The Walking Dead Season 2… Wishing I’d Been Bitten.

By theredraylives | March 25, 2012

The Walking Dead
Developed by Frank Darabont
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Laurie Holden, Sarah Wayne Callies
Three out of Five Stars

Devoted readers may remember my recent ruminations on the mighty could-have-been season one of “The Walking Dead.” What was promised in the amazing pilot and built upon for an episode or two thereafter was shattered by endless, boring plots with no real purpose, characters who seemed to be more like cardboard cutouts than real people, and the use of the zombies from the zombie apocalypse that is the setting of the show as flesh-eating plot devices. So one had to hope that the writers came into the much expanded second season with a renewed sense of the scope of the show, a clear path forward for its characters, and some great human drama and zombie action blended together to make for a great overall experience. Instead, what one finds is that the lessons of the last couple episodes of the first season are not learned, and in fact, the same mistakes are made yet again- but now, with 13 episodes to stretch it across instead of 6, the writers are poised to make every single member of the viewing audience as bitterly miserable as possible.

As we pick up where season one left off, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is leading his rag-tag group of survivors away from Atlanta in search of a new shelter. As the vehicles chug down the highway they run into a massive blockage and are quickly forced to scatter as the flesh-eating plot devices attack. Sophia, the daughter of survivor Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) ends up missing… somehow. So the show spends two episodes having our characters search for the missing girl, just sort of hanging out near the cluttered highway, until Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs) is shot by accident. He is rushed to a nearby farm, where veterinarian Hershel Green (Scott Wilson) lives with his family. Carl is saved, and the survivors all settle down on Hershel’s farm so they can… learn how to farm. When it first aired, the season was basically split into two halves, so that’s how this review is going to tackle the rotting corpse that was season 2.

For starters, one had better be a fan of characters slowly walking through the woods repeatedly, looking for a little girl. This goes on episode after episode after episode for the first half of the season. After the first time or two, in the first episode or two that they do it, the point is really well made. There is no need to continue showing scene after scene of other characters doing absolutely nothing to advance the plot while searching endlessly. Back at the farm, the continued searches for Sophia have taken their toll on the other survivors. Most of them refuse to give up hope (such as Rick), while others (such as Shane) are willing to admit to themselves that there’s pretty much no chance she’s coming back after the first few days.

That said, another of this season’s greatest issues is the fall of Shane (Jon Bernthal). While he is certainly hot-headed and tactless, he is also the one character that seems to be interested in being practical. He doesn’t believe they should continue risking their lives to search for Sophia when, after several days, she clearly isn’t coming back. Once it is realized that the barn is full of walkers, it is Shane that believes that the danger must be eliminated. The sad thing is, Shane is portrayed to be the bad guy for thinking these perfectly rational things, in both the way his character acts and the reactions of those around him. The kicker comes when Shane and Otis must head to a nearby school to find medical equipment to save Carl’s life. As they leave the school, Shane and Otis are split up, both pursued by the most inept walkers ever. Shane, in an inexplicably absurd out-of-character moment, shoots Otis in the leg and leaves him to be ripped apart by walkers.

This action makes no sense for several reasons. One, Shane and Otis weren’t in any danger of being caught by the walkers. In fact, they had re-grouped and were making their way toward the exit, and Shane was even wounded. Two, Shane had no reason to shoot him in the leg- if the writers were determined to make Shane into the bad guy, why shoot him in the leg? Wouldn’t he at least be merciful and shoot him in the head? The zombies still would’ve gone after the free meal. Three, since when is he a cold-blooded murderer? Yes, he cared about saving Carl, but what exactly was the purpose of him turning into a murderer? The answer is there wasn’t one- the writers simply needed to make him darker and turn him into a clear-cut bad guy so the season had an antagonist. He and Rick have some different ideas on how to best survive, and their conflict over this would’ve been engaging enough without having him become a murderer for no reason.

Add to this the fact that Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) seems to have developed multiple personalities throughout the season and decides to torment him. One episode, she hates him and wants nothing to do with him. The next episode, she wants him to talk to her. She wants him to leave, then stay. She says they had nothing, then empathizes with him over his loss of what they had. Her character is more unlikeable than the zombies that very infrequently decide to wander around in the woods near the farm but never head toward the farm since the plot doesn’t require it to be in danger yet.

Hatred for her runs equal with hatred for Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), who becomes upset that Andrea (Laurie Holden) has been spending more time with Shane and thus begins to antagonize him for absolutely no reason. As the group discovers that a horde of walkers are being kept in the barn, Dale decides to take all of the guns and hide them- a wonderful plan considering how badly it could have backfired on the entire group had the walkers escaped. Yet Shane catches him, wanting to have the guns for protection, and yet again, Shane is the bad guy.

As the review transitions into a review of the second half of the season, the story actually begins to get better (considering the flimsy foundation it was built on, this is still precarious). Questions about humanity and morality are called into play as the group takes a prisoner from another group of survivors who attempted to kill them. Shane and Daryl (Norman Reedus), among others, want the prisoner executed before he can put the group in danger. Dale is a vocal opponent of it, arguing that they’re no better than those that tried to kill them- or by extension, the zombies themselves- if they sacrifice their humanity for self-preservation. Rick is caught in the tug-of-war between the two, actually planning to kill him at one point, but when his son arrives to watch (and cheer on) the execution, he realizes what life in this world is doing to his son and thinks better of it. Another great theme comes into play in complacency- too many characters become too comfortable on the farm, and the show is ever-quick to remind viewers that the world is still overrun by zombies (although this creates several other issues which will be addressed later).

