED
– Now that the crew of survivors has been whittled down to under 15, the perspectives of each of them start to emerge, and they get to distinguish themselves. Lori’s quiet and unheeded objection to looting the auto graveyard [and what did those people die from anyway?] was a subtle way to draw the line between ‘the way we used to do things,’ and ‘the way we live now.’ The show [and by extension the original comic] succeeds the most in those moments where the audience takes their own moral inventory of what they would or wouldn’t do. When Lori said she didn’t know how she felt about it, my first reaction was, ‘You better get over it.’
-The ‘How about a cup of shut the hell up?’ plaque visible over Andrea’s shoulder in the RV as she cleans her guns.
-Shane breaking away from being a one note villain coveting his best friend’s wife. He was a prick to both Lori and Carl on separate occasions, all to make his future planned disappearance easier for everyone. It might still be wrong, but I understand the logic, and he still had Rick’s back repeatedly throughout the episode.
-Zombie fight #1: While requiring the sizable suspension of disbelief that the passing herd wouldn’t smell the survivors under the cars [why did they smear all those entrails on themselves in EP3, then?], I liked the sequence as a whole for illustrating why firearms can be more of a liability than an advantage. Which brings us to:
-Darryl being awesome. Here’s a dyed-in-the-wool racist, and will likely have some major asshole moments in his future, but in one episode he not only saved T-Dog’s life with some quick corpse maneuvering, his naturalist skills proved essential in the search for Sophia. Loved, loved, the ‘begrudging respect’ moments between him and Rick, Rick impressed with Darryl’s tracking eye, Darryl with Rick’s forensic expertise when checking a dead zombie for signs of a fresh kill. Is Darryl a genuinely good guy? Will the bonds he forms with his fellow survivors lead him to be conflicted when he’s eventually reunited with Merle [which he totally will this season].
-The brief sound of an automated radio broadcast when Shane got that car up and running, a sign that there may be more of the world out there than they think, or just empty promises to remind them of how alone they are?
-Andrea’s brutally honest takedown of Dale and his motives for essentially guilting her into fleeing the self-destructing CDC with him. Not anything he wanted to hear, but correct on every level. Also dug how she pointed out that he barely knew her, reminding viewers of the fact that these people aren’t family, or friends. They’re just a group of people trying to survive together. The cracks starting to show throughout [Shane and Andrea talk of splitting this episode, I’ve seen teasers where T-Dog suggests the same to Dale] should make for some compelling viewing when people start to decide if they have better chances on their own.
-Dale saving himself from being just a selfish old man by revealing to T-Dog that the RV was already fixed, in an attempt to keep people from “doing math,” and calculating the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few RE: continuing the search for Sophia. See what I mean about everyone getting a moment now that the character roster’s been culled so much?
-Lori going off on Carol and Andrea for essentially being whiny brats and blaming for Rick for not having every answer to every problem.
WHAT I DIDN’T
-While Andrea was right to bitch out Dale for withholding her gun from her, her brattiness about it as the episode moved on started to grate, to the point where she actually said to Lori, “I see you get a gun.” Really? Come on, now.
-I’m sure I’ll come to appreciate it when it’s all said and done, especially if the kid ends up zombie chow, but waaaaay too much of this episode was devoted to looking for Sophia, easily 60 minutes of a 90 minute premiere, and they were still no closer to finding her when it was over. Between that and Carl getting shot, the lesson is: children are more trouble than they’re worth.
-The lack of zombies in the second half of the episode. I’m aware this is one of the stronger themes of this season, as the focus and drama will focus more on the burden of survival rather than defending against constant threats, and there were still enough moments of sharp objects getting inserted into the heads of the undead, you can always use more.
-The sheer number of commercial breaks taken in the later half of the episode. I don’t know if there just weren’t as many in the first half or if they just weren’t as intrusive, but they really got out of hand in that last half hour, AMC.
“THAT IS FUCKED UP!!”
-Darryl pulling the corpse onto himself to hide from the passing herd.
-Digging into the walker’s guts and pulling out its stomach to see if there were any signs it had eaten Sophia.
-Carl getting shot was more of an, ‘Oh, shit!’ moment, so I’ll give my third TIFU moment to Darryl slicing the female walker in the church across the eyes. The veil was a nice touch.
All in all, a solid if not perfect effort, that guarantees I will be happily devoting the last hour of my weekend to the show all this season. See you next week at Hershel’s farm!