It’s been a long wait but trust me, it will be worth every agonizing minute. Season 2 of The Walking Dead is more terrifying than the first. The stakes are raised, speed and time are more valuable than ever. They’ve lost too many lives already. If season one could be represented by a tight guitar string, then season two has been tightened and stretched to the max. It is on the verge of snapping with a single pluck.
The episode begins with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) making a final distress call to Morgan (Lennie James) before the survivors set out to Fort Benning, that the CDC was a failure, and that they’re moving on from Atlanta. What little good they salvaged from the city was overshadowed by Amy’s death, and the grim news that there is no known cure for whatever it is that’s turning people into zombies.
The caravan has been whittled down to Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) Winnebago, another car, and Daryl (Norman Reedus-read our season 2 interview here) has found a hog he can ride. It’s a bit troublesome that they would choose to travel this way since Dale’s old beater, while spacious breaks down all the time and a motorcycle while easily maneuverable is not exactly the shining example of stealthy travel. But then again, do we really want the survivors to avoid zombies? Heaven’s no. In fact, I would say that after the long wait, viewers want to see even more zombies.
“What Lies Ahead” does not disappoint in that department.
Andrea (Laurie Holden) is still not well. She and Dale have an explosive disagreement over what happened at the CDC. Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) have their own CDC memory hidden away in their closets. Dissent and mistrust are in full bloom. Whatever happened in the season finale didn’t go away when the CDC blew up and the feelings and emotions feed on the spent survivors and fester long into this season.
There are other issues like the question of leadership, the handling of firearms, and the mental breakdown of the apocalypse. Not from being bitten by zombies necessarily, more so about surviving the horror 24/7.
Don’t sell yourself short and overlook each cast member’s physical performance, the subtle glances, and tips of the head. In an environment where noise must be kept to a minimum, the stealthy, non-verbal communication speaks as loudly as a terrified scream. This is fantastic television because it utilizes everything that most TV shows are afraid to attempt.
I won’t spoil any important singular moment, but I will say the survivors’ first encounter with zombies is the most suspenseful and skin-crawling moments on television that I’ve seen. This group has overcome insurmountable situations before–those pale in comparison to what’s seen in the premiere, and make sure you have some enamel on your teeth before tuning in–it’s unlikely you’ll have any left when it’s done.
The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and Ardeth Bey wrote this episode and if there were any doubts about the direction or tone of Season 2 need not worry. This is a superb effort. Co-directors Ernest Dickerson and Gwenyth Horder Payton capture each face of panic, every wrinkle of despair, and moment of anguish perfectly and Bear McCreary’s score, or the extreme absence of it, acts an accelerant to the fright.
Very few television shows can manage to create this experience in one scene. The Walking Dead excels in this atmosphere from beginning to end. Every. Single. Week. It’s about damn time we get to experience it again.
Catch the Season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC tonight (Sunday) at 9PM ET/PT.
10 / 10