The TV Box: The Walking Dead: Season 2, Part 1

TWD cast

Last night, The Walking Dead completed the first half of its second season and went out with a jaw dropping event that has every fan talking.  What has me excited is the overall improvement with the series over last year… and naturally, the awesome finale last night.  This review will probably be rather spoiler heavy for anyone who has not watched the second season… and at the end I will discuss the differences between the events on the TV show and the comic it is based on… that will be very spoiler heavy.

Season 1 began on a remarkable note… the pilot for the show still stands as one of the finest episodes of TV… period.  As the series progressed, it deviated from the comic in a big way and never seemed to find its voice.  Granted, they only had six episode to work with, but it’s my opinion that the last four episodes were somewhat squandered.  I’m not saying there went some great moments… I simply felt the CDC storyline and its attendant issues were a strange direction to go.

After the first season wrapped, news got out that the entire writing staff had quit.  This did not bode well for the series as a whole… then again… it was the writing that seemed to be off the mark more than anything else, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.  We still had Frank Darabont as show runner.  While season two was filming, we then got news of budget cuts.  Suggestions such as, “could you show less zombies or film more interiors” were leaking out… and any hopes for an improved series were fading.  By the time we heard that Darabont had left the show entirely, I began setting myself up for disappointment.  Although Glen Mazzara has been tapped as the new show runner, and his credits are solid, he isn’t Frank Darabont… where would the show go?

Turns out, it went to a really great place.  These first seven episodes of the second season (six more to follow in February) represent the last of the Darabont episodes, but what they show us more than anything else is that the writing has improved dramatically, the pacing has been slowed and the characters have been given enough room to grow and develop a bit more fully.  And most importantly, the dialogue now sounds believable and improved with each episode.

So what happened this season?  After the debacle that was the CDC, our group of survivors is back on the road.  Immediately they are threatened by a herd of walkers and the imminent danger is palpable.  In one of the more tense scenes of the series, everyone is hiding under cars on a crowded highway as they wait for the zombies to pass.  Unfortunately, Sophia, Carol’s young daughter, is spotted and is chased into the woods.  Rick chases after her… takes care of the threat, only to have lost this little girl in the forest.  Search party ensues…

As they search for Sophia, a number of things happen… let’s call Sophia the “A plot”.  Carl gets shot in the woods by a local yokel named Otis who takes Carl to a nearby farm where we are introduced to Hershel and his brood… daughter Maggie, couple of other kids, and Otis’ girlfriend Patricia (B plot).  Hershel tries to save Carl, needs special equipment (C plot).  Andrea is depressed, Dale won’t give her a gun (D plot).  Glenn is sad… made happy by sex with Maggie (E plot).  Lori is pregnant (F plot).  Shane’s a dick (all up in everyone’s plot).

All of the above things are going on while staying at the farm, and each character has a different thing they are focusing on.  Obviously, Rick and Lori are focused on Carl.  Shane and Otis head out to get the equipment needed to help Carl, Shane shoots Otis in the leg, leaving him as a tasty fat distraction for the zeds.  Now… I have heard and read a number of different explanations for Shane’s behavior that are trying to make it that Shane only did what he did out of love for Carl or that Shane isn’t a bad guy… bullshit.  Shane is a dick… and as Dale said in the latest episode, Shane is made for this world.

Carl gets better… Lori discloses pregnancy… there are more than a few soap operaesque moments in the show, most of them revolving around Lori’s affair with Shane, her pregnancy, etc… but I think the penultimate episode dealt with that quite handily… Rick now knows and is understanding.  Good, move along.

Andrea and Dale are still somewhat at odds, although now Andrea is a bad ass with a gun thanks to Shane’s tutelage.  She thanks him with a crotch grab and a shag in the car.  Dale is sad… see Dale get mad… mad Dale, mad.  Dale is not happy with the direction crazy eyes Shane is going and decide to confront him… awkward and unnerving.

As Peyton Place is going on in the farm house, Daryl has been out searching for Sophia.  Apparently, the reason they are still at the farm house is the search for Sophia, yet only Daryl seems to be looking, which gets Carol all warm and fuzzy when it comes to everyone’s favorite cross-bow wielding, raw squirrel eating, brother of a Nazi.  Daryl has become the series stand out and everyone’s favorite.  Totally Team Daryl!!

I didn’t expect this review to turn into a recap… just happened that way.

Anyway… to make a longer story slightly shorter… Hershel doesn’t believe in killing all of these “sick” people and has been keeping them in a barn.  Our heroes are none too happy about this development and plan on doing something about it.  Rick and Shane have two different opinions on how to deal with it.  Rick believes they need to stay on the farm and should abide by Hershel’s wishes as guests… Shane says to hell with that… kill them all.

By the end of the last episode, Shane wins out… releasing all of the zombies for a bloodbath… finally, Sophia steps out.  Rick has to be the one to step up to the task and shoot her in the head.  Devastating.

Riveting… exciting… much improved and left me craving more.

Now… how does all of that stack up with the comic?

The main difference from the get go is that Shane is dead in the comic by issue six.  This season, they should have visited a gated community called Wiltshire Estates, but that was skipped in favor of heading directly to Hershel’s farm.  Hershel has more children on the farm in the book… but Maggie is there, Patricia and Otis are there as well, and yes, Otis shoots Carl.  Otis does not die so quickly, he makes it at least another 20 issues or so, and Sophia is still alive 91 issues in.  Of course, Daryl doesn’t exist and we still have no Tyrese… but this is a TV show and Robert Kirkman made it clear that there would be differences.

Shane is the main driver of most of the drama going on with the TV show, so he has certainly added an extra element to the story.  It feels evident that Kirkman has a regret or two about killing Shane off so early in the comic.  One of the biggest differences in what an alive Shane brings to the table is the whole baby drama.  Rick is now aware of Shane banging his wife and I’m interested to see how that will play itself out.  In the comic, Rick suspects, but never wants to know. Plus, I don’t want to see Andrea and Shane hook up… I prefer Andrea and Dale dammit!  I may look and/or be creepy, but it works.

What will the second half of season 2 deliver?  I hope for two things… the prison and Michonne.  Other than that, I will be happy to see what they give us.  In the meantime… a moment of silence for Otis and Sophia, the only two human casualties.

The story of survival horror continues here…
Cornelius J. Blahg

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