The second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead ended just a few days ago, and I figured I’d go ahead and put down my thoughts on the events we saw.
We start the season with the survivors heading to Fort Benning. They quickly come to a traffic jam, and while taking a break and trying to make their way through, a herd of zombies comes strolling by. Season 1 of the show deviated from the books in small ways, introducing a couple of new characters, of course the CDC (Robert Kirkman says he wasn’t aware the CDC was in Atlanta, or else he would have included it in his original story), and Shane didn’t die like he was supposed to. The zombie herd was a concept that didn’t get introduced in the comics for a long while, but given the nature of it, it makes sense to have it sooner. After the herd mostly passes, Sophia is spotted by one and runs off into the woods. Rick goes after her, tells her to hide while he takes care of the chasing zombies and when he comes back she’s gone. This sets in motion of the worst parts of the season: search for Sophia. For seven episodes the survivors will spin in circles searching the woods for the missing girls, and while there are a few bright moments (and by bright I mean exciting) it is an extremely dull series of events. But before we finish the first episode, we see people scouring the woods and Carl gets shot.
This gets us to Hershel’s farm. Lots of stupid happens here. For one, this farm is surrounded by flimsy wood and wire fences, totally unsafe, but most of our survivors sleep in tents with no protection. Hershel and his family have added no additional security to their house and basically live like nothing has changed, except that when they go to town for supplies now they don’t have to pay. (Interestingly enough, that’s actually a nice touch in that the town’s general store/drug store has a sign up about taking only what you need and it isn’t fully looted, presumably because any people like Hershel on nearby farms have been only taking a few items at a time rather than clearing the shelves.) People stand around and talk a lot. They talk about finding Sophia and yet only a couple of people ever really go out looking, the main one being Daryl.
Daryl was given to us in season 1, a character not from the books, he was essentially just the crossbow hunting brother of the racist guy who got left handcuffed to the roof. In season 2, Daryl is fully fleshed out. He tells a couple of stories of his youth. After an injury he hallucinates about his brother and we get to see some depth in him. His relentless search for Sophia and his kindness to Carol. Daryl quickly became a fan favorite, as well as a person favorite. (He’s so popular that Kirkman will be adding him to the comic.) Throughout the season, Daryl exhibits the kind of clear-headed decision-making and purpose that Rick lacks.
Shane turns into a complete asshole this season, which as a comic reader I expected. But it is just so drawn out and often poorly handled. It’s almost like they had a bunch of different writers with different ideas of how the story should play out, and they tried to do all of them. Every conversation between Shane and Lori becomes a reason to punch the screen. In turn, most of the stuff between Rick and Lori hurts too. The decision to let Shane survive season 1’s story (where he dies in the books) added a wrinkle that could have been good but played out terribly on the show. The love triangle just had no traction, and Lori’s pregnancy with both possible father’s still around made for melodrama that the show didn’t need. Everything about it made Lori unsympathetic and hated by many fans. Hopefully that can be fixed in season 3 before… well… yeah.
Anyway, the gang eventually finds Sophia. She’s been in the barn the whole time. She’s a zombie. Otis (who died a couple of episodes in getting supplies to help Carl) put her there and no one else knew. But the barn got opened and all the other zombies Hershel was keeping there to try to cure are killed. The mid-season break comes as Rick is forced to put Sophia down for good.
The latter half of the season had more action. There was a bar fight, of sorts, and having to deal with a prisoner whom they don’t want to keep and can’t just let go. But like with Sophia, it takes them about 5 episodes to deal with the prisoner, dragging the story out to the point of annoyance. Meanwhile, Carl is back on his feet and constantly getting into trouble. First he goes places he shouldn’t be and then he starts wandering off. He almost gets himself eaten by a zombie, but instead leads it back to the farm where it eats Dale instead. This’ll be an interesting twist because in the comics Dale survives for quite a while and even has a relationship with Andrea. As a reader, I’m happy they are changing things up as it gives me less fore-knowledge of events, at least the specifics.
So we get to the penultimate episode and finally people stop acting silly. They start gathering supplies, boarding up the house, preparing for the coming winter. But Shane finally goes off the deep end and concocts a plan to kill Rick so he can have Lori for himself. It doesn’t work out so well for him, and Rick kills Shane. Then Carl shows up and kills zombie-Shane. This shooting has attracted a passing herd of zombies.
The final episode of the season really delivered. Not just in zombie action, but in character defining moments. Sure, given the slowness of so many of the thirteen episodes of season 2, the onslaught of the zombie herd overrunning the farm was glorious. They broke fences and (slowly) stormed buildings, and they ate a couple of people. But for me the most excellent development was with the character of Andrea. Season 1 ended with her wanting to give up and die after the death of her sister, and throughout this season she has dealt with that, in part due to Dale’s coddling and pushing. She went from wanting to run off with Shane and leave the group, to leaping out of a truck where she was safe to go rescue Carol in this final episode. She gets left behind and resorts to escaping on foot, pursued by zombies. And when we see that all the other characters are safe, we return to Andrea who is several hours into gaining a lead, then turning to fell the lead zombies, which by the lack of zombies following her you can tell she’s been doing and succeeding all night long. Andrea, through the course of the season, went from defeated and weak to protecting others and fighting for her life with every ounce of her being.
As much as I love the comic and have mostly been enjoying the show, if next season with the full cast is going to be more of what we got a lot of this season (slow drama), I’d rather Andrea and Daryl run off together and we get a real zombie survival show. But the final scenes give me hope. Face it, even in the books Hershel’s farm was kind of dull. That’s why they didn’t stay there very long. But the prison on the other hand, that was good stuff, and what do we see not too far from our band of survivors? The prison. Plus we also got a scene with Michonne, and entertainment news has told us they cast “The Governor” which pretty much cements what next season will be. Hopefully they’ll do it well and not drop the ball.