Season premiere review: 'The Walking Dead' - 'What Lies Ahead': Deer, Jesus
Rick and friends head out on the highway but get stuck in a traffic jam
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"The Walking Dead" is back for its second season. I already published my advance review of the season, and I have a few specific thoughts on the premiere coming up just as soon as I keep the sun on my left shoulder...
"The thing is... I could use a little something to help us keep going." -Rick
If we define the idea of a "great drama" of the modern era as one with indelible characters and/or important things to say about society, then "The Walking Dead" is likely never going to qualify for greatness. But if we define it as a drama that's executed to the highest possible level within its sub-genre, then "The Walking Dead" has a shot, and a much better one given how well season 2 started out.
The 90-minute episode, written by Robert Kirkman, with some parts directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton and others by Ernest Dickerson, did a terrific job of plunging us back into the zombie apocalypse with that long set piece on the highway. While horror stories are often defined by motion and noise - lots of people running and screaming - here was one all about silence and stillness, where any kind of big fight against the walkers would have ended in everybody dying. Just expertly assembled, and the slow, quiet nature of it gave us an even better opportunity than usual to admire Greg Nicotero's makeup work.
Things slowed down a bit after that, but there were a few more gripping zombie engagements, and some promising mysteries established: where did Sophia go? Where is the emergency signal coming from, and is anyone alive on the other end? And who shot Carl?
The character work - other than the usual strong fraying-at-all-edges performance by Andrew Lincoln as Rick - was a bit less compelling, but it also wasn't helped by the long hiatus between the abbreviated first season and this one. It took me a few minutes into Andrea's argument with Dale to remember that he had guilted her into leaving the CDC with her, for instance, or to orient myself on exactly how Shane and Lori had left things after he drunkenly came onto her. That said, the performances were all quite good, and the idea of Shane and Andrea running off together - not because of any bond they have, but just because each wants to be rid of the group - could be very interesting.
But on this show, men plan and then zombies lurch, or little girls go missing, or little boys get shot while trying to approach a still deer. Shane may want to get away, Rick may want to get to Fort Benning, Andrea may want to be dead, but they have too many other problems to deal with first.
This was a good start to the season, and I liked next week's episode a lot as well. I'm not sure if there's ever going to be enough meat here for extended episodic analysis, but the plan is to say at least a bit about each episode and then open up the discussion. And however much or little I write, let me remind you of the specific rules for discussing this show:
2)This includes any discussion of the previews for the next episode.
3)This includes any discussion of storylines from the comic that haven't happened yet in the timeline of the TV show. (And, yes, the show has and will continue to deviate from the comic in some ways, but for the sake of those instances where they're going to be the same, I don't want people talking about something from issue 50 when we're watching episode 11.)
4)This includes anything you've seen or read elsewhere about anything that has not happened within the context of the episodes that have already aired.
Anything in violation of any of these points gets deleted. Nice and simple. Talk about what has already happened on the show, no more, no less.
What did everybody else think?