With the 13-episode second season of The Walking Dead, I had several expectations – in-depth exploration of the source material from volume two of the graphic novels, Miles Behind Us, but also greater departures as it attempts to surprise and entertain people familiar with the books. Though the second year has been getting a mixed reception from critics, I think these first three episodes are actually the best the show has offered yet, giving welcome prominence to the fragile mental state of the survivors in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.
In keeping with other AMC dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead is moving at a very slow pace – episode one, particularly, sees the group searching for one of their own, as a pause in their journey proves dangerous for all. To me, that cable-style pacing is a perfect match for this type of show, which is contingent on atmosphere, raw establishing shots of Atlanta and the conflict between such a large supporting cast.
Episode Two, as well, continues in much the same fashion. Characters who functioned mostly as plot devices in season one, such as Dale, the grieving Andrea and T-Dog start to soak up a little more screentime, and this comes across as healthy for the long-time prospects of the show, which previously hinged on the Rick-Shane-Lori triangle.
Episode three aired last night in the States and airs this Friday in the UK – this presents a more detailed look at the supporting cast, a move which had been teased by the writers and cast, with this episode spotlighting the increasingly fascinating psyche of Shane. I’d say it’s the strongest of the three episodes so far, just in terms of the level of character development and continually excellent zombie action. At the moment, each episode feels like it represents a turning point for at least one person in the group, and that has to be what keeps viewing numbers in the US at record levels.
Still, I talk about characters, narrative and all the rest of it, but much of the show’s appeal can be traced back to the fact that the walker sequences are bloody cool – Greg Nicotero and company continue to do an excellent job. If slow-burning drama isn’t to your tastes, the visual appeal of the undead has to be something of a draw.
For us, The Walking Dead is surpassing its brief first year with these new episodes. What do you think of the show so far?