My relationship with The Walking Dead in its various forms is not an entirely easy one. When I first started reading the comic (from issue #1) it was pretty much the best thing I’d ever seen. Lately I haven’t read it – it started getting a little tedious as things kept going from bleak to bleaker to even bleaker to mega bleak and then some, and the series just kind of lost a lot of its effectiveness.
I was looking forward to the TV series a lot, and apart from the final episode of season one, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. When season two started, I was…well, if not as thrilled as about season one, still pretty interested. I started watching season two, and it was, in a word, boring. The season didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Around episode five I simply stopped watching. It was a huge disappointment.
My interest in the whole TWD franchise waned, until I ran into the amazing adventure game. All of a sudden I was interested in TWD again. This was further fueled by a friend of mine giving me a TWD book, Rise of the Governor, as a birthday present.
Skip forward a month, to the day before yesterday. I’m on a work trip in Mikkeli, and find myself with a lot of spare time. I visit the nearest (“only”, I’m told) video rental store, and decide to give TWD’s season two a chance. After four paragraphs of rambling, the review begins!
I’m happy I gave the series a second look. As it turns out, after a sloooooow start the season starts picking up pace, and in my opinion ends up being as good as, if not even better, than the first one.
The season has plenty of elements that make it excellent. There’s a large, coherent arc that runs throughout the season. There is some great acting, with Jon Bernthal as Shane standing out especially. Some very heavy themes are dealt with, and there’s a fair amount of unexpected twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. There are character deaths, and these are not dealt with lightly, but are important events. The tone is kept pretty dark and sombre, but there are lighter moments as well. Also, the series doesn’t go down the comic’s route, heaping bad things on bad things and piling some more bad things on, which keeps it much more relatable.
The Walking Dead‘s group dynamics work fairly well. There are interesting schisms, which in turn are often dealt with realistically enough to keep the series believable. Some strange decisions are made, seemingly just to further the plot, but these are in the minority. All in all, TWD manages to put together a group of characters that alternatively both garner sympathy and irritate – much like real people. Even the worst of the bunch have some genuinely likable moments, which is a huge plus in my book. This is helped along by quality actors who do a very good job.
While I’m not much of a gore hound, I must remark on the awesomely disgusting stuff pulled off by the effects crew. This isn’t the kind of stuff you usually see on TV, apart from wildlife documentaries. The zombies in differente states of decay are also wonderfully done, and if you get your hands on the dvd box, I recommend checking out the extras.
Of course, it’s not all perfect. The series does use the whole “Carl disappears and appears inconveniently” over and over again. Note to the writers of The Walking Dead: if your repeating plot device is getting turned into a meme, you’re doing something wrong.
Also, as mentioned before, in the first five or so episodes, nothing much happens. This does pay off handsomely towards the end of the season though, as it allows for much more character development than the six episode season one.
Character development brings me to T-Dog. This character, despite having been with the series since approximately the beginning, hasn’t really received any screen time nor character development. Don’t believe me? io9 noted this too, in their article (with some spoilers) in March. I have absolutely no idea why this is, but it’s a glaring mistake and starts to get pretty funny and noticeable around episode 8 or 9.
Overall verdict: Despite a slow start, The Walking Dead season 2 builds up to some very nice zombie action and drama. While there are some weaker elements – “Where’s Carl?”, T-Dog and the slow start, basically – the whole manages to deliver, often exceeding season one. While I almost lost my faith, it seems TWD is back on track.
You can get The Walking Dead season 2 from any decent dvd retailer. Or a video rental store in Mikkeli, your call.