Review: The Walking Dead - Season 2 / Cert: 18 / Director: Ernerst R. Dickerson, Bill Gierhart, Guy Ferland / Screenplay: Charlie Adlard, Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman / Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, IronE Singleton, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan / Release Date: August 27th
The dead aren't the only ones walking in the second series of AMC's hit comic book adaptation: gone is prestigious showrunner Frank Darabont, disappeared amidst a blaze of behind the scenes drama and difficulty. Could The Walking Dead be salvaged, or is the show pretty much dead already? Despite a few glaring flaws and duff episodes, this second series is where The Walking Dead hits its stride.
Although, if its gruff leading men are anything to go by, that stride is more of a swagger. Everything seems more assured – not the least Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes and best buddy Shane, excellently played by Jon Bernthal. Where Sheriff Grimes had at first felt like a soppy Jack Shepherd substitute, here he seems stronger and more confident. This is where he becomes the leader of the comic books. Yet at times, it seems more like Shane's show. Where Rick gets the heroic, noble character arc, Shane spends more time in the spotlight. His unravelling into unpredictable psychopathy is a sight to behold. But as dark as Shane's actions become, Bernthal's occasionally heartbreaking performance keeps him just on the right side of sympathetic. However, watchable as Rick and Shane are, they're both blown out of the water by a character who isn't even in the comic books: Norman Reedus's cuddly Hillbilly Daryl Dixon.
Initially a crude My Name Is Earl style hick, the second series transforms Daryl into the show's most likeable presence. His mission to find Carol's missing daughter is just the sweetest thing, as is his growing friendship with Carol herself. It's disappointing that Michael Rooker hasn't returned yet, but his absence gives Daryl room to grow as a character. I would be perfectly fine with a spin-off show dedicated to Daryl Dixon alone.
There's more of everything this time around – more zombies, more action, more gore and more bickering. New characters are introduced as old ones are bumped off. It gets flabby towards the halfway mark, but never truly boring. A fun or original zombie kill is always near, and when the zombies do arrive en masse, it's in a manner worthy of George A. Romero himself. There's at least one cool zombie moment per episode, and much less of the wandering around in circles which dogged series one. This comes at the expense of characters such as T-Dog, who gets about twelve lines of dialogue to last him for the whole thirteen episodes.
Despite its behind the scenes turmoil and some noticeable flaws, The Walking Dead: Season 2 lives up to the potential that its predecessor somehow failed to harness. And judging by the nifty set of teasers upon which the series ends, it's about to get even better.
Special Features: None