It’s October once again and, aside from Halloween, there’s another event occurring this month, with just as many zombie costumes on display. The Walking Dead returns after a short-lived but incredibly addictive first season that ended rather abruptly for fans of the series and its graphic novel counterparts.
AMC did such a fantastic job at portraying zombies and the hardship of human survival that its return to the small screen has been eagerly anticipated for months now. If the show’s Season 2 premiere has anything to prove, it’s that this series has endless opportunities to expand on the zombie apocalypse and the doomed characters involved within it.
Right away, this new season remains instantly familiar even after a long absence. Rick Grimes, his family and fellow survivors are on the road again. This time they’re headed in the opposite direction of Atlanta. After the ill-fated visit to the C.D.C Center, the group is relatively relaxed though still shaky. Rick reminisces about a family trip, Shane talks guns with Andrea and Daryl continues to grimace heavily. But as usual, the calm before the storm is what makes The Walking Dead so memorable.
At a roadblock on the highway, Rick and company discover why a pack of zombies is more than just a scary sight. Dale’s RTV breaks down right in the middle of the trashed road which is chalk-full of overturned cars. Once separated and searching for supplies, the survivors encounter the hungry mob in what is easily the episode’s best moment.
The images of the shambling undead passing by the group hidden under vehicles is terrific, not to mention the shot of Andrea being oblivious to the horror outside of the window next to her. Suspenseful and heart pounding, this sequence is skillfully edited and full of tension. The makeup on the zombie who terrorizes Andrea in the RTV is as good as anything with gnarled teeth that has appeared before it.
The group makes it out of the deathly experience unharmed, with only T-Dog getting a nasty cut thanks to a sharp piece of a vehicle. If it wasn’t for Daryl and his trusty silent approach with blunt weapons, a scratch would’ve been the least of T-Dog’s problems. The daughter of Carol (wife of Ed, the former abusive husband who died last season with zero sympathy) runs away with two chasing zombies after her. Rick recuses her quickly and leaves her in a hiding spot near a riverbed while he attempts to dispatch the walkers with a rock. He does so efficiently and extremely violently as well. It’s clear just how simultaneously determined and terrified Rick is during moments of life or death, and his run-in here displays that perfectly.
Of course, Carol’s daughter goes missing and the second half of the episode turns into a search mission, which slows its pace down considerably. Once Rick and Daryl realize that finding the young girl before sundown seems improbable, they inform the rest of the group the situation. Carol takes this news horribly as expected, and the rest of the group begins to prepare for the morning, while attempting to mend personal and group issues.
Andrea confronts Dale about his constant urge to look after her and his act of getting in the way of a peaceful death she awaited at the C.D.C self destruction last season. In fact, Andrea got plenty of screen time in this episode, including her overhearing an argument between Shane and Lori about his insistence on leaving the group due to their secret relationship. There are also subtle hints on Andrea’s future sniper skills like her character displays in the graphic novels. Her speech on covering Shane’s ass with a loaded weapon is a statement that will define Andrea as an invaluable asset to the group in upcoming episodes.
This premiere was a reminder of the diverse qualities among each survivor in Rick’s group. Shane is still at war with himself over his feelings of guilt, Lori still resents her past decisions before Rick arrived back from the dead, Daryl still makes fun of Glenn for being Asian and Rick still tries desperately to hold everyone together. The episode was a little slow at times and retreaded water covered before with ongoing dilemmas among the survivors, but quiet moments are still filled with human drama which is acted with pitch-perfect performances.
The Walking Dead‘s Season 2 premiere ends on a cliffhanger which leaves a lot of questions open for debate. Carl gets shot from an unknown person and falls to the ground with Rick and Shane rushing to his aid. Readers of the comics have their own guesses on what the reasoning behind this blindsided action is a result of. The church set piece involves the group battling enemy snipers in the comics, and that could be a possibility here. Footage from the season preview video however, shows Rick carrying a wounded Carl towards a farm. This is most likely Hershel’s Farm, another great location in the comics that will be re-imagined vividly for the show.
Regardless of what happens, surprises will be in store for fans of The Walking Dead. This was an amazing and somber return for a show that has captivated millions with its combination of gritty presentation and mature storytelling. Waiting for Sunday to approach with a new episode is not going to be easy.