The second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead has split audiences. But whether you hold the series as a compelling zombie drama or a dragging talk-fest, there's little doubt that the finale delivered a gripping example of how good it can be. In fact, it's the best instalment since the cinematic, Frank Darabont-directed feature-length pilot. As Hershel’s amusingly-isolated farm was finally overrun by hordes of Walkers, there was bags of zombie carnage, plenty of incident and a final shot that will have many of us – especially fans of the graphic novel – wishing that the third season started next week. For anyone wishing to read on, it goes without saying that major spoilers are to follow.
Of course, a key moment was the introduction of hooded warrior Michonne, a fan-favourite from the comics who pitches up wielding a Katanna blade and dragging two armless, jawless zombies shackled behind her (!). Another was Rick revealing what Noah Emmerich’s despairing Dr. Jenner whispered to him in the season one finale: that everyone carries the virus and will become a Walker upon death regardless. Bitten or not. Then there was the teasing final shot where the camera panned up to reveal a large prison complex in the near-distance, which is presumably where our gang will be spending their time next year.
But the episode stood out thanks to a stunning, tension-packed first twenty minutes, which unleashed enough zombie action to satisfy those who have (understandably) complained at the infrequent presence of the living dead this season. With the countless Walkers ambling onto farmville, the barn was burned (providing a nice visual), survivors got chomped, Hershel briefly turned into the Punisher and Lori lost track of Carl for the 47th time this year. As always, the splattering special effects were flawless, especially considering the scale of what was required, to the point that you realise just how much we take the consistently impeccable work of Greg Nicotero and his team for granted. Take a bow, boys: great efforts once again.
OK, so the chomped-up casualties were only peripheral characters whose names most people probably didn't even know (The Walking Dead’s equivalent of Red Shirts), but we can agree that there have been enough 'big' departures recently. First there was the affecting loss of Jeffrey De Munn's Dale, and then the surprising murder of Jon Bernthal's Shane, both of whom were suspected to be the mystery cast member who asked to leave after Frank Darabont left the show (the former is a Darabont regular, while the latter has just been cast in his new pilot for TNT, LA Noir). Regardless, after this one-two punch of crucial group-member exits, it might have been unwise to trim the cast further.
That said, the show's characters still aren't nearly as interesting or sympathetic as they need to be. Certainly, the ensemble spends plenty of time talking (so much so that the supplementary show’s name - The Talking Dead - has become an apt nickname for the series itself), but it's still hard for the audience to care for that many of the gang. Contrast this with fellow survivor-based show Lost (as unfair as the comparison may be), which had about 14 leads and at least six genuinely interesting characters (Locke, Sawyer, Ben, Desmond, Jack, Hurley). Here, there are only a handful who have been developed beyond mere Walker-fodder, while the others are either one-note (Carol, we're looking at you), ignored (poor T-Dog) or less than likeable.
Sarah Wayne Callies' Lori Grimes, in particular, comes across as unlikeable too often, although her hypocritical cold shoulder to Rick when he admitting to killing Shane (after essentially suggesting he do as much a few episodes back) is more down to inconsistent writing than it is the actress. Elsewhere, too, the finale boasted a few niggling inconsistencies, like Carol suddenly planting a seed with Daryl that Rick uses him as a henchman. Where in the name of Geroge A Romero did that come from?
Overall, however, this was a fantastic way to end an uneven season which, in retrospect, really was a game of two halves. While there were terrific moments spread throughout (Shane killing Otis to save himself; the reveal of where Sophia has been), the first batch of episodes spent too long treading water at the farm and lacked regular zombie peril (although both aspects were the consequence of budget cuts). The final run, however, offered a notable improvement and showed just what The Walking Dead is capable of, ensuring that we’ll definitely be back come October for season three. Whether this strong finish was a temporary band-aid or a crucial corner-turning, though, remains to be seen.
