Recurring Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah-Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Scott Wilson, Melissa McBride, Chandler Riggs, Lauren Cohan
The easy thing to do with a review of the second season of Walking Dead would be to reel off everything it did wrong and just have fun condemning it. However, I think it might be more interesting to focus on the good (and scoff all you want, there are a few good things on offer this season), and then discuss how it all went wrong.
The second season of Walking Dead has some pretty good moments. If I was to reel off some of the things that happen, you might be fooled in wondering how everyone could accuse the second season of being dull. For example, the first episode is fantastic, probably the one episode to come close to the pilot at this point in time. The survivors are making their way through a frozen gridlock, when they come face to face with the Herd (a large mass of Walkers that roam the city in a large group, almost as if they are a natural disaster – they are a surprisingly shocking and great concept created by the comics). The episode slows right down to that tense ‘who-is-going-to-die-next?’ vibe, as everyone does what they can to hide and survive the scene. It is chilling, moderately spooky and exactly the sort of thing I tune into this show for. There are other great moments too, including a resolution to Carol’s missing daughter storyline, the death of certain characters and a finale that actually is more satisfying than most of the conclusions all three of the other seasons have given us. There are some really good moments in this season, as well as some interesting character arcs. On paper, the dynamic between Rick, Shane and Lori is excellent and I love the idea of it. Character remains the strongest thing here, especially when someone does the unexpected.
The problem with season two is that those moments are too few and far in between. It is hard to find someone as enthusiastic as the love triangle between Rick, Shane and Lori as me, because the show hammers it to death, putting that as the forefront of the show, rather than actual Walking Dead. Ironically, in the comics, this storyline is cut down far too early, so I was pleased the writers recognised its importance and kept it running for another season to truly dissect the chemistry between the three characters. But then they go totally with the opposite end of the spectrum and overuse this storyline. The other characters are pushed to supporting parts, killing the ensemble factor that usually makes Walking Dead a great show. Because they need to get more running time out of the characters, Shane becomes a body for the writers to throw twists at us. The character gets darker and darker, which I suppose is the point of the story, but as we have so much material with the characters, Shane gets far too dark to the point where he becomes a really unlikeable character, despite the show often trying to play him off as that troubled rogue in the group, who is a nice bloke deep down. When the story finally comes to a close, we are thankful that we can finally move on from this side of the show, which totally kills the power and importance of that arc.
This isn’t totally the writer’s fault (although a lot of the blame should be left at their doorstep). The producers did force everyone into an awkward position. Season One was a six episode run, which might have felt a little short, but it also made it a very precise schedule. Something was always happening. Because the show exploded (a series about zombies was always going to), AMC made the writers come up with double the amount of material. Suddenly that storyline that should have lasted between six to eight episodes needed to keep a full length series running. And therefore, it becomes painfully obvious that most of this season is padding and bloated moments. Whole episodes have no other point than to push the Shane character a little further, which is a little disappointing for anyone tuning in for a Walker attack. Walkers are almost pushed out of their own show. I like a quieter, slower episode, because the Walking Dead usually does them quite well, but we got two or three in a row, because the next Walker showdown wasn’t scheduled in until further down the line. Still, the writers could have been a little smarter with the writing. There are several supporting characters hanging around doing nothing. Why not have Daryl head off for supplies and fight some zombies, while we cut back to Rick, Lori and Shane developing at a natural speed? So yes, Season Tow fails because of the producers, but the writers don’t get off the hook that easily.
Final Verdict: Season Two is still holding back the entire series, because of an awful pacing problem. Saying that, certain episodes shine regardless.