The Walking Dead Season 2
Democracy of the Dead
Review by Paul Bowler
The aftermath of the Zombie Massacre at Hershel’s barn is fraught with anger and horror as Rick’s gun still smoulders over little Sophia’s body. Carol runs away, distraught by the horrifying discovery that her missing daughter had become a Walker and was hidden by Hershel inside the barn all the time they were looking for her. As Beth walks amongst the bodies of the Walkers, her mothers corpse suddenly springs to life and attacks her, shocking everyone into action, but it is Andrea who quickly dispatches the threat by driving a pickaxe into the Zombie’s head! Shane explodes into a furious rage, unleashing a vicious verbal diatribe at Hershel and Rick. Hershel claims not to have known that Sophia was a Zombie, and that Otis was responsible for the Walkers in the barn, he rounds on them all and demands that they leave his home as soon as possible.
Rick and Shane clash again, and this time it is a confrontation that pushes their friendship to the limit, and the home truths that are said are words that can never be taken back or forgiven lightly. Glen and Maggie are also forced to confront what these events will mean for their relationship if Glen has to leave the farm, while Dale and Shane are once more at loggerheads with neither able to hide their contempt for the other any longer.
The clean up begins, graves are dug for the Walkers they knew, but Carol (Melissa McBride) is too devastated to attend the small service. It is only afterwards that they discover Hershel (Scott Wilson) is missing. Glen (Steven Yeun) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) set off to find Hershel in the town as Andrea (Laurie Holden) and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) put the bodies of the other Walkers into a truck to burn later. On their way into town Glen confides in Rick that he is worried about what will happen to him and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and that he knew about Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) baby all long. Back at the farm Shane (Jon Bernthal) consoles Carol as best he can; unaware that Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) is warning Lori about him by telling her he suspects Shane secretly killed Otis so he could escape the Walkers. Lori tries to get Daryl (Norman Reedus) to help Rick and Glen find Hershel in the town, but when he refuses she stubbornly jumps in a car and heads off to find them herself.
Rick and Glen find Hershel drowning his sorrows in a bar, but before they can get him back to the farm two strangers barge in and stop them. The two men, Dave and Tony, have travelled all the way from Philadelphia. There is something about the two of them that unsettles Rick, and as the conversation continues their probing questions raises alarm bells. The pair seem very interested in Rick’s group, they talk of Nebraska, and tell stories of places they have seen over run with Walkers. The conversation becomes more aggressive, and when the men make a move against them, Rick pulls his gun and kills Dave and Tony. Meanwhile as Lori drives towards town to find Rick, she notices a Walker in the road, but she it not quick enough to avoid it. The car hit’s the Zombie and she looses control of the vehicle, it flips over and crashes, leaving her wounded and alone while back at the farm Shane and T-Dog light the funeral pyre and watch as the Walkers begin to bun…
The Walking Dead makes a triumphant return after its impromptu mid-season break with this startling episode. Indeed, any doubts fans may have held about Glen Mazzara usurping Frank Darabont as the new show runner for The Walking Dead quickly prove unfounded. Nebraska is a nail biting slice of testosterone fuelled action, as Rick and Shane square up to one another throughout the episode. Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal’s performances are so powerful that they almost overshadow the multiple plot threads that weave their way throughout this episode, and the schism it causes in the group is already begging to become more apparent as many of the characters begin to sense that big changes are on the horizon for all of them.
Shane also becomes increasingly unhinged during the course of Nebraska. With Otis’s death still hanging heavily over him and his conflicting feelings for both Lori and Andrea, Shane’s grip on his sanity is beginning to look even more tenuous than ever. We do however see the dependable Shane of old return, if only for a short while, when he consoles Carol after the funeral service for Sophia. Seeing Carol dazed and confused, he helps her back to the house, displaying a gentle tenderness that we have rarely seen him show to anyone.
One character who you will also feel differently about by the end of Nebraska is Hershel. I had always considered the old man a fool for believing the Walkers might one day be cured, and his resolute determination to protect them sometimes made him seem almost as deluded as Shane. However, by the time Rick and Glen find him in the bar Hershel is a broken man. He firmly believed that his wife and friends would one day recover from their “illness”, even keeping his wife’s possessions in a box as a keepsake for her return. His actions may have endangered everyone but even he has to acknowledge now that the Walkers are beyond hope. Hershel is presented in a much better light here than he ever was during the first half of the season, and he realizes that if they are to survive they must work together – whatever the cost – because there are so many people now depending on him.
