The Walking Dead
“What Lies Ahead” written by Ardeth Bey (pseudonym of Frank Darabont) and Robert Kirkman; directed by Ernest Dickerson and Gwyneth Horder-Payton
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The second-season opener begins shortly after the big explosion that ended the first season. The band of refugees are on the road towards Fort Benning and what they hope will be someplace safer than Atlanta, when they are blocked by a snarl of abandoned cars on the highway. While stopped to repair their vehicles and to scavenge for food, water, and anything else of value, a herd of zombies shuffles past. In the chaos, one of the children goes missing and the remainder of the episode is spent searching for her.
This was definitely a transitional episode that promised more than it delivered. I expect that the action and intensity will ramp up as the season progresses. The zombie herd near the beginning was tense, and the ending cliffhanger left me wanting to see more, but in between there was a lot of soap opera. I suspect that the reason the kid got lost will be more complex than just because she’s a bit slow in the head, but I didn’t have much sympathy for her or the others as they searched for her.
The question of why the zombies congregate in herds should be an interesting mystery to solve this year. With 13 episodes (compared with just 6 for last year), there should be plenty of opportunity to explore this world and to introduce some good new characters and situations. The comic book series excels at this sort of storytelling, so I expect the TV series to do the same.
It remains to be seen how the departure of executive producer Frank Darabont will affect the TV series. Reportedly, he had a falling out with AMC executives over budget and schedule issues, and was fired. His replacement, Glen Mazzara, wrote the first season episode “Wildfire.” The creator of the original comic book series, Robert Kirkman, is still onboard, so I hope this bodes well for the future success of the TV series. Rumors are that Stephen King is scheduled to pen an episode later in the season.
The episode was watched by 7.3 million viewers, making it the most watched drama in the history of cable television. With two subsequent encore presentations, the episode was seen by a collective total of 11 million viewers. This probably explains why there were so many commercials and product placements (particularly annoying was the one for Hyundai). AMC is trying to cash in on this popularity; I just hope they don’t alienate their audience by doing so.
The Walking Dead seems to have spawned a whole class of science fiction shows. The idea of a small group of humans fighting monsters in a largely inhospitable world has been copied by Falling Skies (aliens) and Terra Nova (dinosaurs). But The Walking Dead looks to remain the best of them, and I am looking forward to bigger and better things throughout the remainder of the year.