The WALKING DEAD began its second season with an episode that provided 15 minutes of gripping, intense action with the zombie stampede on the highway. And now, they have finished the season with another gripping and intense 15 minutes. Starting with Shane and Dale’s confrontation over the guns in the woods to Rick having to be the one to step up and put Zombie Sophia down it was some of the best TV I have watched in a while. Its just that the bulk of the show between the Episode One zombie herd and the Episode Seven barn full of zombies was less than scintillating to say the least.
This half-season of THE WALKING DEAD has been glacier slow and painfully dull far more often than it has been exciting. As I wrote in my review of the first episode of this season, I am aware that the zombies are not the focus of this show, the people are and I am fine with that but the writing for these people has been dreadful. The majority of the characters on this show tend to alternate between insufferable and downright awful with a few rare moments of likability thrown in seemingly by accident. The show also tends to do a bit too much describing and not showing. These characters talk a lot about pretty much the same topics over and over and over. I want to like this show a lot more…I am a fan of the comic book, I love the zombie horror genre, and at times some of these actors are capable of rising above the material they are given and make me want to like them too. Its just that the show is so uneven and badly paced. It is almost like the creators do not have enough material for each hour of the show which is evidenced by my not having enjoyed more than one full episode from top to bottom. Instead I find that I will like separate little moments throughout the hour but am pretty much blasé about the episode as a whole. I am confident that if this show had been trimmed down to half-hour episodes that I would likely consider this season so far to be a triumph.
I’ll cut my tangent short and instead share my take on some of the best and worst aspects of Season 2 of THE WALKING DEAD so far.
Best Character: Darryl
Darryl is easily the most entertaining character on this show and that was the case even before they started expanding his character from mostly one-note ornery redneck to the more fully formed, two dimensional but still ornery redneck with a heart of gold. Darryl’s dedication to the search for Sophia and his budding friendship with Carol has allowed Norman Reedus to stretch a bit more as an actor. Reedus has done really good work with this character especially in the Darryl-centric “Chupacabra” episode.
Worst Character: Shane
As much credit as I give John Bernthal for putting his all into his portrayal of Shane I still hate the character. I don’t care how much time and energy this show puts into making Shane into a badass. He can chump all the old men in the world, bang all the crabby middle-aged ice queens and anorexic pseudo-widows in the world and shoot all the morbidly obese yokels in the world and it doesn’t change the fact that the character is a terrible one that is stunting the growth and development of better, more important characters on the show. As much character growth as Darryl has shown by exhibiting his softer side with Carol, he should be even more complicated. It should be Darryl instead of Shane being the shit-stirrer of the group, questioning Rick’s decisions and pushing for a more pragmatic kill or be killed worldview. And instead of Shane making the hard, coldly calculated decisions being for the “good of the group” it should be Rick doing it and effectively beginning his journey to becoming a much darker character.
And the absolute worst thing about Shane is the shallow motivation for the character’s attitude. Everything he is doing is basically because he is the unwanted third of an unappealing triangle. I can’t enjoy a character that is acting out because he can’t go steady with Lori anymore. He is basically Reggie to Rick’s Archie in a constant competition for Veronica’s (Lori) and everyone knows that Reginald Mantle is an colossal assclown.
Most Useless Character: T-Dogg
T-Dogg squeaked out a win over Carol in this category because at least Carol served a purpose as the drab mother to the missing Sophie. T-Dogg on the other hand is completely useless and what makes it worse is that the character knows it. Of course recognizing his uselessness doesn’t spur T-Dogg to action or anything…nope it just makes him into a whiner who tries to convince Dale to run away with him. The sooner this character is turned into the blue plate special at the Zombie Diner the better.
Most Annoying Character: (Tie) Lori/Andrea
This show is a misogynists wet dream because the women on THE WALKING DEAD are all terrible characters. That is why I couldn’t make a decision between Lori and Andrea when it came to which of the two was the most annoying. Lori is the most wishy-washy, overly entitled, skanky ho on the show. She cheats on Rick with his best friend but tries to excuse it by saying she thought Rick was dead and she needed to “feel something”. That would be an acceptable excuse if she wasn’t shown to be enjoying all of the rutting in the woods with Shane. There never seemed to be any sense of sadness or depression before, during or after her sexcapades despite her husband only being presumed dead for around a month. Instead she looked to be having the time of her life banging her husbands best friend as her grieving son is left to be watched by a bunch of strangers during a friggin’ zombie apocalypse! And then once Rick pops back up she tosses Shane aside like a used tissue. Then after Shane attempts to rape her she demands he leave the group and only to change her mind two seconds later as she tells him she wants him to stay but then she finds out she’s pregnant which makes her want him gone again. As hot and cold as she runs in her love life is pretty much exactly how she functions at being a mother. One minute she wants to let her son die from his gunshot wound so he will be free of the horrible world they live in and the next she wants him to live more than anything…one minute she wants her baby, the next she wants to abort by downing handfuls of abortion pills (and what small town pharmacy in the sticks carries abortion pills anyway?). She is as fickle as she is anorexic.