Rick and Shane continue to battle as the season comes to a climax, coming to an understanding between each other and then fighting one another, all the while both being manipulated (whether knowingly or purposely, or not) by Lori. The decision to let Randall live, however, is all Shane can take, and he stages the prisoner’s escape. This being a part of a larger plot to finally get rid of Rick, Shane is finally killed. He comes back as a walker seconds later, despite not having been bitten, and is gunned down by Carl. A massive crowd of zombies then descends on the farm, some of the survivors are killed, others are separated from the group, and the farm is lost. The second season ends as Rick- the death of Shane clearly having affected him in several ways (particularly in realizing that he needs to make the more difficult decisions better when the farm is attacked), declares that the group is not a democracy and reveals that all of the survivors carry the virus- it is not transmitted when they are bitten. Hence, dying normally still causes anyone to turn.

While the second half of the season does get decidedly better, by the time season 2 is said and done, two things become overwhelmingly apparent about “The Walking Dead.” For one, it is painfully slow. Be it the endless search for Sophia in the first half of the season, to the amount of screentime dedicated to extremely tedious nonsense. When the show decides to move, it does well, but it moves along at the pace of a shambling corpse most of the time, exerting a spurt of energy in the face of a fresh meal from time to time, but most of the time being uninterestingly boring and flat-out ignorant.

Second, the writing- particularly when it comes to the flesh-eating plot devices known as zombies- is inconceivably inconsistent all of the time. Do they move in herds, looking for a fresh meal, or do they just hang out at places waiting for a meal to find them? The answer is both, depending on what the plot requires. When Shane and Otis head to the school to find medical supplies, they stumble upon a group of zombies that is just there. No reason why, they’re not doing anything, they’re just shambling in circles waiting for the plot to need them. Other times- particularly in the premiere and the finale- they’re roaming about in search of meals.

The inconsistency doesn’t stop there, though. Are the zombies attracted to noise? The answer is no, unless the plot requires them to be. Shane rips open the barn and the survivors completely unload on the zombies that emerge from within. Does this attract any zombies nearby to come to the farm? Nope. Apparently they’re playing zombie party games somewhere else. They have a shooting range. Characters wander about the woods screaming, shooting, and making all sorts of noise. Vehicles (old vehicles with particularly loud exhausts) are driven around freely, all the time. Are any walkers attracted? No, unless it’s one random one that was already there in the first place. Yet, the characters go into town and get into a shootout, and the walkers are attracted by the noise, simply because the plot requires tension in the group’s need to escape. When Carl shoots zombie Shane, the horde is attracted to the farm and attacks it. Ever since the premiere the show has made note time and again that the walkers are attracted to noise, but then the show consistently violates this rule whenever the walkers aren’t necessary. It renders anything that anyone might learn about the zombies moot, as there is no set rule for when they might show up or what might happen when they do. This inconsistency takes away what little credibility the show has.

Problems from season one continue to plague the show as well. All of the characters are still brilliant sharpshooters, an issue mentioned in my season one review as well. This reaches ridiculous new heights in season two in a couple of ways. For starters, Andrea- who apparently has no skill with a gun- struggles to focus to kill a zombie. She finally downs it- after that, she is plugging off headshots left and right. In the finale, both Andrea and Glenn (Steven Yeun) are being driven around the farm, doing circles, at night, hanging out the windows of moving vehicles and are plucking off headshots with pinpoint accuracy. Worse, Glenn is even using a shotgun, which apparently becomes a sniper rifle under these conditions. Hershel has a shotgun with seemingly infinite ammunition, and he too is a headshot king as he defends his front door. Even Lori, who has no skill with a weapon to speak of, is popping zombies in the head without missing a beat. In the season one review, I even noted that it wouldn’t necessarily be any fun to watch them constantly miss, but seriously, none of them miss a shot. Suspension of disbelief runs high on a series such as this anyway, but this stretches the boundaries from unlikely to utterly impossible.

All in all, season two is a mixed bag, much like season one, and the writers seem to have learned nothing from the mistakes of season one and in fact have built on them and made those mistakes more glaring. The inconsistencies are more obvious, the effects go from great to horrible in the blink of an eye, and characters don’t so much evolve as they are forced to fit into character descriptions in order to serve the plot. If “The Walking Dead” season one was a great idea crippled by horrible execution, season two abandons that idea and breaks new ground in insulting the viewer’s intelligence. Three out of five stars.

By Nicholas Haskins

Check out this video for a taste of what “The Walking Dead” is all about (and in the first part, please, count how many of those shots are headshots). Like my reviews? You can find this and others over at my page. Want to become my fanboy/girl? You can follow me on Twitter or book my face, and you can subscribe to my reviews.

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Topics: Television | 1 Comment »

One Response to “The Walking Dead Season 2… Wishing I’d Been Bitten.”

  1. Jhette

    I don’t consider myself race conscience and can usually care less, but the obvious lack of Hispanic and African-American characters this season 2 was very obvious. T-Dog got less than 5 minutes of dialog the entire season 2 (look it up, it’s factual). I think the suicidal sick girl in bed may have gotten more airtime than T-Dog. And the name T-Dog is what?!

    The treatment of women was very sexist as well. I mean laundry, cooking and sex was their biggest contribution during season 2, along with their inability to monitor their own children. And yes, the meekest and smartest is Glenn the Asian guy. No stereotypes there ;-) .

    Season 1 was far better in both dialog, characters and movement. Season 2 was nothing more than at least 6 episode of complete FILLER and crappy filler at that.

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