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'Walking Dead' Or Alive? Season 2 Returns Strongly, Even with Backstage Changes
October 15, 2011  | By David Bianculli
 

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Long after the surprise success of AMC's zombie apocalypse series, The Walking Dead, last year, but well before Sunday's 10 p.m. ET launch of Season 2, executive producer Frank Darabont and AMC parted ways, for reasons still unexplained.

The question is: Does the new season of Walking Dead still pack the dramatic intensity and ability to shock it did last year, when it racked up an audience more than that of the network's Mad Men and Breaking Bad?

And the answer is: Yes.

Robert Kirkman, who wrote the (very) graphic novels on which the TV series is based, has stayed aboard, and Glen Mazzara, who wrote one episode last season, is the new showrunner. That appointment is kind of a question mark -- Mazzara's last showrunning job was on TNT's Hawthorne, which wasn't impressive, but he also was a staff writer on FX's The Shield, which was. So we'll see -- and the best way to see is to watch the shows.

Well, I've previewed the first two, and all I can say is, Wow.

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Actually, I can say more, but not much more. Along with the preview DVDs, AMC sent out a letter, politely asking writers to refrain from revealing certain Walking Dead plot details in advance. Among those details is my all-time favorite request from any network, ever, regarding potential spoilers.

"We ask that you not specifically discuss," the AMC letter asked, and listed four things. Number one on the list: "...Any living character deaths."

But dead character deaths, I guess, are fair game. So let me tell you, because I'm allowed, that a lot of dead characters die in the first two hours of this season's Walking Dead. Some are chopped, some are crossbow-ed, and some are -- well, even more inventively dispatched. And they look even creepier than they did last year, which I wouldn't have thought possible.

Season 2 begins just where Season 1 ended, with the survivors realizing the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta was not the home of salvation and a possible cure to the zombie plague, but another dead end. One of the first shots has the caravan of survivors heading out of town, driving outbound on inbound lanes, with no fear of encountering any oncoming traffic.

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At this point, I'd like to digress, to complain about this particular plot point, and image. We've all seen the same thing before, in Independence Day and other imminent-disaster movies. Whenever there's a panic situation, and an entire populace seeks to evacuate a major city, the outbound highways lanes always are shown crammed to a standstill, while the multiple-lane highway heading into that city is deserted and empty.

What I want to know is, why doesn't anyone from the backed-up outbound highway cross the median and drive freely, and quickly, on the opposite lanes? Are they afraid that, hours from an apocalypse, they'll be stopped and issued a moving violation from some motorcycle traffic cop? To get away from Zombieville, I'm pretty sure I'd risk adding a few points to my insurance rates. I'm just saying.

But after that dubious start, The Walking Dead really gets up to speed quickly -- even when its caravan halts its progress, in broad daylight, for an unscheduled pit stop. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the small-town sheriff who came out of a coma in Season 1, is still in charge of his motley crew, and still ultra-protective of his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs).

Meanwhile, the other survivors have their own problems, including deputy Shane (Joe Bernthal), who had become intimate with Lori while Rick was comatose, and Andrea (Laurie Holden), whose reaction to events since the zombie uprising was, and remains, suicidal.

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There's a quiet but important scene, in episode one, that finds Rick alone in a church, speaking aloud his fears, and prayers, in the hesitant tones of an unbeliever who wants very much to believe, and to be saved -- and in this case, "saved" has more than one meaning. He asks for a sign, and gets one.

Viewers, on the other hand, may be looking for a sign, too -- a sign that The Walking Dead is still in good hands, and still capable of delivering the jolts that made it such a must-watch experience last year in its six-episode Season 1 thrill ride. (All six of those episodes, by the way, are repeated Sunday afternoon, prior to the show's second-season launch.)

The first hour delivers that sign, and, in both of the first two episodes, serves up cliffhangers that make you want to see the next installment immediately. The dead in this series may be walking -- but the writers and producers of The Walking Dead, for Season 2, have hit the ground running.

 

1 Comments

 

Eileen said:

I'm off mark here -- but -- thanks for the mention of "I Love Lucy" in today's Best Bets.

I'd think CBS would be honored to honor -- Lucy, that is. She really put that station on the map. Here are some of her stats:

1. For 4 of the 6 seasons I Love Lucy aired on CBS, it was the most watched show on television.

2. Won 5 Emmys.

3. Ranked 2nd in TV Guide's list of Greatest Television Shows (behind Seinfeld & ahead of The Honeymooners).

4. Was the first show to end its run while still at the top of the Nielsen Ratings; Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld were the only two others to go out on top.

It never hurts to embrace our past. Lucy & Desi were just amazing; she of the physical humor and he of the business acumen. There will never be another couple like this in show business. From "I Love Lucy" they built an empire and produced a score of excellent shows in the early 60s. It breaks my heart that so little recognition is given to this amazing duo by the industry. "I Love Lucy" is just a timeless, wonderful show.

I happened to (fortunately) come across the "American Masters" Lucille Ball segment the other evening. Although I've seen every Lucy episode numerous times, I laughed out loud at many of the clips. She was just the best at what she did; a great performer and a true lady.

So, thank you, David, for remembering. You show your class and excellent taste continually on this site. Lucy would be proud to call you friend.

Comment posted on October 15, 2011 3:55 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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