I am a father of two. My daughter, Lily, is a beautiful, smart, funny, and sweet little three-year old who is the world to me. Well, her and her brother, my five month-old baby boy Anthony.
I bring this sentimental window into my life up because of how The Walking Dead: Season 2 begins in the premiere episode ‘What Lies Ahead.’ It rattled me to my core. At times, I had to hit pause a take a breather.
As ‘What Lies Ahead’ kicks off, we catch up with Rick and Co. the day after the explosion at the CDC. Rick is still trying to contact Morgan on the radio, unaware that his wife was nearly raped by a resentment-harboring Shane and still thinking about what was whispered in his ear in last season’s finale. At this point I think the daily calls are more something for Rick to hold on to rather than trying to make contact with Morgan and his kid.
The gang head out of Atlanta and their pilgrimage shot, which brings us to the opening title sequence, is a perfect contrast to the shot that started the series with Rick riding his horse into Atlanta. There’s just enough exposition in the first few minutes to bring everyone up to speed, but not too much where it starts to drag. Rick and Lori banter about a family vacation that happened when Carl was a baby and for a second, you almost forget that the entire world has gone to crap and the doctor they’re talking about probably became zombie food at some point.
Dale’s RV may be the toughest SOB in this entire show and is practically a character unto itself. After coming across a massive pileup, which is basically a graveyard, the RV blows a radiator hose. Yes, the same radiator hose they talked about all throughout the first season.
The gang’s reaction to the situation is one of the reasons why the writing on The Walking Dead is so good. It isn’t even 15 seconds and they’re thinking about all the supplies they can get from these cars. As they go from car to car, some react indifferently to the bodies, while others cannot help but think of the lives lost while the rest rummage through the trunks.
And then the Walkers come.
It’s a herd of nomadic Walkers, a bit different from the group in Atlanta that first trapped Rick. Everyone who is outside the RV hides under other vehicles, while Andrea stays inside trying to put her gun back together when she sees the situation happen around her. T-Dog slips, slices his arm in the first “yech” moment of many to come, and staggers for shelter as the herd progresses. Watching Carl and Sophia cower under cars is nervewracking, made even worse by watching Carol as she sees her little girl clutch her doll for safety.
Andrea hides in the bathroom of the RV desperately trying to put her gun back together and remember what Shane was going to show her in the beginning of the episode. Apparently she didn’t take any notes. Would have helped, too, since a Walker ends up trying to enter and Dale has to save her by throwing down a screwdriver for her to do the deed with.
And do it she did. I get the feeling Andrea let out some hostility into the Walker’s eye socket.
Out on the road, unabashed redneck Darryl not only saves T-Dog from meeting his maker, but also comes up with the brilliant idea of draping dead bodies on top of him and T-Dog to hide their scent from the herd of Walkers. Suspiciously the Walkers weren’t able to pick up the scent of the others under the cars, a contrast to season 1 where Rick and Glenn covered themselves in zombie guts in order to not be detected. It’s a nitpick for sure, but a legitimate one if the Walkers do hunt by smell.
Sophia, foolishly thinking all is clear, comes out from under her hiding spot only to meet two hungry Walkers… and we’re running. Sophia hauls off into the woods with the Walkers hot on her trail and Rick after them. He hides Sophia somewhere he deems safe and goads the Walkers into chasing after him. His taking out of them is gritty, brutal, and very efficient. Very Rick-like. Sophia runs off, supposedly following the fairly easy instructions that Rick laid out (“keep the sun over your left shoulder”).
Shane, Glen, and Darryl join Rick in looking for Sophia as she hadn’t been seen since Rick finished the Walkers off. There is more of the tension between Rick and Shane that I don’t think Rick is really picking up on so much as he just thinks Shane is being a jerk. Passive-aggressive comes to mind whenever Shane speaks to Rick.
I don’t care what his personality is like or what he does in his off time, if the zombie apocalypse came to be, I’m finding someone like Darryl and making him my best friend. He’s become akin to a human Swiss Army knife throughout this show. Tracker, hunter, survivalist; definitely the type you need in situations like this.
