Created by Frank Darabont
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus
Season one of The Walking Dead was a groundbreaking television nighttime drama that scored huge with fans. Ratings were consistent and they made the series one of the most popular on basic cable. What did AMC do in response? Cut the budget and fire the showrunner! Frank Darabont made each episode of the series look like a feature film and he worked with writers to properly balance the drama of the characters with the menace of the zombies. Season 2 began crippled featuring some of his work that had already been done before his exodus and a new showrunner to find footing.
With the rebooted crew in mind the stuttered and loose feeling of the beginning of season 2 makes a lot of sense. It feels like season 2 starts off stalled with some storylines being dragged out while the new team figures out exactly what they want to do. Darabont had a definitive vision for the series in look and story and I think the new team just needed to find a way to make it their own. The season starts with Carl being shot and it feels like we hover over his bed with very little happening for way too long. At the same time the search for Sophia is also being dragged out. There’s tons of melodrama as her mother constantly freaks and everyone tries to comfort her. One character, Daryl, actually emerges from that story with some interesting character layers. Oddly, of all the characters he is the one we like the most throughout the season.
That leads to the biggest problem with this season of the show. The lowered budget yanks back the level of suspense and horror by cutting zombie scenes and leaves us to focus on the characters. What we discover is there an unlikable bunch, even Rick, who we are obviously supposed to be pulling for. The way Shane’s character is handled this season it feels like we are being pounded over the head with “this is a really bad man! You don’t like him!”. It’s all a set up for his also long dragged out character evolution. That pivotal moment in the comics is pure magic in execution. In the television series the wind is taken from the sails of it unfortunately. On another note, does anyone care about Carl, on the show I mean? Once he recovers from his gunshot he just sort of roams free on the farm and often finds trouble.
So yes this season is substandard to the first but there are many bright spots. Daryl is a character that gets very interesting in this season and hopefully he will continue to grow in the series, until he finally dies. Since he’s not in the comic it’s hard to predict if or when he will get chomped on but one thing this series does well is it demonstrates that truly no one is safe. The ending of Sophia’s story is truly jaw dropping, a highpoint for both seasons. The show spends way too much time on the farm but the eventual end of that story arc in the last few episodes is handled in an epic and exciting way.
Season 2 of The Walking Dead had some serious problems but it also had some good bones for further growth. The second half of the season picks up nicely and the finale offers some great opportunities. I will say this though; writers do something with T-Dog or kill him off! I don’t care which choice you make, just make it already!
This series is shot on 16 mm film which definitely makes it appear grainy and dirty. The look plays heavily with the complete atmospheric package. I’d trade the film for a digital shoot to get more zombie action though. Check out 28 Days Later. That film looks plenty gritty and it was shot digitally. So as you might expect clarity is often an issue and edges can come off a bit soft. Detail level fluctuate greatly depending on how zoomed in the image is. Close-ups feature good detail while wider shots find fine details disappearing in the grain. This “look” is what the filmmakers intended though and it’s translated onto Blu-ray perfectly and it looks substantially better than when originally aired on cable.
This season gets a 7.1 TrueHD mix that for the most part is stellar. In scenes where zombies are on the slow and steady rampage the mix is incredibly immersive. It sounds like they are shuffling and moaning from every corner of the soundstage. Environmental sounds and other ambient noise completely fills the space. Action scenes also offer up the goods with whizzing bullets, brutal and gross melees and all of the other action filling the space in exact the right area at the right time.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The four Blu-rays are packaged in a fat Blu-ray amaray case with an ad riddled insert. The artwork for this release is suitable but not particularly memorable. It’ll stand out on a store shelf as The Walking Dead so marketing goal achieved!
There are five audio commentaries featuring a mixed bag of film crew and a few of the actors. The new showrunner Glen Mazzara and comic book and one of the show writers Jonathan Hickman are the most common in the various mixes. Mazzara moderates the commentaries to the point that they feel more like Q&A’s than actual audio commentaries. This is good because we actually get some interesting information but bad because they don’t feel as relaxed and conversational as commentaries usually do. Q&A’s could have been kept to the featurettes.
All of the featurettes are on the fourth disc. Each of the featurettes focuses on one small part of the overall creative process. Some of the featurettes cover specific scenes and characters while others take a more sweeping approach to covering the season by examining who dies and why and the differences between the comic and the television show. Overall all there’s great information and behind the scenes footage to be taken from these short featurettes even if some parts are repeated here and there and one of them in particular feels like a marketing piece rather than a true supplemental featurette. It would have been nice to see a real documentary about the season produced. I know from a marketing perspective it looks better to put a list of featurettes on the back of the box rather than one lengthy documentary but a feature documentary could have easily been broken into chapters and those listed as individual featurettes on the box.
There are also some deleted scenes and the webisodes that were produced for the website to bridge the two seasons. The webisodes don’t feature the cast from the show but they do exist in the universe and it’s cool to see other areas of the zombie apocalypse realized outside of the show.
The Walking Dead Season 2 strolls along like a zombie searching for a little dinner. It’s an often slow and painful process but once he gets to take a bite it’s truly tasty. Season 3 is perfectly set up at the end of this set so let’s hope the new crew is set to get back to a faster paced better developed story.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Season 6.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10