S2E1: If you were expecting one of television’s most interesting dramas to experience a sophomore slump, my bet is that on Sunday night, you found you were gravely mistaken. The Walking Dead’s Season Two premiere not only lived up to, but surpassed my expectations. The pace is frantic and unpredictable from the second the episode opens and that energy carries throughout. For a regular series, that statement would probably lend itself to criticism, but the almost disjointed pace of The Walking Dead is part of why it works – it’s the closest thing to reality that can you achieve on a show about flesh-eating zombies. Speaking of reality, the quality of zombies is not diminished this episode – just ask the snarling, seething one that follows Andrea into the RV bathroom.
The episode opens exactly where we left off, with our heroes fleeing the CDC explosion in Atlanta in hopes of finding greener pastures. But seeing as nothing is ever simple for the survivors, it’s only a few minutes into the episode before they run into trouble – and I’m not referring to the fact that the RV breaks down. That’s just the turning point in a series of unfortunate occurrences, starting with an onslaught of walkers on the highway.
“Stay quiet, stay sharp.” –Rick
The next day, most of the group goes after Sophia, with Dale and T Dogg staying behind to fix the RV. Andrea demands her gun back from Dale, who’s refusing to give it to her because he’s afraid she’ll commit suicide. She’s livid; she only left the CDC because she didn’t want Dale to die for her. All she wanted was to end the “nightmare” and he stole her choice by threatening to stay. It’s quite a heavy discussion, but it’s a natural one with the world in the state it’s in.
As the group searches, they find a tent. Sophia isn’t in it, but there is a dead man who appears to have shot himself in the head – great timing considering Andrea’s recent outburst. It’s just then they hear church bells – they assume Sophia will be there and go running. Unfortunately, it’s no Sunday picnic. The necessity of silence is incredibly effective here as they run across the clearing to the church, which is full of walkers and the gothic massacre that ensues is quite the visual. It turns out the bells are a sound effect on a loud speaker set on a timer. They’re all rightfully defeated.
Shane and Lori discuss him leaving, and she’s worried about the effect it will have on Rick and Carl, but Shane kills it by saying, “I’m the one who loses you.” Andrea overhears this and sees an opportunity to have someone to split from the group with her. While they discuss their escape, Carol, Lori and Rick pray in the church. It’s an interesting, powerful concept that these people can somehow still have some level of faith in the face of sheer destruction.
“This means something, finding her.” –Rick
Rick still carries the guilt for not finding Sophia, so they split up so half can go back to the road and Shane, Carl and Rick can search for the girl. First Rick runs back in to the church to ask the Lord for answers – is he doing the right thing? It’s impossible to know the best thing to do out here, and that uncertainty is starting to eat away at him.
Lori, obviously upset by Shane’s decision to leave, harps on her group and tells Carol to stop blaming Rick. Rick may not know if he did the right thing, but she’s sure he did. As that group treks back, Rick, Carl and Shane keep looking for Sophia and happen upon a deer. In what seems like a happy, stolen moment, Carl moves toward the deer gleefully but at an almost excruciatingly slow pace. When he’s about to get close enough to touch it, the unthinkable happens: a bullet goes through the deer and straight into Carl. And like the badass it is, the show leaves us right there with nothing but mountains of worry on our shoulders.
The series is off to an incredible start for its second season. All of the characters have grown – especially Daryl who never would have helped T Dogg before the bonding CDC ordeal. The episode placed both children in harm’s way, while most series tend to have an unspoken bond that the children will generally have brushes with death but never really succumb to its grip. Either one of the show’s youngest characters could be done for, and that’s one of the most terrifying and compelling aspects of The Walking Dead. When they say no one is safe, they mean it.