Monday, 9 February 2015

The Walking Dead Season 2 (AMC)

In my attempt to catch up on the five seasons of The Walking Dead before the final episode of Season 5 airs on AMC, I share my thoughts on the second season of the zombie drama starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Berenthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn, among others. The Walking Dead borrows its inspiration from Robert Kirkman’s long running comic series of the same name, and the second season's showrunner is Glen Mazzara.

I loved The Walking Dead’s first season. When I finally got around to catching up on the series I quickly got through it as fast as I could, the six episodes that were there were devoured and I really enjoyed it indeed. The pilot remains to this day one of the best first episodes of any television show that I’ve seen, ever. Yet it took me the best part of last year to get through the entire second season, and I’m not even joking. I kept putting it off until the last few months of 2014 and it was only today that I was able to get through the last two episodes of Season 2. So what happened? 

Well for starters, Frank Darabont no longer is the executive producer on the show and that role falls to Glen Mazzara.  And the change in showrunner really shows in the second season, with it expanding its episode count to thirteen, and becoming considerably slower as a result, and aside from a few notable episodes, it no longer has the tense, unpredictable thrill of early Season 1, with the group spending the majority of Season 2 in one place as opposed to on the run.

The main group of survivors, lead by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and containing the likes of Shane Walsh (Jon Berenthal), who’s slowly falling apart with his affair with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Rick’s wife comes to light when Lori is revealed to be pregnant. Rick’s son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), is facing the prospect of growing up in a world where there is no longer any prospect of a normal childhood, and Andrea (Laurie Holden) is still coping over the loss of her sister from the previous season. Also still around is the group’s main voice of reason, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), fan-favourite hunter/tracker Daryl (Norman Reedus), T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Glenn (Steven Yunn). These characters have already gone through hell but Season 1 is only the beginning, because there’s plenty more challenging tasks for them to go through in the second Season as each member of the group has their humanity put to the test and nobody will emerge the same at the end of the Season as they were at the start.

However, it does take a while for things to get interesting, which is a real shame and it probably would have been better if the show had kept the shorter episode count for Season 2, much like Season 1. The majority of the season in this case takes place on a farm, which the group are granted safe haven at by Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and his family, which includes his two daughters, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney). These characters make interesting additions to the cast and allowed for an interesting new dynamic as it turns out that Hershel may have some secrets that are best left hidden.  However, much like the rest of the cast, much of this season is spent giving the characters plenty of development that really helps flesh them out. In this season the focus on the zombies is pushed largely to the side, with the safe-haven at the farm instead allowing the group to turn towards more internal debates and issues, such as who Lori’s unborn baby is, and whether Carl should be taught to shoot or not, which are driving them apart, as Rick and Shane consistently clash heads with their different viewpoints over the course of the season.

There were plenty of problems with character development this season. Not all of the characters were likable and even though some storylines started off strongly, they were poorly resolved and didn’t always work. It’s clear that the main strength of this season lies when it comes to creating tension, with the episodes with the threat of the ever-present zombies/walkers allowing for some great, tension filled, high adrenaline moments that often are a lot more successful than the character centric episodes. However, that said, there were some good character-centric stories that we got from Season 2, with the Rick/Shane storyline that came to a head in the penultimate episode of the Season being really worth investing in.

Because then, of the greater emphasis on character, which may not always have been successful, The Walking Dead grows somewhat less exciting during the second season. Yes, there are some great moments, and some shocking twists to be found here that fans will expect – and unless you’ve been spoiled about it already like I was, you won’t see it coming. The penultimate episodes of Season 2 are among the finest, and really worth sticking around to watch as their execution is great. It also gives me hope that things can improve in Season 3, especially given the new direction that the season looks to be heading in.

VERDICT: 7.5/10

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