“The Walking Dead,” Season 2: Premiering 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, on AMC
Initially undertaken with great trepidation by AMC, which only ordered six episodes of the first season, “The Walking Dead” wound up being a Trojan horse filled with flesh-chomping corpses: “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” might have fervent cults, but “The Walking Dead” became the network’s biggest hit to-date. Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series, “The Walking Dead” expanded on most zombie media by establishing a story that was greater than the gore. Much as George A. Romero’s best “Dead” films were commentaries about societal ills, the shambling, ravenous zombies of “The Walking Dead” are almost incidental. This is about how people deal with disaster — who has the staying power to survive, how conflicts arise among those survivors, and what can they salvage from their past lives to carry on into the new reality?
Having faced near-death during the experience at the CDC in Atlanta and watched a member of their group commit suicide in the explosion, the survivors led by Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) leave Atlanta in the first episode of Season 1, “What Lies Ahead.” And what does lie ahead is a disaster along the highway several miles outside the city, a pile-up that, on one hand, allows the group to replenish their stores but also leaves them prey to what become known as “herds” — throngs of the dead stumbling through the wreckage. The first episode is among the bloodiest since the notorious second episode from Season 1, “Guts,” possibly because the supervising team needs to assert that there will be no shortage of viscera — just think “zombie autopsy” and you’ve got the idea. Meanwhile, the conflict over Deputy Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) and his dalliance with Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) has Shane thinking about splintering off from the group, and this at least one person willing to join him. However, over the course of both “What Lies Ahead” and the second episode, “Bloodletting,” a new set of circumstances appear to be putting off any fractious behavior.
The unfortunate by-product of our current ultra-enhanced information age is that we know too much about the shows we love. When Frank Darabont was fired from the show a mere three days after participating in a panel discussion at this year’s Comic-Con, reportedly after clashing with AMC over budget issues, there was much hand-wringing on the Internet over how much this might affect the series. After all, AMC reportedly asked for more interior shots, and that’s one thing that cannot really be done in a series like this. Zombies don’t hang out around the dinner table much. The forests, the streets and the open fields are their dinner table.
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