Monday, October 17, 2011

NN REVIEW: The Walking Dead: What Lies Ahead

Season 1 of The Walking Dead was somewhat of a mixed bag for most people. The show started off extremely strong in the first couple of episodes and finally gave people a well thought out, quality zombie story on television for the first time ever. Although the last few episodes of the season stumbled a bit, bogged down by weak plot points, foolish characters and some odd side stories (Mexican gangsters taking care of the elderly) the whole of season 1 was something that I think most people enjoyed. Needless to say it left us excited for season 2, a chance to get to know these characters even more all while watching the living dead get their brains bashed in. So did the season 2 premier, "What Lies Ahead" give us what we were hoping for after almost a year off the air? Yes and no...let's jump in!


I'm still on the fence about whether or not I like Rick. He's obviously the protagonist that we're supposed to relate to and root for but for some reason I just can't seem to get fully on board with him. Season 2 starts with Rick on top of one of Atlanta's buildings talking into his walkie-talkie to explain how the group is moving on. It seems that the group's mobile goal of the season will be to get to some fort that is apparently a safe-house where they have the best chance of surviving. Rick's monologue at the beginning wasn't exactly stirring and I was hoping for a different opening shot that would suck us right back into the show that we had been missing for a year. But the rest of the episode helps to make up for this misstep.

As the gang heads out of Atlanta they come to a road block created by broken down cars on the road. Obviously as they try to navigate the wreckage their trailer breaks down and they find themselves stranded. The group decides to start searching the broken down cars for parts, food, etc. and for some reason Rick's wife Lori objects because "it's a graveyard." Ummm...what? Why is this location, made up of mostly just broken down cars too grim of a location to salvage food and supplies? I'm pretty sure at this point you wouldn't give a crap about some bodies in cars after having survived the zombie apocalypse for over a month. But her whining doesn't prevail and they start scavenging. Then comes our first zombie encounter of the season.

Dale is positioned on top of the trailer keeping an eye out for their slow moving friends and he eventually spots a herd of them headed their way. So the gang thinks on their feet and...gets under the cars? Okay I'm sorry, I know this sequence ended up being incredibly tense and a great zombie moment but I keep getting distracted by how dumb these peoples' decisions are. At this point they have graduated zombie basic training and should make wiser decisions than trapping themselves under cars where, if discovered, it would be almost impossible to escape. Also, in season 1 we established that zombies can smell when Rick and Glen masked themselves in gore to hide in plain sight from the flesh munchers. Also, there's a perfectly good forest just off the road that they could spread out in and have infinite escape routes if a zombie decides it's lunch time. But they hop under the cars anyways and we actually get some nicely done, tense moments of zombie feet scuttling across as the gang struggles to remain silent. Then it happens.  Obviously since she's the most confident of the group, Sophia, the 8 year old girl decides the coast is clear and slides out from under her car...the coast wasn't clear sweetheart. She is quickly discovered and forced to flee into the forest quickly pursued by Rick and two walkers.

Eventually Rick tells Sophia to hide while he distracts the zombies and then to return to camp once they're gone. So she does just that but of course gets lost on the way back. The rest of the episode centers around the gang trying to find Sophia somewhere in the woods as her mother, Carol, deals with blaming Rick for her daughter's disappearance. They eventually stop by a church and, after some sweet zombie brain bashings, we actually get some nice character moments. Andrea, the blonde chick whose sister died last season overhears Shane and Lori talk about their relationship and why Shane should leave the group, Carol takes some time to beg God to punish her for her wrongdoings and not her daughter, and Rick also takes some time to beg Jesus for a sign that he is doing the right thing.

Then we come to the final scene in the episode...holy nuts. Rick, his son Carl, and Shane decide to keep looking for Sophia while the rest of the group heads back to the road. During the guys' search in the woods they happen upon the least skittish deer I've ever seen in my life. Carl begins to approach the deer with wide eyed wonder as Shane and Rick look on and smile. Then Carl gets shot in the freaking chest! Yea, as he's looking at the deer somebody shoots the thing from the other side and the bullet goes right through the animal and nails Carl. In the "shots from next week/this season" after the episode we see that Rick rushes him to a house where we'll meet some new characters...but seriously, this was crazy.

There were definitely some nice side stories established in this episode that I'm interested to see how they turn out. Will Andrea and Shane bail on the group for some time? How soon will we find Sophia and will she be alive know...dead but alive? Will Carl survive getting shot just below the heart? I'm guessing the writers may not be afraid of letting one of the kids die as it helps establish that no one is safe and to be honest it can help propel some intense character development for those who have to deal with a child's death. I haven't read the graphic novel so I have no idea what to expect as far as who lives and who dies.

The season 2 premier didn't quite live up to what I hoped for after such a long hiatus from the show but it certainly set up what promises to be another good season. If we can get the characters' zombie IQ's up to a realistic level and we can continue to learn about these people in the midst of the zombie apocalypse then I think The Walking Dead may have quite a few seasons under its belt. To be honest, I think there's a lot of pressure on the next 4 or 5 episodes to really get us on board for the long haul.

My Rating: 8/10

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