Rick’s determination to make things work with Hershel is also another defining moment for the series. It flies in the face of Shane’s aggressive tactics, but Rick is now a man who is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of his family and unborn child. This season has continued to attract huge ratings, and it seems that fans patience has really been rewarded, as the show looks set to go from strength to strength. Dark days are coming as Shane and T-Dog watch the Walkers burn, the Zombie Apocalypse seems to be closing in on Rick and the group like never before as Dave and Tony’s friends arrive outside the bar. Trigger Finger opens with Lori fighting for her life; struggling to escape from the wreckage of the car as a lone Walker tries to crawl in through the shattered windscreen to get at her – the spider-webbed glass slicing off half its face in the process. It’s perhaps the grimmest pre titles sequence yet, and really is the stuff of nightmares.
As Lori later makes her escape after being found by Shane, Rick, Glen, and Hershel have to fight their way out of the bar. Hershel proves as adept with a gun as he is a scalpel, helping Glen out of trouble when he is frozen with fear. As the Walkers begin to close in the people attacking them withdraw in a truck, leaving one of their own behind when he impales his leg on a fence. Rick and Hershel pull Randall (Michael Zegen) free and they escape with Glen back to the farm. Tensions run high between Shane and Hershel as the pair strongly disagree over Rick’s decision to bring the young man back to the farm. Glen struggles to come to terms with how he reacted back at the bar, he feels like he’s let everybody down, and pushes Maggie away when she tries to comfort him. Hershel dose what he can for his youngest daughter, Beth (Emily Kinney) but she has slipped into a catatonic state, and doesn’t seem to be responding to treatment. After Shane reveals to everyone that she is pregnant, Lori begins to realize just how dangerous and jealous he has become. She finally decides to confide in Rick about Shane and what she believes really happened to Otis. The dye is cast, and Rick now knows a confrontation with his oldest friend is inevitable.
18 Miles Out is the episode of The Walking Dead that we’ve all been waiting for. It picks up events almost a week later, when Randall has recovered enough to leave the farm. Rick and Shane transport the blindfolded young man in the trunk of their car to find a place where they can release him without revealing the location of the farm. They arrive at a cross roads in the middle of nowhere, but instead of releasing their captive, Rick takes this opportunity to finally confront Shane about what really happened to Otis. This pivotal moment signifies a metaphorical crossroads in Shane and Rick’s relationship as the two men vent their feelings, with Rick essentially coming off better in the verbal war of words, when he crushes Shane’s respect for their friendship and derides the unwanted attention he has given his wife – in every sense of the word!
Rick decides that he wants to leave Randall in a safer place, and things are complicated further when the boy confesses that he recognised Maggie‘s voice. He says that they went to school together, but he promises he won’t reveal the location of the farm to his group after the way they abandoned him back in the town. Shane doesn’t trust Randal and wants to kill him. Rick finally sees just how ruthless and unhinged Shane has become, and the pair begin to fight, but before Rick can subdue Shane their argument rouses a group of Walkers inside a nearby building. The Zombies clamber from the ruins and advance en mass towards them. In the ensuing chaos, Shane becomes trapped by the Walkers, but Rick and Randall manage to get back to car and go back for Shane – in spite of their differences – driving through the Zombie horde guns blazing to rescue Shane from certain death.
Back at the farm Beth wakes from her catatonic state and says that she no longer wants to live and wants to commit suicide. Lori and Maggie watch her around the clock to make sure that she doesn’t harm herself, but Andrea believes Beth should have the right to choose her own fate – which sets up a terrific confrontation between Lori and Andrea. Later Beth makes an abortive suicide attempt after talking to Andrea. A furious Maggie believes Andrea encouraged Beth to try and kill herself, and bars her from the house, but Andrea is convinced Beth had to make her own choice – and finding herself unable to go through with it Beth ultimately chose to live.
Still unsure where Randall’s loyalties lie, Judge, Jury, and Executioner sees him imprisoned in the barn where Daryl eventually beats a shocking confession out of him about the other group. Armed with the knowledge that Randall’s friends torture and rape their captives, Rick has to decide whether to trust Randall or kill him to keep the farm a secret. Shane and Andrea become increasingly isolated from the rest of the group when they clash bitterly with Rick over what to do with Randall, while Carl (Chandler Riggs) becomes increasingly withdrawn and disobedient – stealing a gun from Daryl’s motorcycle and heading off into the woods where he stumbles upon and a Zombie trapped in a boggy creek. The disturbed youngster -still struggling to cope with Sophia’s death – throws rocks at the creature, enjoying the power he has over it, but as he attempts to shoot it the Walker makes a grab for him. Carl stumbles and flees back to the farm where he inadvertently prevents his father from killing Randall by goading him to kill their prisoner. It’s a jarring scene that stops Rick in his tracks as he contemplates the example setting to his son.