So what next? Well, aside from the fact that the aforementioned prison is a popular part of the graphic novel run, there’s the exciting news that British actor David Morrissey (State Of Play) has been cast as villainous Governor (no relation to Arnie), who’ll likely become a major antagonist. There’s also the long overdue change of scenery, provided we don’t hop out of the farm frying pan and into the prison fire, that is. In addition, a return for Daryl’s redneck, missing-a-hand brother Merle has been teased by comic creator and show producer Robert Kirkman, and we all know that more Michael Rooker is a reason to celebrate.
But what did you make of season two finale, Empire fans? How will Rick's dictatorship (Ricktatorship?) go down next time? And will Scott Wilson be allowed to unleash his Hershel-nator again? Let us know your thoughts…
99intheshade Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 12:34
How annoying was this finale?! Lori must die! I was screaming at the TV when she shunned Rick. How did Herschel manage to go that long without reloading? How did they manage that many headshots on moving targets from moving vehicles? Has the virus made them snipers? Carl=C**t! He needs to be eaten!
brent33 Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 12:34
My thoughts exactly regarding the location switch - if they're to hole up in the prison, I'll be kinda disappointed. Haven't read the source material, so don't shoot me down just yet, but the prison sounds like just another Herschel farm, only with fewer hot daughters. The failure of this season in my view is that the group didn't have a destination like the CDC in season one. Milling around on the farm just got boring. Look at Children of Men - a battle to cross a ravaged country to get to the Human Project. Wouldn't that be better, forcing the group to the coast, through rural villages and eff'd up cities, to try and survive? Maybe it's just me, but having that kinda destination would be superb.
And for the tl;dr crowd, my point is this: the farm was boring and stagnant. Give them something to aim for aside from safety and the series will be back to its best.
waltham1979 Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 13:46
I’ve got to disagree with the two points above and a large part of the review. I loved this series; the ‘boring talking bits’ I think are what separates this series from a lot of shitty zombie films out there. It was all great writing and got me utterly engaged. Personally preferred this series to the first I cannot wait for the third. The only thing that did bother me is how relentlessly depressing this series was; in the first series their was the occasional let up, almost a bit of humor in places; but this second was hard going in places (even when the zombie in the well falls apart, which could have been funny if it had been done right, was met with more head slapping depression).
I think the third series we are going to have so see some of shift in the characters though. I always thought Dale was the one remaining human of the group, he was their collective soul and with him gone you are left basically with a bunch of nutters and arseholes…Dale needs to be replaced in some capacity or another (maybe Andrea) or we just are not going to care about these people and that’s when the show will start getting a bit shitty.
Also anyone know if Morgan is going to be appearing again?? I ran into Lennie James at Heathrow over Christmas and whilst he was a bloody nice guy (with a hot girlfriend/wife) he wouldn’t tell me if he was going to be back in…that rascal!!
brent33 Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 14:48
To be honest I don't think it helps having a mid-season break. Getting eight episodes, then a two month (or more) gap between them and the final five made it a touch fragmented and interrupted the flow of the story. I think it took away a lot of the simmering tensions between the groups.
Maybe if I'd watched it in one block, like I did with series one, then I'd have bought into the microcosm a little more than I actually did. I dunno.
Don't get me wrong - I loved it. Even my wife eventually came round to it by the end of series two. And I can't wait for series three. I just thought there was something missing from the second round.
Agreed on the Lennie James point, too; I love returning characters, those who disappear completely off the radar then reappear with their own backstory. Like 'The Others' at the start of Lost series two, before that show plummeted as far south as you can go.
waltham1979 Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 15:03
brent33; you could have a point there - I watched the whole series 2 over the space of a week (love you Sky Plus) so I didn't have to suffer that mid-season break so it didn't feel disjointed at all. Even Lori's character wasn't too insufferable. SPOILER...
...I think its worth noting that she only freaks out about Shane being dead with Rick tells her that it was Carl that shot him; which is fairly understandable to be honest, before that she didn't seem too bothered.
