23 Mar 2012

Screen Time: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 2 - End Of Season Review

THE WALKING DEAD: Season 2 - End Of Season Review

Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yuen, Jeffrey DeMunn, Lauren Cohan, Scott Wilson

Stewart R: Wow, is that really only Season 2 of The Walking Dead that we've reached the end of? It really does feel like we've been following this bunch of survivors for far longer than 19 episodes in total and the big change in pace after the mid-season break through Season 2 has played a big part in that! Where those first 7 instalments built gradual tension and a tired longing for 'something' to happen as the group searched for Sofia, the most recent half dozen episodes have torn through their excited, dramatic scripts faster than a slavering corps tears through fresh flesh.

The climactic end to episode #7 – no spoilers here for those hoping to catch up on DVD or by other means – signalled the beginnings of a shift in the group and helped to show that many of the characters had been kidding themselves as to just how rotten the world they were trying to live in had become. As time went by - something that’s actually been hard to establish when looking back; are we just a few weeks from Rick’s stay in hospital or a couple of months? - certain members of the group were hardening up and becoming desensitized to the harsh surroundings while others still cling on to the lives that they’ve left behind. Tensions amongst the group had clearly been running high and thankfully the wait for it all to spill over wasn't too long as the bickering, posturing and plotting was prime and prominent as soon as The Walking Dead returned to our screens in February.

The writers have worked quickly to try establish Herschel as a character of some substance and longevity (though who can tell how long anyone will last in this show??), offering vague glimpses of his life ‘before’ and showing his gradual acceptance that things were never going to get back to the way that they were. They’ve also been gradually nurturing Glenn’s character development as he struggles to identify who he should and, more importantly, wants to be in this dangerous new world. Many of the more ethically questionable moments show Glenn in a state of uncertain analysis as he’s tried to figure out on which side he falls and in some respects I think he’s been the one character who has almost represented the eyes of the audience through the latter stages of the series as elsewhere things have over-boiled and the impending carnage has arrived.

Certainly the Rick/Shane/Lori triangle finally delivered on much of the emotional teasing that had been creeping along since our protagonist lawman strolled into camp, but at the same time it remained unpredictable thanks to the writers deviating from what had transpired in the comics and throwing some neat curveballs along the way. The constant baiting between Shane and Jeffrey DeMunn’s Dale brimmed with trembled anticipation every single time the two shared any screentime and some neat scriptwork from the writing team meant that it had a greater impact on that aforementioned love triangle. I’ll admit that Shane’s constant bouncing between cold, hard leader-in-waiting and borderline nutjob became a little hard to take after a while, but Jon Bernthal has been consistent with his performance throughout and those odd moments where he shows fatherly concern for Carl’s wellbeing do stick in the mind amongst all of the madness.

And madness there has been! While the first half of the series took a leisurely walk through a story arc with a few asides of excitement scattered around, the second half has been a festival of event episodes with moments of real gravity, action and tension hitting the screen while the odd future plot thread has been dropped into the mix for good measure. While in keeping with the comic series, the lack of encounters with additional travellers or survivors aside from Herschel’s clan to this point had begun to play on my mind and that gets addressed for a short while with the introduction of some dubious types in a standoff situation and then a huge moral dilemma that confronts the group and asks the question of how they want to live their lives from this moment on.

And that of course only goes for those whose life span lasts beyond the scope of this second season! The writers have certainly reminded us that things can turn nasty in the smallest of moments and fans of the comic and show alike get a few shocks thrown their way, almost as if to say ‘no-one better be second guessing this’! I’d certainly come into this season expecting to see things go a certain way but come the last 4-5 episodes I found myself quite literally vibrating with nervousness, not knowing what was going to unfold over the next 40 minutes. Even when two poster-book moments from the comic rise majestically into view during the season finale - and they are magnificently handled too - I still had the niggle in the back of my mind that things were going to be flipped on their head at any given second. That’s the magic of this show: anything could happen! Even with the happenstances of 48 issues burned into my brain this TV show is a different monster with real people; characters and actors, writers and directors alike, pulling the strings and the level of excitement that is generated from the continuous uncertainty is terrific.

While heavy on the praise there are a few nuggets of annoyance that have accompanied the second season I’m afraid to admit (though they are realistically minuscule compared to the boulders of awesomeness that they cower underneath!). Carl, it is 100% fair to say, is becoming an annoying little shit and it’s now hard to root for anything other than a grisly zombiefied end for Chandler Riggs’ obnoxious character, not least because his sure-to-be quick ageing is likely to be the elephant in the room come the next year or so. I’ve also not been too keen on Maggie’s turn from plucky country gal, full of good old fashion gumption, to something of a weepy mess, but can understand that this has been predominantly done in order for Steven Yuan’s Glenn to grow some balls and step up to the plate. And then there’s the bigger T-Dog issue! What must IronE Singleton be going through? Following his hurried Walker life-saving by Daryl in the first episode he gets only a handful of lines after that and even goes missing - possibly getting lost in Herschel’s house - for a handful of shows. It’s becoming apparent that the writers don’t quite know what to do with one of the only original characters and the longer that goes on for the bigger joke it’ll unfortunately become!

Regardless of my brief negative belching, this second-leg of The Walking Dead has been an enormous success and has cemented it as the ‘must-watch’ show on televisual machines around the globe. I still bump into people who say that they don’t like zombie movies and have given this a wide berth and I look forward to seeing many of them start to take notice of the growing hype as we head into what is sure to be a mind-blowing third year. 9/10

1 comment:

Kat said...

Excellent review Stew! I think I agree with pretty much every point made. I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't want Carl to just sod off and die now! Bring on season 3 :)