Walking Dead, The: The Complete Second Season

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 01, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Various

Release Date(s)

2011-2012 (August 28, 2012)

Studio(s)

AMC (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Review

I’m a voracious comic book reader and have been all my life. In addition, I have a lot of respect for Frank Darabont. He appears to have a genuine love of horror and has continued to play in the genre even after becoming an Academy Award nominated filmmaker. Despite all this, I was not immediately interested in The Walking Dead, either as a comic book or as a TV series. Why? One simple reason: zombie fatigue.

The zombie’s rise in popularity as the go-to monster of choice has puzzled me. Sure, there are plenty of great zombie movies out there. But the creatures themselves have never struck me as particularly interesting. It isn’t easy to give a shambling, flesh-eating corpse much in the way of personality.

So I was a little surprised when I finally caught up with the first season of The Walking Dead to find myself genuinely engaged with the characters and situations. The series quickly and effectively established the zombie apocalypse scenario and gave us interesting, relatable characters like Georgia sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). The dynamic between the survivors was volatile and each episode threw a curveball or two that was hard to see coming. All in all, it was a solid first season that definitely left me wanting more.

Of course, before the second season even premiered, the series suffered some very public behind-the-scenes drama culminating in the removal of Frank Darabont from the show he’d developed and steered through its first six episodes. With rumors floating around that AMC was trying to cut costs, fans were understandably concerned about what all this would mean for the show.

The season starts off well with an intense zombie-herd sequence on a car-jammed stretch of interstate, little Sophia getting lost in the woods and a hunting accident involving Rick’s son, Carl. By the second episode, we’re at a remote farm owned by veterinarian Hershel (Scott Lewis) and his family. And that’s where we stay for the next 13 episodes.

On a week-to-week basis, I’m sure the seemingly endless quest for Sophia and the stay on the farm was a little tedious. It plays a bit better in marathon form, allowing us a chance to get to see how these characters deal (or don’t deal) with their new situation, even if a few of them remain thinly sketched ciphers throughout. Still, there’s a lot of time spent on trying to get Hershel to allow them to stay on the farm which isn’t all that dramatic since we know full well they’ll have to leave sooner or later, lest the show turn into The Waltons Dead.

Even so, the season has a lot to recommend it, particularly Andrew Lincoln’s always interesting performance as Rick. The season picks up steam and improves toward the end, culminating in an exciting season finale that promises an even darker direction for season three. It’s also refreshing that this is one of those rare horror TV shows that actually delivers moments of genuine horror, nicely blending real suspense, old fashioned gotcha jump scares and gross-out blood and guts.

On Blu-ray, Anchor Bay has given the show a top-notch video transfer that effectively showcases the series’ gritty, shot-on-16mm-film look. The audio is a rich TrueHD 7.1 mix that boasts some fine subtleties but kicks into a typhoon of sound when hell breaks loose, which happens with some regularity on this show.

Don’t go looking for dirt on the second season’s behind-the-scenes turmoil in the extras. Darabont’s ousting and his plans for a second season aren’t mentioned here. That’s a little disappointing but hardly a shock. The bonus features are fine but pretty routine. Five of the episodes have solid audio commentaries with producer Glen Mazzara appearing on each one as moderator. Other participants include creator/producer Robert Kirkman, producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert, episode directors Michelle MacLaren, Greg Nicotero and Ernest Dickerson, actors Scott Wilson, Steven Yeun, Laurie Holden and Norman Reedus, among others. I made the mistake of listening to the commentary on the first episode, “What Lies Ahead”, before watching the entire season. If you like your Walking Dead to be spoiler-free, I’d strongly advise you avoid the commentaries until the end.

The rest of the extras are on disc four and include 11 featurettes focusing on some of the season’s most memorable effects work, Bear McCreary’s music, significant character arcs like Jon Bernthal’s Shane and Laurie Holden’s Andrea, and the differences between the show and Kirkman’s original comic book. You also get six entertaining webisodes with audio commentary by writer/director Greg Nicotero and an extensive selection of interesting deleted scenes with an informative commentary by Glen Mazzara.

The Walking Dead hasn’t yet earned the right to be considered one of the best shows on television. It doesn’t do for the horror genre what Deadwood did for westerns, for example. But it’s addictively entertaining and, at its best, shows glimmers of promise that it could eventually be at that level. If nothing else, it’s a better horror show than True Blood. I’m definitely on board for season three.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

 

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