Judge, Jury, and Executioner not only sees Norman Reedus finally get a fair share of the spotlight as Daryl, having been overshadowed somewhat by Rick and Shane over the last few episodes, but it is Jeffery DeMunn’s who steals the episode away from everybody with his sympathetic performance as Dale who dose everything in his power to save Randall from execution. He is the voice of reason as the group begins to slowly unravel, which makes his shocking demise at the hands of the Zombie which Carl had been taunting earlier all the more tragic. The Walker rips Dale apart, and it falls to Daryl to put him out of his misery before he turns into a Zombie. It’s a bold move by the makers of The Walking Dead to kill off such a prominent character, and proves that the show is not afraid to veer away from the comic books to forge its own identity.
The repercussions of Dale’s death reverberate through Better Angels like a Walker’s rotten stench as the group struggles to come to terms with their loss. Rick’s eulogy dose little to alleviate their grief, Dale was their moral compass, and without him the cracks in the group have become gaping wounds that refuse to heal. Wracked by guilt, Carl confides in Shane about the Walker that killed Dale and gives him the gun he stole. It falls to Shane to tell Rick about the Zombie, but instead of heeding Shane’s warnings, Rick has a heart to heart with his son and decides to allow him to keep the firearm.
When Lori confesses to Shane that her baby might be his, Shane decides to take matter into his own hands. He releases Randall, pretending to help him escape, eventually tricking him into revealing the location of his group as they walk though the woods. More unhinged than ever, Shane lashes out and kills Randal; snapping his neck. Shane then smashes his own face into a tree to try and make it look like Randall caught him by surprise. Having convinced the others that Randall attacked him, Rick, Glen, and Daryl follow Shane back into the woods to search for him. As night falls Randall becomes a Walker and attacks Daryl and Glen as they patrol the woods. They notice that Randall wasn’t bitten, indicating that the process of becoming a Zombie is not only caused by being attacked by the undead – and that death under any circumstances will turn a human into a Walker. The realization of Shane’s betrayal effectively highlights the growing divisions within the group: Glen and Maggie’s relationship continues to flounder, Lori is weighed down by the guilt of her secrets, and even T-Dog seems to be increasingly left on the sidelines as the friendship between Rick and Shane is thrown into further turmoil now that Daryl has become more involved in the group again after his self imposed exile.
The events of Better Angels conspire to draw Rick and Shane together for one last, fatal confrontation. A moonlit field is their final battleground; and this time no quarter is given between them as they savagely face one another. It’s the moment that has been building between these two best friends throughout the entire course of The Walking Dead, their friendship has become as toxic as the Zombie Apocalypse itself, and as Rick’s knife deals the killing blow you can almost feel his heart breaking as he watches Shane die.
But Carl has seen his father kill Shane, and as Rick desperately tries to explain what happened, Shane becomes a Walker and rises up to attack them. Before Rick can react, Carl draws his gun and shoots the Zombie Shane in the head. The sound of the gunshot echoes all around them, shattering the silence, rousing the encroaching Zombie horde into a blood-crazed mob intent on devouring every scrap of human flesh on the farm!
The pre-credits teaser for Beside The Dying Fire shows Zombies pouring out of Atlanta after being agitated by the sound of a low flying helicopter. It is unclear if the Walkers are being driven by their insatiable appetite for flesh or if the helicopter is actually herding them towards the countryside for some inexplicable goal. Whatever the reason, it would seem that another faction of survivors dose indeed exist, but the mass exodus of the Zombies from Atlanta might seem to indicate the latter as the legions of the undead advance towards Hershel’s farm.
Caught out in the open, Rick and Carl race back to the farm – doing their best to lead some of the Walkers into the barn where they set them on fire. Beth’s boyfriend, Jimmy (James McCune) is killed as he helps Rick and Carl escape from the burning barn. The farmhouse is quickly overrun with the relentless Zombie horde and Hershel almost goes down in a blaze of glory as he defends his property. Rick arrives in time to prevent a Walker killing Hershel, and together with Carl they leave the farm as the rest survivors split up in the remaining vehicles and make their escape – but Patricia (Jane McNeill) is killed by Walkers as she flees the house. They regroup back on the highway where the search for Sophia began; suddenly realizing to their horror that Andrea is missing.
