After the bloodbath of The Walking Dead‘s last episode, it was inevitable that the follow-up might try to provide some form of respite. Yet, as one storm abates, another one brews in the town of Woodbury, where we begin to learn more about some of the more sinister goings-on in the seemingly idyllic town; the main point being that it’s not quite as walker-free as we were led to believe.
It hasn’t quite plummeted to the badlands-aping depravity of its comic-book counterpart; indeed, every action, every seemingly heinous occurrence can be rationalised – albeit in a skewered way – at this point. This may disappoint some fans who were looking forward to the more anarchic take on the source material, but the shrouding of the Governor’s layers of barbarity with a veneer of superficial respectability only serves to make his various acts more horrific – and the show all the better for it.
This ambiguity stretches to Michonne, who eventually opts to leave without the reluctant Andrea – a decision the latter immediately regrets after a nauseating penultimate act-reveal that highlights the show’s propensity to tailor its source material to its own approach rather than directly filch from it.
Elsewhere, Andrew Lincoln builds on his standout performances with a near-wordless, although utterly convincing, display of raw, animalistic emotion as he charges through the prison despatching walkers videogame-style, eventually coming across a horrible, although credibility stretching discovery (admittedly it’s for dramatic effect, but how did it manage to eat her entire body – ribs, spine and all?).
The rest of the action doesn’t offer anything especially engaging: an evening food run is largely devoid of tension, and the group’s acceptance that Carol is dead – despite the lack of definite evidence to support it – seems a tad premature. Still, there’s enough deft characterisation touches – like Daryl’s prompt leap into action in the wake of Rick’s breakdown, as well as his excellent surrogate parenting skills – to provide a basis for future episodes, and an unexpected cliffhanger will keep viewers holding on for the next instalment of arguably the best show on TV at this moment in time.