It seems like a very long time ago that we last saw this band of survivors, they finally made it to the Center of Disease Control in Atlanta. The depressed scientist, shatter proof glass, big ass clock counting down till lock down. So what did they do? Break the tension with a hand grenade, firey good-bye to the sad sack scientist and that one chick who never said, did, or mattered much and hit the road! Off to salvation at Fort Benning (where Shane said they should head in the first place.) Episode one of season two opens with Rick Grimes talking into his walkie-talkie, another one sided conversation with Morgan from season one. Luckily it acts as a nice recap of the last season for any viewers that are just hopping onto the Walking Dead, I found myself wondering if and when we’ll ever hear Morgan squawk back. That doesn’t last long since the opening credits start and we are well on our way into the first episode of season two.
“What Lies Ahead”
I’m flipping the spoiler switch on, so be warned.
The episodes starts exactly how it should, with exactly what you don’t want ahead of you when you are trying to survive after the zombie apocalypse, the mother of all traffic jams. If you’ve been paying any attention to the internet, you already have seen a good chunk of what happens. On route to Fort Benning, our survivors drive head-on into a total gridlock of abandoned vehicles. Now, as a viewer, we know whats coming. This is a death trap. That’s when the radiator hose on the Winnebago blows and we are literally two teenagers foolishly having sex away from the classic horror movie setup. Do not get me wrong, this scene is anything other than ordinary, the tension and character drama plays the whole way through and you find yourself inching towards the edge of your seat. From Shane starting to teach Andrea how to field strip her gun, to Rick and Lori reminiscing about the better times. You know whats coming, but it still shocks you when you see it.
Faced with an RV in need of repairs and a sea of cars, trucks and whatever else to loot, the gang starts to turn lemons into lemonade. Of course someone, Rick’s wife Lori, has to exclaim “this is a graveyard”. Lady, North America if not the world is a graveyard, get your rig back running and get out of this death trap! I found myself talking to the screen a lot during this scene. Our rag tag band of survivors thinly disperse themselves among the derelict vehicles, just begging to be zombie food. Sure there is food, gas, water and more to be found. So is the gnashy teeth of a zombie. Those gnashy zombies come up quick too. Both Dale and Rick spot them as they slowly lurch towards the maze this grid lock has made, that my friends is a zombie feeding ground.
Let’s break this down. Everyone spreads out thin amidst a stumbling ground of dead vehicles, a herd of walkers comes up on them. We’re talking a big herd, maybe 50 to a hundred or so. They seek salvation and protection under the cars and trucks. Really? How is this protection?I don’t want to get all king nerd here, but were were shown previously that the zombies can track by scent. That’s why they had to do the whole zombie goo thing in the first season. Also, what the crap is with the Eisenstein zombie that can open and enter the RV? The rest seem to have a hard time navigating curbs. That being said, this whole act plays out rather perfectly. It’s gory, its panicky (the RV scene with Andrea and the zombie trying to break in to the washroom… tense, but I made my wife shoot beer out her nose when I said “ocupado” hey, these MST3k colors run deep.) We get the set up to this weeks episode. Sophia, the daughter of Carol and her abusive and now nicely dead husband is chased off into the woods by zombies.
Let me back up for a second. In the Winnebago, the pulse pounding scene with a bathroom locked Andrea and a very aggressive zombie, after she went Tim “the tool man” Taylor on his face with a screwdriver, she caught a zombie blood facial… that can’t be good, right? I am still trying to figure out the pathology of zombiism in The Walking Dead.
Back to little Sophia. So two walkers and Rick in hot pursuit, and Rick gets to her first, good. Now Rick hides her along the creek bed, and tells her “if I don’t make it back, head back to the highway”, left sun, shoulder, yadda yadda ya. The kid waits, what.., two minutes before she bolts? What the hell. The good news is, we get Rick Grimes going all “The Most Dangerous Game” on the two zombies and it’s boulder face time, baby!
For me, this is where the episode really picked up namely by making Daryl, the redneck hick, quickly my favorite character. I seriously hated the dude in season one, but now? He’s quickly becoming top of my list for who I want on my side when this shit goes down. He kills and guts a zombie, he tracks, he is a crossbow master! I am really starting to enjoy him. While we are on the topic of characters I hated last season, Shane is finally shining through as someone that shouldn’t die soon. He’s shedding off the ‘wannabe Rick’ he was in season one, I found myself hating him less. To jump a head a little, the chance of Shane and Andrea forging off on their own is very interesting to me.
So, with Sophia lost, the group decides to fragment more and search for her. A search that leads them to tent with a dead dude in a tent (if you are wondering, the buttons says “No Excuse For Domestic Violence”, my wore out pause button knew you’d want to know) and then to a small southern Baptist Church (of the undead.) I’ll be honest, at this point the show just seemed to be going through the paces for me. Yes we saw some clear character development for Shane and Andrea, not to mention Carol’s confessional that is just a heart breaker. Rick’s confessional, I assume the writers raison d’etre for this scene location, really seems they are trying to fast track a few things the comic took months/years to establish. He’s starting to crack.
The episode closes with a heart felt, beauty in all this chaos moment. Rick, Shane and, Carl come across at a young buck in the woods. As the majestic deer crosses through the foliage, the characters see that there is still good and beauty in the world.
Then an off screen gun shot goes through the deer and Carl.
In the credits, we see whats coming. Rick rushes the wounded Carl to a ranch of uninfected. Our survivors fracture more. Zombies, guns, motorcycles, more guns, more zombies! Helicopters, bloody skulls and drama. Oh yea, and Johnny Cash.
I am very happy you are back, Walking Dead. I look forward to what lies ahead.