Andrea on the other hand is just an all around harridan (look it up) who walks around with a major bitchface every second of every episode. Andrea’s brand of annoying comes out in her bitchy attitude and horribly irresponsible actions. She pesters everyone on the show for a gun, despite not knowing how to shoot, and once she is given one her first order of business is to shoot Darryl. And she didn’t just almost kill Darryl, that would have been too generic a blunder. Nope our Andrea not only shoots Darryl she fires said shot from a million miles away while other members of her group are in her line of fire. She could have just as easily put a bullet in Rick or Shane’s heads. She is a horrible creature…she’s almost as bad as the zombies.
Best Episode: Chupucabra
The fact that this episode focused on Darryl was what made it so good. Darryl decides to go out looking for the missing Sophia and during the course of his search pretty much everything that can go wrong does. He gets thrown from his horse, becomes impaled on one of his own arrows, gets gnawed on a bit by a hungry zombie and ends the day being shot by an annoying cow. But the worst part of Darryl’s day (but a huge treat for the viewer) is that in his injury fueled hallucinations Darryl is visited by his brother Merle. Merle is a horrible human being but the character is a hoot and the way Michael Rooker plays him makes him so much fun. Merle busts Darryl’s balls throughout the episode while also serving as the motivation Darryl needs to survive his perilous predicament. “Chupacabra” was just a very well written, well acted, well paced hour of television.
Worst Episode: Cherokee Rose
This was the episode with the zombie in the well. Sound pretty dull right? Well it gets better. Turns out Herschel’s farm has 5 wells and the one that looks to have been reserved for providing water to the cows has a zombie in it. Now my reaction would be to seal that well and just use the other four. The group of zombie survivors, led by that wellspring of strategic training Shane, decides that they must have that well cleared of all zombie presences in order to keep the cows in steady supply of sparkling clean well water. So this braintrust comes up with the bright idea to lower Glenn down the well so he can tie a rope around the zombie. Of course the whole plan goes to shit, Glenn almost dies and the well gets contaminated with zombie blood resulting in the damn thing having to be sealed anyway.
Also we got to see Shane eulogize the man he just killed for being too fat to run while wearing said fat man’s oversized clothes, Darryl searches fruitlessly for Sophia but finds a purty flower, and Glenn got some poontang from the farmer’s daughter. Scintillating television let me tell ya.
Unless the goal behind this episode was to show how clueless this crew is without the benefit of Rick’s leadership I would have to say this was the biggest waste of an hour of TV ever.
Best Moment: Rick shooting Zombie Sophia
Over the course of this half-season I have gone from not giving a damn about Sophia to hating her so much that I wished her dead. The Search for Sophia was a horrible decision on the part of this shows writers and it dragged on for so long providing very little entertainment value. Until the end of Episode 7 “Pretty Much Dead Already” that is. This is the episode where Herschel’s barn full of zombies came home to roost. Once Glenn spilled the beans about Herschel keeping a dozen or so zombies in his barn (feeding them a steady diet of gimpy chickens) the anxiety and emotion of the characters on the show reached a fever pitch led by Shane. Shane spent a great deal of this episode biting Rick’s back out to anyone who would listen and questioning not just Rick’s role as group leader but also his role as a husband, father and protector. So when the shit hit the fan and Shane released the barn zombies so that he and the other armed members of his group could mow them down as they exited one-by-one it seemed to be a solidifying of Shane as the new de facto leader of the group of survivors. But then the last zombie came shambling out of the barn. Little lost Sophia, who this group had been searching for since the middle of the first episode of this season, was a zombie now and it was such an eerie visual seeing this little girl in her rainbow t-shirt with a big zombie bite on her neck. I have always been extra unnerved by zombie children and THE WALKING DEAD did not disappoint with the make-up of Zombie Sophia.
So faced with the sight of this child who Shane had been advocating giving up on now being a walker just stopped everyone in their tracks. And finally being provided with a real opportunity to show whether or not he had the stuff to be the group’s leader Shane just stood there all slack jawed and useless. The only person with the gumption to do what needed to be done was Rick who stepped forward and popped a cap right in that little dead girl’s dome. Rick showed everyone assembled that he was the only leader of that group and that when push came to shove he could be cold as ice.
Worst Moment: Sophia getting lost
As much as I enjoyed the ending of the Search for Sophia I can think of a million ways they could have gotten to that point without dragging things out so terribly. The idea of a missing child in a world of zombies should not have resulted in so much stagnation. It was like the characters were just as apathetic as I was about Sophia after a while. There was no real urgency to the search and very little good TV resulted front he storyline itself. Maybe the show overestimated how much people would care about a character that I can’t recall uttering more than two sentences in the entire first season. Either way it was a bad idea that was executed badly over 7 episodes but I do have to give the show props for the way they resolved it.
All that being said, I was still sucked in by the way the show ended its mid-season finale and I am optimistic that new showrunner Glen Mazzara will tighten the show up and make it move at a much more entertaining pace. Mazzara did a great job as producer for several seasons on THE SHIELD and the one thing I could never label that show as was boring so hopefully he takes the momentum that the first half of season ended with and ramps things up for the episodes that begin airing in February. Overall this season was not nearly as enjoyable as I wanted it to be which annoys me a lot because I want to love it to death but sadly I am not there yet and the first half of the second season of THE WALKING DEAD gets a final grade from me of a C+.