Quickie TV Review: The Walking Dead: “What Lies Ahead”

Last year’s six episodes left millions of fans begging for more and with a baker’s dozen (that’s 13) new episodes, The Walking Dead is back and off to a bloody solid start. Season Two kicked off with an hour and a half long opener that flew by thanks to so much tension and all sorts of bad things happening to the survivors. From the opening scene when the group’s highway scavenging is interrupted by way too many zombies to the shocking final scene (nope, I still haven’t read the comic past the first two issues – I don’t want to ruin any surprises), this was a mostly excellently paced episode. The tension amongst the survivors was portrayed brilliantly and and some possible partings of ways seem inevitable through a number of methods natural and otherwise…

Rick is still struggling as the de facto leader of a slowly dwindling crew. After last year’s campground massacre cut the number of Atlanta survivors down dramatically and the CDC incident left them with one less member (who chose to stay and die in an explosion rather than go on), he’s obviously being worn down bit by bit as a figurehead. When Carol’s daughter is discovered by a Walker and runs off the highway into the woods, Rick goes full tilt after her and after catching up with her, promises that they’ll make it back. Let’s just say that things don’t go exactly as planned and the bulk of the episode afterward is made up of a search that turns up everything but who everyone is looking for.

As he’s still in the dark about Shane and Lori’s now-ended affair, it’s interesting to watch the tension between them when Rick is away. From what I’ve read and been told by a friend who’s a fan of the comic, the storyline for the show varies dramatically from the comic in regards to Shane and a few other characters. I don’t mind this at all, as it means that extra layer of tension for readers expecting something familiar, but getting something better in exchange for watching an expanded (and altered) version of events in the comic. Besides, it’s great to see the show NOT stick so close to the original work, as some characters are intriguing enough that they need to stick around for a bit longer.

I’d say the best moment in the show for me was the scene with the zombies in the small church. I got the picture that the episode must have taken place on a Sunday and those three undead in the pews (in different spots, to boot!) were dutifully fulfilling a ritual now more meaningless for them. The star of this week’s show was Daryl, from his chopper riding intro to his saving of T-Dog and his tracking skills. I’m gathering we’ll see the return of his racist brother at some point this season, but my money is on brother dear being brother undead thanks to his missing hand most likely getting infected after his escape. But I could be wrong, right? We shall see at some point, hopefully. What Lies Ahead, at least according to the post-show teaser, Shane with no hair, Andrea still dealing with issues over her sister’s death, the potential loss of a child (or two) and yes, plenty of zombies on this rather disturbing road trip.

While there were only a few undead re-deaths in this episode (8, if I’m not mistaken), the gore quotient has been upped geometrically to literally eye-popping effect. A screwdriver to the eye socket, a bashed in skull, some face slashings and a crossbow bolt to the head were all shown in lovely detail. Oh yes, there was also a nasty zombie gutting to check its stomach for its last meal. Thankfully, the editing in the episode doesn’t linger on the gruesomeness too long. I actually found T-Dog slashing his arm open early in the episode and shortly afterward, Daryl covering himself and T with corpses so the shuffling pack of Walkers would bypass them more disturbing. The episode ended on another shocker with a quiet (yet strangely tense) scene that ended with a main character shot and wounded. As to who fired the shot, that remains to be seen.

Overall, it was a pretty decent kickoff to the season, provided you don’t apply too many real-world logic points to some of the decision-making. So far in the first episode, we have one character badly injured, one questionable, one missing, and one or two thinking about leaving the survivors for good and setting off on their own. Which is pretty much the new normal in a world turned upside down.

Score: A-

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