I'm looking forward in the third series to seeing how Rick's character changes; he has been slowly losing the plot since the start of season 2 and its quite clearly gone a bit nuts by the end!! Ps: I love 'Ricktatorship' haha
mclane1 Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 18:01
Brilliant- a fantastic finale for what its worth though the scene in the bar in episode 8, the stand off between them and the strangers was just a brilliant, tense scene of dialogue and expressions ending in some quick draw. Infact i dare say the best scene on TV or in film i have see for years. It really is a first class show, love it!
Whistler Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 18:23
I can understand why some people grew bored of season 2, as it definitely overstayed its welcome at Hershel's farm, but what you say is true: the finale was epic. What I didn't quite get, however, was why the writers suddenly turned Rick into a complete ass. Rick has always been (in both the series and the comics) a guy who takes leadership because others look to him to do so; he accepts it as his responsibility, but never forces it upon himself. That's why I found it odd him saying: "If you're staying in this group, it is no longer a democracy." That's just not Rick, it's not the way he talks to people. And also (as you mentioned) it made no sense that Lori got angry at him for killing Shane because she basically told him to a few episodes before. I don't know if the writers changed radically throughout the season, or if they just have short memories, but they need to stay more consistent in the 3rd season.
Whistler Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 18:35
Oh, I forgot to say how much I hate Carl now. In the comics he's awesome, but in the series he's a trouble-making, whiny, double-crossing, arrogant little f**k. In the third to last episode, I wanted that zombie to get him.
beebs_ Posted on Thursday March 29, 2012, 21:43
Hmmm. I don't know.
I hate too many of the characters. I think Glenn's OK and Daryl... he's got skills and isn't annoying. Everyone else? Gah!
Lori and Carl are the worst! Why doesn't she watch her stupid kid? Why is she acting the damn fool now she knows that Rick (rightly!) killed Shane?
And Carl? The season ended and apart from thinking that whoever saved Andrea is a badass and that the rest of the group are a bunch of arseholes I just couldn't believe that little fuck was still alive! Die Carl, die!
Why do I watch? The zombies. The action set pieces. The occasional crazy deaths. Not for these dumb unlikable lot talking/arguing all the time.
MusicLovesYou Posted on Friday March 30, 2012, 10:22
I've read the comics up to about issue 80 (it was in graphic novel form so I can't be sure of the exact number) and the farm and the prison are absolutely integral to propelling the story along, although in the comics things tend to happen quicker for obvious reasons. I thought the prison would have been found with the group moving in well before the end of season two, but clearly the writers had an idea to set the overall arc at the farm. I definitely think now that this was the right thing to do.
It's a tricky one because I didn't enjoy season one as much as I thought I would because certain things have been quite dramatically changed from the comics. But while this trend has continued into season two, I genuinely thought it was one of the best seasons of a TV show I've seen and I'm fully on board with those changes. Maybe it just took me awhile to adjust to it.
Also, the enthusiasm for the characters just talking is fine with me because the writing is so good (Robert Kirkman's influence I think). I understand why people are maybe getting a little annoyed at the lack of zombies (at least until the final few episodes) but it's important to remember the zombies are almost incidental obstacles as the group fight to save their humanity. This becomes even clearer with the introduction of the General. I don't want to spoil things too much but if the writers get this character right, **SPOILER ALERT!!!** things are going to get a fucksight darker for Rick and the group. Security blankets on standby for season three!!!
gavlaa32 Posted on Friday March 30, 2012, 15:06
Gotta say I absolutely LOVED this series, its just such an amazing show!! I hate that it keeps getting all this sh*t about "too-much talking", how the hell else are we supposed to care for these characters so much over 13 weeks if its just zombie bashing??? For me, when the proverbial hits the fan, we are treated to some brilliant action and gore, so it has even more impact!!! I just cannot recommend this show highly enough!! I will admit though that the mid-season break doesn't do anything for me, just keep it running!! Just cannot keep going on about how much I love this show!!!
