THE WALKING DEAD “What Lies Ahead” Review

THE WALKING DEAD “What Lies Ahead” Season 2 Episode 1 – Welcome, my friend, to the Dead that never end.

Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead. I followed production with interest even before season one aired, and even got to see the premiere in a movie theater. (And folks, let me tell you—that’s what people ’round here call all kinds of snazzy!) I loved season one. No, it wasn’t perfect, but damned near close. And it really made me hopeful for season two.

More full disclosure: I’m a gigantic comic book fan. Or at least was up until the late 1990’s saw greed, lame-ass storytelling, and plastic-chested female characters drive every title this side of Cerebus into the crapper. (Other issues drove Cerebus into the crapper. It wasn’t greed, though.) So of course I knew The Walking Dead was a successful ongoing comic book title long before it came to the small screen.

More MORE full disclosure: I never read The Walking Dead comic book; horror comics were never my cup of tea. So I’m not a purist by any stretch. Though I will admit that I generally don’t get along very well with anyone who calls themselves a “purist,” usually because it denotes them as unyielding and probably slightly unimaginative, unwilling to accept even the best story twists if they break the so-called sacrosanct canon of source.

So I’m basically open to anything. Just give me compelling storytelling. I’m in.

And damned if they didn’t do just that. The much-ballyhoed sacking of the season one writers turns out to be (thus far) a non-issue. The second season of The Walking Dead picks up right where it left off at the end of the first, white-knuckled and always threatening to careen into a very dark place.

I don’t normally talk about direction of photography, art direction… but TWD takes a television show budget and makes cinema-quality art. The show does great things with sound as well; silence is as effective as the incessant drone of insects (an anime staple and used well here). And Bear McCreery’s tense soundtrack is better than ever.

Also better than ever is the acting. Andrew Lincoln’s officer Rick Grimes is still central, and it feels like the weight of the world is set precariously on his narrow but sturdy shoulders, with more pounds being added by the second. It’s not just Lincoln; everyone is getting moments to shine. The show shows a sort of community terror like no other; the fear of a lost child, alone in the woods at night, is palpable—and made eighty times worse by the fact that there are child-eating zombies out there.

As to the zombies, I like that the mystery of their origin is being revealed slowly, while at the same time (and seeming pace) they seem to be evolving. It makes me feel like they (the zombies) are one staggering step ahead of our wayward heroes. Whoever knew zombies would be so hard to catch?

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, mostly because I’m accustomed to the victims doing incredibly stupid things and earning the messy deaths they receive. With TWD, most of the group’s actions seem sensible. I find myself going, “Well that’s probably what I would do.” Even Andrea (the intense Laurie Holden) trying to put together a gun rather than keeping still and silent seemed more of a reflexive panic than simple dumb choice.

Some choice moments from this episode:

“We’d never go without you and your mom. That’s a promise.” Uh oh. You know we were all thinking someone was gonna get left behind right there.

“This is a graveyard. I don’t know how I feel about any of this.” Sweetie, if it keeps me alive and away from zombies, I’m looting my mom’s house.

“What kind of flesh?” “Only one way to find out.” And then they cut the zombie’s stomach open. Looking for little Sophia. Awesome.

Andrea’s anger with Dale (an excellent Jeffrey DeMunn) was an interesting twist—her hating the fact that he talked her out of dying. And dude’s a crafty old man. I like him. I hope he lives a while.

On the interpersonal side, Andrea hearing about Shane (John Bernathal—better than ever) admit to his relationship with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) makes you think that won’t stay buried for long. Her attempt to side with him feels more than a little desperate, and I’m not sure, if pushed, whether or not she’d use her knowledge as blackmail, or just wield it in anger.

Lori does bug me a little; it feels like she should be able to focus her various snits better. Sort of like she’s just there to oppose shit. But she was like that last season. Still, I hope she improves. I find her the least likable of the cast.

Finally the religion topic arose, which you knew had to be a theme eventually. And it can be a momentous issue; desperate, shaken faith can be a powerful tool for a character (and an actor), and both Rick and Carol (the fantastic Melissa Suzanne McBride) shined in their moments.

If I have two small complaints it was that T-Dog (IronE Singleton)’s nasty arm injury was glossed over too quickly (I feel like something was left on the cutting room floor), and the end was just a touch short of completely bizarre. The whole Carl Wants To Pet Bambi moment could only end badly, and it did. Poor kid got shot because some dumb writer made him think he was 8 years old. But generally speaking writing was good and tight. With all the good, it’s hard to complain about the bad.

This season looks intense. Who’s on board?

If you want to pet Bambi, follow me on Twitter! That’s @Axechucker!