There is a sorrowful Breaking Bad-shaped hole in my Sunday nights now, but I am taking solace in the fact that at least there are zombies. I've been ready to get back into The Walking Dead, and forgive the show for the various trespasses it committed at the end of last season. (You know, like the initial embracement of the total disregard for the comic book's source material, the loss of strong character-driven storytelling, and of course that whole superlame CDC side plot.)
While I was disappointed in how The Walking Dead ended last year, I've been hopeful for season 2. With a new showrunner manning the creative helm and more than twice as many episodes as last year, I figured there was a good chance this would be the season that lives up to its dark and gruesome promise.
So, did the season premiere deliver? Let us discuss ... after the requisite warning, of course. *clears throat, shrieks into megaphone* ATTENTION! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD!
When we last saw Rick Grimes and the gang, they had just blown up the Atlanta CDC, having learned there's no impending cure or government assistance to hope for. Oh yeah, and Dr. Jenner had just whispered a Shocking and Mysterious Secret in Rick's ear. Tonight's episode started out with Rick on a rooftop having a heart-to-heart with an invisible maybe-dead maybe-not Morgan via walkie-talkie, and he mentioned the fact that Jenner told him the Shocking Secret ... but juuuuuust before we learned what it was, Rick said, "Ah, it doesn't matter."
I didn't think it was a strong start to the show. In addition to the ham-handed Secret Fakeout, Rick's whole speech felt wooden and flat and more than a little corny. Bad writing? Bad acting? A little of both, in my opinion.
As for how things went from there, there were definitely some good moments. The initial scene of their cars navigating the jammed-up highway was phenomenally creepy, and that ever-present swelling hum of cicadas lent an impressively desolate vibe to the atmosphere. The shots of everyone hiding under the vehicles as the herd of undead shuffled by were teeth-grindingly tense, as was the scene with Andrea battling the (mystifyingly alert) zombie in the RV.
The story of Sophia going missing started out well, but the more it dragged on, the less compelling it became. Having everyone rambling around in the woods was less interesting to me than that spooky highway, and once they arrived at the church, I was almost ready for poor Sophia to pop out of a pew as a zombie, just to move things forward.
Oh, and if I could make one request going forward, it's this: stop having Rick do monologues. He really sort of sucks at them, whether he's talking into a radio or a big old statue of Jesus.
I think they're doing good things with some of the characters—like Dale, who is awesome, and Daryl, who has suddenly become a likable guy. (Although his zombie-belly-hacking technique is awfully robust, wouldn't you say? I mean, I can't say I've ever cut open a man's midsection, but wouldn't you just, like, slice into it? Like a loaf of French bread?) Some of the other characters feel uninspired. Almost cartoonish at times, which is ironic, being as how this came from a comic that breathed life into every character that crossed its pages.
It's very hard not to compare the comic to the TV show, and not to obsess over where the TV storyline has strayed from the original. No one wants to hear the whinging of the comic nerd, but allow me this: I greatly preferred the moment when Carl was shot in the comic. It was shocking and seemingly out of the blue, like in tonight's show, but ... well, without the slightly malformed-looking CGI deer that I guess was supposed to represent life and peace and an overall sense of yay, everything's going to be okay! as Carl slowly approached it and everyone stood around smiling goofily. Then BLAM.
Aaaaaand fade to black. Not a terrible ending, just kind of a really weird scene up until the moment when Carl got tagged.
Overall, I'm giving the premiere a C+. It sure looks great, and man, I want it to be awesome SO BAD, but it's just not there yet for me. I want to be more emotionally invested in the people, but so far the only person I'd be truly sad to see go is Dale.
Still, I'm interested to see what's going to happen next, especially as our gang finally gets to Hershel's farm.
Lingering questions to ponder for next time: who shot Carl? What was Jenner's whispered secret? What repulsive thing could they have found in that zombie's belly to definitively prove it ate Sophia, anyway? Why are the zombies sometimes slow and sometimes fast? Was Carl going to shoot that deer or pet the damn thing? And hey, is Carl dead now? Is Sophia?
What are your thoughts about tonight's premiere? Did you love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between?
Image via AMC