readyrr Posted on Friday March 30, 2012, 16:11
Mr. Carty, your assessment of Walking Dead is spot on! And it's interesting that you bring up Lost when it comes to character development--I too think the same. What Walking Dead needs is more character development or background, (i.e. Lost flashback technique). We here in America want our entertainment served hot and fast, and in black-and-white. Unfortunately a lot of my American counterparts have attention spans of gnats, and want answers--without asking questions. The American version of The Killing is another example of how furious American viewers became at the end of Season One without resolution or revelation of Rosie Larsen's murderer. We are truly living in a Golden Age of television, and should allow writers and directors to present "their" vision, as slowly and as talkative as they need to tell their stories. Otherwise television may revert to the silliness of 60's gimmick shows, where cars talk, genies pop out of bottles, Frankenstein monsters live next door, and viewer mentality devolves to mindless zombie-ism again! TV is where creativity is truly blossoming--so those of you who thought Season Two of Walking Dead was too talky, quit bitching, or turn the channel to something else!
craigelderfield Posted on Friday March 30, 2012, 17:15
The season was far too mixed, and I don't think much of the dialogue or 'character progession' was either worth it, or just didn't work. All we got from this series character wise was Hershel, that kid who spend the whole time locked up and having his leg sawed off, and that bird who started going out with....that dude. Anyway - the rest were just cast aside with no lines, and died, and your meant to care!? And what the hell was TDog (come on, give him lines or a proper name, not screw him out of both) doing hanging around with no lines for? Either kill him off or let him act! That must have been rubbish. For all the time spent talking, it was the same people saying the same sh*t. I must admit even the drama between Rick and Shane wasn't that compelling, yes, when they beat the sh*t out of each other, and the finale....but that should have had a bit more spice. Also, HOURS went by without any death or action.
That said, the highlights were amazing, and made the show standout. You can't fault the series/whole show because of that really, but the imbalance is quite infuriating. Too many shows let too little happen for too long a period of time, and assume these gaps in action make you give a sh*t. If you are not Mad Men, and your show is based on zombies, put some zombies in it and talk less b*llocks. Just a thought. Great finale, can't wait for more, but please o please write some better drama to go with the gore.
agent cooper Posted on Friday March 30, 2012, 19:33
I was really worried when Sophia went missietely bng and the length of time that passed by that something utterly ridiculous would resolve her return but credit to the writers to go through with such a ballsy conclusion to that element of the plot, I must admit I did start to suss what they were going to do but when I actually saw it I was impressed. It has had it's dips and maybe a little too much time was spent on the farm but that closing episode was great and the sign off hints of even better things. I'll definitely be tuning for Season 3.
TGellen Posted on Saturday March 31, 2012, 00:17
For me it was brilliant from start to finish. Was it perfect no... like you all said the season gap was a spoiler i mean come on lets keep the tension on the boil. Also where did the "This is not democracy any more" and carols little whispering to Daryl come from they where both so out of character on top of loris ridiculous reaction to Ricks killing of Shane. But there was no problem with the talking I mean really that's how you develop the characters and the story line, and lets face it they where some brilliant moments in the whole series. My only 1 gripe was I think they went a episode to far. As in if the series had finished with the moment of Rick killing Shane and then the zombies walking towards the farm that was the defining moment for me and would of been a killer of a series finale. The actual last episode seemed a bit of a let down after that, the final episode could of been the 1st episode of season 3.
derek 74 Posted on Saturday March 31, 2012, 08:10
The walking dead season two, some of the best t.v. i have seen since Tony Soprano droped a dime into a dukbox, yes it has to be said the second season draged its heels a little but i forgive it for that, as a zobie movie fan (and there are very few good ones out there) i have always been more interested in the human need for a sense of normality even in times of such perel, this I believe was excillently done with Dawn of the dead (original) and with this t.v. show, if there were constant zombie attacks it would become as monotonous as all the debates about morality.he I agree about some inconsistancys in the wirting with regards to Lori,s reaction to Rick stabbing Shane, only a few weeks ago she was pouring poison in his ear about Shane who i loved in season one, also a time line would be nice, I dont know if they were at the farm for three weeks or three months, this is really only a minor quible, nothing is perfect either in the movies or on T.v, so much so that anything that nears perfection is genius and who am i to ask for anything more. roll on season 3.
mambaman Posted on Sunday April 1, 2012, 08:54
I have to agree with those who say they like the talking. I think that it's what makes this stand out from your average zombie kill fest. Look at 'Zombieland' there's a hell of a lot of talking in that too.