Norman Reedus is amazing in this role, even better than his MacManus days. This is what sucks about loving a show like this. You have to come to terms with the fact that they’re all pretty much goners. There really is no light at the end of the tunnel here, no hope that we can see right now. And if you read the comic books, you know that no one, absolutely no one, is safe.
Did I mention zombie autopsy? Yeah, there’s a zombie autopsy and it is as graphic, gooey, and disgusting as you would expect. I did almost crack up as Darryl gives Rick a quick glance as he struggles opening a Walker up to see if bits of little Sophia are inside. They’re not, and I’m never eating woodchuck ever again.
The more I hear about Andrea’s dad, the more I think he was preparing his kids for this since they were toddlers. Dale is holding on to Andrea’s gun which we find out was given to her by her father before she and her sister trekked off. Dale says he doesn’t feel like Andrea should have right now, Shane agrees, and you can tell Dale isn’t just talking about her situation with the Walker and not being able to piece the gun back together. Could that have been a bit of business comparing her inability to piece the gun back together with her struggles with putting her mind back together after losing her sister and having her suicide attempt thwarted by Dale, his sad old man speech, and his awesome fishing hat? Not a lot has been made about the headgear of The Walking Dead. From Rick’s sharp Sheriff’s hat to Glen’s hip ball cap, there is some seriously awesome guy-fashion going on.
The group continues their search for little Sophia, but it is getting more and more evident that the bulk of them are already wondering when they’re going to abandon the search and focus on the safety of the group. Whenthey come upon a tent in the middle of a clearing, I have to question Darryl’s safety when it comes to close combat. He seems to be very cavalier while opening the tent, could have been bitten at any moment. Luckily the guy in there only has half a face. Get your DVR ready when you see this scene and check out the guy’s button on pause. It’s an awesome addition. Then there are bells in the distance and the gang runs off.
Last season, The Walking Dead frequently toed the line of “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” They’ve already started it up again in the first episode as, back at the RV, Dale lets T-Dog know that he fixed the RV yesterday, but wanted to put off the “needs of the many” argument when it came to Sophia for as long as possible.
The search party comes across what was making the bells ring, a church. And what do we have inside, but some worshiping Walkers. The grin on one of them as he turns to see his next meal is haunting. I’ve been waiting for the group to come across a church and see how each would react. Carol looks for solace, Darryl looks for quips, and Rick is just looking for answers. Something. Anything.
Andrea confronts Shane about leaving the group and practically begs him to take her with him. We really don’t get an answer to that before Rick comes in with a new game plan and with it the single dumbest move that Rick has made ever.
The group splits and Rick, Shane, and Carl stay back to continue the search for Sophia. Seriously? Carl? Who in the hell would let their kid come along on something like this? Why wouldn’t you send him back with the safety of a group of people on their way to a fairly safe mode of transportation? Instead he tags along with two cops while they hunt through unknown territory with limited ammo and diminishing day light. Rick does deliver a great speech to a bleeding wooden Jesus statue, though.
The rest of the group trudges through the woods and Lori steps up as the de facto leader while also defending her husband’s actions and basically telling Carol to back off.
Rick, Shane, and Carl come across what looks like the sign Rick was asking for. Carl steps towards the deer with a look of wonder and innocence on his face. And then, we’re given our first mind-blowing moment of Season 2. I’m not giving it away, but if this is any indication of what we’re going to see then we’re in for a wild ride.
‘What Lies Ahead’ is an amazing premiere for The Walking Dead: Season Two. I was as worried as anybody else when it was announced that Darabont was no longer showrunner, and convinced we were in store for a less than stellar season.
I was wrong. Dead wrong. Undead wrong.
Through the first episode of 13 total this second season of The Walking Dead, the story is solid and the writing is just as good as ever. I think you get a feel for where they’re going, but then again, you never can tell given the source material.
– James Zappie