Cut off from the others when the Walkers attacked the farm, Andrea is racing through the woods, fighting a desperate running battle against the Zombies. She falters, but a mysterious sword wielding woman saves her, dispatching the Walkers with consummate ease. Fans of the comic book series will punch the air with delight as Michonne finally makes her television debut in The Walking Dead – including her two armless zombie prisoners on a leash. Michonne is played by Danai Gurira (TREME) and I’m sure she will be a fantastic addition to the cast.
Having travelled as far from the farm as they can for now, Rick decides that its time for the group make camp for the night. But the bitter divisions still remain. Questions are asked about how Randall became a Walker without being bitten, prompting Rick to tell everyone what Dr Jenner told him about the Zombie Epidemic back at the CDC: “We are all infected!” If that revelation wasn’t enough, Rick goes on to confess to killing Shane, demanding that the survivors must follow him without question now – effectively laying down the law and setting the tone for Season Three as the camera pans upwards to reveal the ominous shape of the prison looming over the horizon…
Besides The Dying Fire is a spectacular finale that hit’s the ground running and doesn’t let up until the final moments when the prison is revealed in the distance. Filled with more Zombie action and dripping entrails than ever before, this episode pushes Rick and the group to the very edge, the tension building with every gore filled set-piece until Rick finally snaps and asserts his authority over the group at the end. This second season of The Walking Dead has built successfully on the humble beginnings of the first series, growing into a formidable ratings winner that has captured the imaginations of audiences around the world. While the first half of this season might be construed as being overly self indulgent – focusing almost entirely as it dose around the search for Sophia – the greater emphasis on characterization also marked a sense of transition that sometimes left us seriously lacking in any real Zombie action. The appointment of Gen Mazzara only reiterates this point to my mind. He has effectively reinvented The Walking Dead, keeping the core dynamics intact, significantly improving the pace and tone of every subsequent episode. This is in no way detrimental to Frank Darabont’s work on the programme, the huge ratings testify as much to the outstanding realization of his vision; but a change in show runner – internal politics aside – is usually a natural progression in television that is often necessary to sustain the remarkable success programmes like The Walking Dead have achieved.
One of the best aspects of The Walking Dead has been the way it indulges the fans of the comic books while simultaneously appealing to a mainstream audience, without alienating either aspect, to produce one of the starkest visions of the Zombie Apocalypse ever seen on screen. All the iconic imagery of the comic book series is lavishly realized, with beautiful wide open vistas, stunning Zombie make up effects, and a gritty sense of dread that threatens to tear the characters apart at any given moment. However, as Dale’s and Shane’s deaths have shown, the producers are not afraid to stray from the comic books plotlines – as the demise of both of these main characters (Particularly Dale’s) differs significantly from their grisly ends in the comic books.
The Shane, Rick, Lori love triangle has also been drawn sharply in focus during this season. Shane’s unsettling fixation with Rick’s wife and Son was bound to cause the group to implode at some point, but I don’t think he is solely to blame. If anything, Lori Grimes has played a major roll in fanning the flames of dissent by first keeping her pregnancy a secret, and then by gradually chipping away the foundations of Rick and Shane’s friendship. She needn’t have bothered, as Rick had already figured out the truth a long time ago, and he do will whatever it takes to protect his family.
Season Three promises to centre on the Prison story arc that played a huge role in the comic book series. We could very well be facing the prospect of loosing more major characters to the Zombie Apocalypse, suicide, murder and cannibalism might well be on the cards for Rick as he struggles to hold everyone together against the ever-present threat posed by the Walkers. Most tantalizing of all is the recent announcement that David Morrissey (Dr Who / The Next Doctor) has been cast as The Governor – who is without a doubt one of the most memorable adversaries Rick and the group have encountered so far in the comic book series.
Along with the Katana wielding Michonne – and Michael Rooker’s imminent return as Meryl Dixon – Season Three of The Walking Dead looks set to be the most shocking and bloodthirsty yet. A stunning new trailer was released at this years San Diego Comic-Con. It shows how the Walkers encroaching presence looks set to become even more horrifying as the groups’ humanity begins to decay under pressure, so expect plenty of eviscerations and brain splattering gore to plaster the screen in Season Three. The most terrifying events in The Walking Dead are yet to come, and if I were Rick Grimes, I think I’d keep my hands well and truly out of the reach of the Governor!