It’s been a few weeks since episode one of season two of The Walking Dead aired but I'm stuck for a “season” to write about for the foreseeable future so this will at keep me occupied for thirteen weeks. I have never reviewed a tv show before so please bear with me until I find my groove.
Anticipation was high for the new season of The Walking Dead and the Comic Con trailer only served to cement the fact that all excitement was justified – then it all seemed to go wrong with budget cuts and Darabont’s sacking.
Frank Darabont’s departure came completely out of the blue to the average internet browser but it is obvious a lot more went on behind the scenes than we have all be made aware of. Time will tell if an “unknown source” feels the need to share the secret of the sacking in juicier detail than we have been given. The only effect Darabont’s departure had on me was that it gave me another reason to surf the internet during working hours. It is fair to say that Daryl looked for Merle longer than I grieved for Frank.
PLOT: The episode opens straight after season one finishes and/or right after the last scene Frank Darabont worked on. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group find themselves stranded on a highway and/or graveyard after the troublesome RV breaks down again. Andrea (Laurie Holden) wants a gun. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), despite being the roof of the RV and aided by powerful binoculars, fails to see a herd of Walkers shambling towards the group at an alarmingly slow rate of knots. Andrea wants a gun. T-Dog (IronE Singleton) injures himself and Daryl (Norman Reedus) saves him. Andrea wants a gun. Sophia (Madison Lintz) fails to keep the sun on her left shoulder and gets lost in the woods. Andrea wants Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) gun. Andrea doesn’t want Lori’s gun. Rick discourages Shane (Jon Bernthal) from shooting a deer and encourages Carl (Chandler Riggs) to make friends with it. Carl gets shot (not by the deer). END PLOT
Quite frankly the writing and pacing of the What Lies Ahead is choppy at best. You only need watch the trailer to see that quite a number of scenes, which more than likely involved the Vatos, had been cut. This is a shame as one would have assumed that the retirement home would be the logical safe base for the Rick et al to regroup after the CDC explosion. The entire episode felt like filler before the shooting of Carl and the expected introduction of Hershel’s farm in the following episode. The flow wasn't there and although the episode was very watchable it felt as though the makers were just winging it and hoping that they would make it to the end of the extended running time with enough material.
The Walker action is limited to a non attacking herd, two Walkers in the wood and a couple of Walkers casually sitting in church. The Walking Dead has always got the Walker balance correct and I am a firm believer in less is more. If the characters successfully evade hordes in every single episode then the show will lose the tension and the ever present sense of danger will be come redundant.
The key element of The Walking Dead has always been mankind's desperation to survive and the extremes they will go to in order to ensure their survival. The dark side of human nature is more terrifying than any Walker and the show needs to keep true to this concept.
The most interesting aspect of What Lies Ahead is that we got a decent look at the characters themselves.
Between the CDC explosion and the highway breakdown Daryl has become more muscular, tanned and badass. Right from the squirrel tossing introduction of the non-comic book character he has become the fan favourite and he deserves this accolade as the show would be very quiet without him. The introduction of Daryl has lessened Glenn's screen time but at this moment in time the hunter trumps the scavenger.
I know that some people are unhappy that Glenn has taken a back seat in the opening episode but I think it is a good idea as Glenn is very young and is considered a kid of the group. His character will grow up and toughen up as the show progresses – his time will come and we will get to witness it.
I always sympathised with Lori in the comic as even when she was heavily pregnant Rick would leave her and Carl to go off and save someone else. I understood her desire to put her own families safely first. We know that she legitimately believed her husband to be dead before she stopped, dropped and rolled in the foliage with another man. The fact that she was cold banging her recently deceased husband's best friend Shane in the woods before he was cold his grave matters not as at that time she was a widow.
The problem with Lori is that she should be the victim in the Lori vs Shane battle but in this episode her various conflicting demands have suddenly caused all sympathy to lie with Rapey Shane. I am not sure which demand annoyed me more – the "how dare you try to rape me/why are you ignoring me" complaint or the even less amusing "stay the hell away from my son/why the hell are you ignoring my son" encore.
The mixture of Lori’s irrational bitching, unconditioned hair and huge bug eyes pissed me off.
Speaking of pissed off, it transpires that Andrea is displeased at being alive and she does not shy away from informing us at every available opportunity. I may also have picked up on a few hints that she was unhappy about not having a firearm at her disposal. I think that Laurie Holden is doing a great job with Andrea although the sooner we get to see a bit more of comic book Andrea the better. I realise that only a few days have passed since Amy's death but this is one character development arc that really needs to motor on at a more reliable speed than the RV.
Despite my new found dislike of several of the characters none of the cast members can be faulted for their performances in this episode. Melissa McBride got more screen time in What Lies Ahead than the entire first season but without any shadow of a doubt she deserves performance of the week for her portrayal of Carol. I hope we see more of Carol in season two and she gets her status upgraded to regular.
What Lies Ahead gets a 7/10. It was by no means a let down and it was definitely a stronger episode than TS-19 of which I am not a fan. The episode suffered greatly from all the Darabont upheaval but as that saga is now over and done with the show should settle down. The potential is there for this season to be absolutely epic and if J.C is taking requests hopefully he will make it happen.
Performance of the week: Melissa McBride
Annoying character of the week: Andrea
Zombie kill of the week: Rick and rock vs zombie
Daryl line of the week: “that bastard had himself a woodchuck for lunch”
(I like the word woodchuck!)
Daryl picture of the week: