The final episode of season two of The Walking Dead set a viewership record for basic cable, so I know many of you are watching it. Hell, if you read my site you’re the key demographic. And I think we all can agree that this season wasn’t as good as the first one. While season one focused on quiet moments of horror between extensive character development and a fast-paced plot, season two involved a lot of hand-wringing angst and, frankly, really stupid and out-of-character actions. Laurie decides to leave camp to look for Rick, leaving her son with strangers? Shane seems to change, to understand the role he must play, only to completely revert by the next episode. And why won’t Rick just shoot the bastard? And what was with Rick’s meltdown in the finale? Oh, and Laurie goading Shane into killing Rick by telling him she forgives him and what they had was real makes her eligible for the “Iago of the Year” award. Her character has become the stereotypical woman, who uses her sexuality to rile up men and keep everyone off balance. She’s annoying, and she needs to go.
There were also a lot of strange, unexplainable issues and errors. Night becomes day and day becomes night with no real sense of elapsed time. Laurie crashes her car when there’s no traffic whatsoever anywhere. Zombies seem to be completely silent until they are right on top of you—even their stench doesn’t give them away.
And even some of the big reveals weren’t all that shocking: The whisper at the CDC from season one, it turns out, was that “we’re all infected,” meaning that when we die we will be zombified. I’m not sure why this is such a big deal to everyone, and I certainly don’t understand why Rick felt the need to keep it a secret.
On the other hand, Sophie coming out of that barn was one of the most shocking, wrenching things on TV this year, and it rewarded us for tolerating the slower pace of the season’s first half. And Dale’s death came out of nowhere, to great effect. (He was getting annoying anyway.) And we’re finally starting to see Rick and Carl act the way they’re supposed to act—getting some sac and manning up. The father/son dynamic is what drives the book, and it’s been wholly absent from the series.
And it’s become a true comic-book-show: Serialized, with high action points and constant threat of danger. In many ways, the final four episodes of season two marked a broad departure from the slow horror of season one towards adventure and hard action—which is really the spirit of the comic. The book is much more about people fighting to stay alive with their loved ones than it is about horror and death. It’s not really a scary book.
And it’s one of the few shows I look forward to every week.
On the whole, I have to give the first half of season two a “good” not a “great” rating, for the reasons above, but it got close to greatness by the end. And if we can look toward season three as something new—something that will build off of the momentum from Shane’s death and not something that will veer back towards the “horror of discovery” from season one—I think our expectations will be appropriate.
And I predict we’ll enjoy ourselves.