The Walking Dead and I have had a bit of a love/hate relationship, and even a little something in between. When it was first announced that there was going to be a TV show about zombies, I was ecstatic and loved the idea, despite having never even heard of the comics. As a big fan of zombie films, particularly those of George A. Romero (well, the first four anyway), I thought that this would be a great idea. Turns out it wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be.
After season one premiered, I thought it was a decent start, but as the season continued, I found that it was seriously lacking in character and plot development, which gave me cause for alarm. Had they really screwed up what should have been a great idea? However, since season one was only six episodes long, I figured that there would be some serious retooling in between seasons, you know, to iron out the kinks and improve upon things that desperately needed fixing.
Before I proceed with the analysis though, since we’ve reached season two, let me give you a brief synopsis. You may recall that season one dealt with a zombie apocalypse that banded together a group of survivors that includes Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and their son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Other members of the group include Shane (Jon Bernthal), Glenn (Steven Yuen), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Daryl (Norman Reedus).
After not having any luck at the CDC at the end of the first season, they’ve taken to the road in an attempt to reach a fort that they believe will offer them shelter, but after breaking down on the highway, they suddenly have to hide from a zombie herd that causes Carol’s daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz), to run away. Once the herd passes, they immediately try to find her, but to no avail. To make things worse, during one of their attempts to find her, Carl is accidentally shot by a local. Luckily, he knows a doctor in the area.
This brings about the introduction of Hershel (Scott Wilson) and his daughters, Beth (Emily Kinney) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Our group of survivors eventually gathers on Hershel’s farm, which is seemingly untouched by any of the chaos currently happening everywhere else. Here they continue to coordinate a search effort to find Sophia, but more problems continue to arise as tensions between certain group members increase.
Now that that’s out of the way, back to my experience with this show. Upon the beginning of season two, I was hoping for some vast improvement, only to find that they hadn’t changed a thing. It was still lacking in character development, nor was it getting very far plot-wise. The character development was so bad in fact that I wouldn’t have been able to tell you most of the characters’ names at that point.
With the show continuing on this way, I eventually stopped watching after four episodes of the second season. If the makers of the show were determined to make it as boring as they could possibly could, why should I continue to waste my time with it? Cut to a few months later: I receive a copy of season two on Blu-Ray to review. You can imagine my reaction.
Reluctantly, I sat down to watch it, clawing back through those first few episodes that hadn’t thrilled me the first time I saw them, hoping that the show would somehow improve, and you know what, it did, at least a little bit. For a show like this to work, you need a good dose of human drama and interesting character interactions, something that it was severely lacking. It can’t simply be made up of running around, shooting zombies in the head, and trying to hide.
The subplots running through season two do eventually become a bit interesting as the group struggles to find Sophia, despite several days passing as they proceed with their efforts. The future of our group is also brought into question as Rick tries to convince Hershel to let them stay on his farm.
It does become a little soapy in the middle when we discover that one of the characters is pregnant and is unsure of who the father is. This leads to the exposing of a love triangle which merely makes it overly melodramatic (remember, the show should be going for “drama,” not “melodrama”). This ends up being the weakest subplot of the batch, but luckily they don’t waste too much time with it.
However, they do get one thing right with this subplot, and that’s the discussion of the moral implications of bringing a baby into a world that’s, as they say, “gone to shit.” What kind of life would the baby have when happiness is practically vacant from the world? It’s these kinds of moral discussions that actually end up raising the show up a notch.
Another subplot involves a captured prisoner that tried to gun down Rick, Glenn, and Hershel. While Rick and the others want to execute him because they think he is a danger, Dale, who is basically the conscience of the group, tries to argue that they need to hold onto their humanity more than ever in times like this. He even brings up that Rick shouldn’t let his son see him fall to that level.
This leads to the best scene in the entire season. No zombies are lurching around, no heads are being blown off, and no one’s trying to escape and hide. It’s merely a scene that has everyone standing in Hershel’s farmhouse, having a final discussion as to what to do with the prisoner. Dale, in a 12 Angry Men moment, pleads for the group to do what is right, while everyone else wants to kill him so that they can avoid the possibility of him leading his group right to the farm.
It’s scenes like this that show just how good a show this could be. Of course, you need to have scenes of zombies and such, but as I said earlier, it can’t only be that. You need the human element, which this show only periodically gets around to exploring. With the impending season three coming up in October, hopefully the writers will make a lot more room for this to be done, as this could still potentially turn it into the great show that a lot of people have been making it out to be.
Now let’s take a look at the Blu-Ray itself. The show is presented in a 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that features a very sharp image. Every little gritty detail of this world can be seen crystal clear. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio allows for every gunshot and every groan to be heard quite lucidly. Dialogue is likewise audible at all times with the score being mixed in properly so as not to overpower any of the other elements.
As far as special features go, there certainly was no skimping in this area. Here’s a list of what’s included:
- All the Guts Inside
- Live or Let Die
- The Meat of the Music
- Fire on Set
- The Ink is Alive
- The Sound of the Effects
- In the Dead Water
- You Could Make a Killing
- She Will Fight
- The Cast on Season 2
- Extras Wardrobe
- 6 Webisodes
- Audio Commentaries on Episodes 1,7,8,11, and 13
- Deleted Scenes
The featurettes cover just about every aspect of the making of the show that you could want including special effects, the music, costumes, and interviews with cast and crew (including the writer of the comics). On top of that, you get about 30 minutes of deleted scenes. Nothing particularly amazing, but as always, it’s interesting to see what didn’t quite make the final cut.
The only special feature here that I have to say isn’t really worth your time are the six webisodes, which practically have nothing to do with the actual show. These run about 20 minutes total and merely follow a family that is trying to deal with the onset of the zombie apocalypse.
Overall, this is a pretty good set of special features for a show that hasn’t quite reached its full potential yet. Season two leaves us at yet another crossroads after an action-packed finale (which somehow resisted the urge to go straight back to the original Night of the Living Dead).
As I mentioned, season three is coming up in October, and with those glimmers of the show’s strengths placed throughout season two, I will most likely be giving this another chance. I just hope that the people behind the show are able to realize just how good it could be. If they would simply focus on those elements that make a show like this work, then they could have something really interesting on their hands.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.