Agree with those who hate Lori Grimes character tho. She also annoys the f**k out of me! Not sure I agree with those who hate Carl so much tho-he's only a kid guys. Cut him some slack lol
I, for one, am really really looking forward to Season 3-bring it!
The Bantam Menace Posted on Monday April 2, 2012, 08:54
How many people has Carl been responsible for getting killed? That lad is a snivelling liability and needs to get eaten!!!!!!
y2cave Posted on Wednesday April 4, 2012, 16:06
I freakin' loved this season - it was nigh-on perfect concept drama. I didn't feel there was a lack of action at all - I felt that the episodes lacking walkers actually benefitted the flow of the whole season, lulling you and the characters into the false sense of security that was one of the themes of the season. Many of the characters are meant to be unlikeable as they gradually begin to lose their humanity - this includes Rick, whose big character shift toward the end makes perfect sense - for most of the two seasons he has been the one called upon to make the hard decisions, and in typical contrary human fashion, the only time anyone else pipes up is to tell him he's wrong without offering alternatives. Rick has protected the group and his fellow man thanklessly for so long that him declaring his 'dictatorship' is simply declaring what has been all along, and the fact is, the others all know it- not even Hershel talked him down. I've loved Daryl's transition to survivalist with a heart, and his hero shot, riding the motorcycle through the walkers with Carol on his back, was awesome (plus, I love the crossbow/denim-with-embroidered-wings combo, like a badass Cupid). Glad Hershel found the unlimited ammo cheat too (IDDQD works in real-life, LULZ!!1!!). Carol's arc has been slow and uneven, but I expect her to have more to do as Lori's preganacy advances, having lost her own daughter. Lori herself I can take or leave, but she is a necesary character for Rick's development, and I put her erratic arc down to the confusion of her own feelings (did she really love Shane? Was she with Rick out of duty? Why is she really keeping the baby?). Carl is making a lot of mistakes, but I like that he is younger and more impressionable here than his teen graphic-novel counterpart. Michael Rooker, Michonne, the Governer - can't wait for the third season this autumn.
thehedgehogfromhell Posted on Monday August 6, 2012, 23:29
I've been waiting four-and-a-half months to read this article, after seeing it pop up before series 2 even started on television for people who don't have whatever channel it was originally on. Obviously I could easily have illegally downloaded it, but I still think there's a lot to be said for anticipating the next episode of a TV show at the same time each week.
Interesting to read the comments as well, and a lot of it chimes with my frustrations with The Walking Dead. It's good, but it's wildly inconsistent.
I don't know much about the production woes, but reading some of the above it seems that there were some. That probably explains a lot, and I guess it's to the credit of most people involved that the series didn't fall flat on its arse. The cast - collectively and individually - is excellent, as are the special effects and the directing.
Unfortunately the script, despite flashes of brilliance, falls agonisingly short of being as good as it should be. Whole episodes drag by with little incident, and then one character does something utterly stupid - apparently to move the plot along in a sudden incongruous surge of events. Like Lori deciding to drive off on her own and look for Rick, then crashing the car and pointlessly placing herself in peril. For my money that was even sillier than Jack Bauer's daughter and the cougars.
And yet... overall, it's still pretty damn good, and the end of series 2 set up the next run in mouth-watering fashion. I'll keep watching. I just wish - and fervently hope - that it finally lives up to its promise, and becomes as good as it's always looked like it might be.
In summary, then, The Walking Dead is the TV equivalent of Andy Murray.