Monday, 2 April 2012

TV: The Walking Dead (S2) (8/10)

The critically acclaimed Walking Dead returns with a second season amid high expectations following on from a great first season which benefited from being only six episodes long and contained some zombie scenes that delivered unbelievable suspense.

Unfortunately the second season only hits these highs on a few occasions, most notably at the beginning and during the second half. The decision to extend the season to thirteen episodes did not help the writers, who struggled to really fill the additional time with any meaningful story lines. Most viewers watch TWD for zombie action, and while I understand it takes periods of calm to build suspense and surprise in between the zombie action, these periods lasted too long this time around.

After a great first episode with an impressive zombie herd scene, the first half of the season is dominated by the missing Sophia and the search to find her. This storyline dragged on for several weeks too long, especially bearing in mind that we were barely introduced to her in the first season. In order to continue the search the group settles at an occupied farm nearby. The group remain here until the final episode and this gives the action a different feel from the first season. Settling down and not moving on through zombie infested roads and towns allows the writers to develop some of the characters, in some instances using the relationships with the farm occupants. It is at this point that the season starts to slow down and becomes too much of a soap opera. Trips away from the farm occasionally come across the odd zombie but the threat seems largely relegated in place of group tensions, cat fights and a love story. The merging of the survivors with the farm occupants leads to a clash of mentalities, those with first hand experience of the current world and those keeping faith in the chance of a cure. This provides the writers the opportunity to inject a spiritual point of view to proceedings that is ultimately disproved. Also, the terror of zombies that the group originally had seems to become less as the season progresses until almost all group members appear to become skilled and too confident in zombie killing. This only serves to lessen the suspense when we are treated to occasional zombie moments.

The season begins to improve dramatically when Shane, gradually spiralling out of control throughout the season, opens Hershel's barn and the Sophia story line is put to bed in brutal fashion. From this point on the action predominantly revolves around Shane and Rick, and the growing tension between them. Shane is the stand-out character of the cast, and driven by his belief that Rick is weak, ruthlessly strives to protect Lori and Carl. Starting by killing Otis, and next opening the barn, he butts heads with Rick throughout the season and the tension reaches boiling point when he decides to kill the prisoner Randall, leading to a fist fight surrounded by zombies that almost costs both men their lives. In the end it is Lori who unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that occupy the last two episodes by revealing to him that he may well be the father of her baby. The events to come are hinted at when Rick comments that Randall (loose in the woods having been freed) is not the only threat out there and they should look out for each other. Referring to the potential zombies, Rick may also have been aware of what was to come.

The barn burns in the backdrop of an impressively choreographed last stand in the season finale, signifying the end of their time at the farm as the group flee to pastures unknown. A third season is confirmed and it looks as though the social dynamics of the group may be shifting. Following on from his actions, Rick's position is in question, even with Lori and Carl and he lays the law down as dictator. The finale certainly posed questions to be answered by season three, what are the implications of being infected, who is the mystery gentleman that saved Andrea and where will the group head now. And will Merle ever catch up with them!

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