Season two of AMC Network’s “The Walking Dead” is perhaps the most controversial and also the most daring. AMC made the dunderheaded decision of cutting the reins from show runner Frank Darabont and cutting the series’ budget in half right before the premiere of the high rated series that managed to break every cable record in the time of its premiere. Why AMC continues to handle the business in such a manner is baffling. The release of show runner and critically acclaimed director Frank Darabont from the series is one that continues to anger fans, but happens to be a blessing in disguise.
Fans complaining that the show detracted from the comic book source material were in store for much more in the way of detraction with Darabont’s intent on tailoring the series more toward his sensibilities and including wild card episodes at the start of every season. His vision of slow burn storytelling just didn’t sit well with AMC Network and fans either. Fans complain that the first half of “The Walking Dead” season two is sluggish and uneventful. While I disagree, the first half of the season that gets most criticism is that led by Frank Darabont. Season two is almost as flawless as season one, and is given much more room to fail than season one was.
While season two isn’t perfect (“Judge, Jury, and Executioner” for one is a complete filler episode created just to tie up a loose end in the cast), it does manage to be quite excellent and feels like a two pronged narrative that stems from two mind sets of storytelling. While Frank Darabont was about slow and steady winning the race, inevitable show runner and replacement Glenn Mazzarra becomes about making progress and speeding up the narrative making the show feel about as quickly paced as humanly possible while handling every character necessary to the arc. He’s also the one to implement the notion that no one is safe on the series. Mazzarra and co. almost have a lust for killing off characters at the drop of a hat, it’s a principle the award winning comic book from Robert Kirkman warned to fans who read it. No One is Safe. So fans who dislike the first six episodes will find a complete speed up of narrative and character progression once “Nebraska” comes up on the Blu-Ray episode repertoire. That is set directly after the mesmerizing and seasonal favorite “Pretty Much Dead Already,” where the group suffers the fall out from a grim discovery in the barn of their newest host, Hershel Green and their humble farm family.
“The Walking Dead” opts to slowly creep in to the second season with a wonderful opening episode entitled “What Lies Ahead” pitting the group of Atlanta’s remaining survivors against the notion that their plead for life may have been in vain. When faced with a traffic jam, they find that there are an abundance of supplies, and also an abundance of walkers, all of whom seem to be migrating as the seasons begin to change. The invasion of a passing herd causes young Sophia to run for her life, sparking a rescue mission from Rick who is still new to combating the walking dead and makes a grave error in allowing the young Sophia to wander off when faced with two stray walkers intent on attacking the duo. The search for Sophia becomes compelling fodder for season two as it allows us to garner a better glimpse at Rick Grimes motivations and errors as the group’s leader, his priorities, and we garner a larger focus on new character Daryl Dixon, who rises from the thorn in Rick’s side to an indispensible part of the group’s crucial quest for survival in the waste land. Rick also garners a change of heart in season two as, once was a man intent on preserving human life, now has to face that humans are now a part of the dangers of this new world.
And in many respects, they’re even worse than the walkers lurking in the darkness. The confrontation with two stray nomads in “Nebraska” makes for the most shocking and mind-blowing moment in the series to date, as Rick’s bid to protect life above all (even sparing the life of racist and violent Merle Dixon in season one) changes when faced with the immediate threat of an invasion from a pair of survivors who are intent on finding Hershel’s farm and occupying it for their own nefarious purposes. Rick’s bullet laced rebuttal for the sake of their safety is a massive change of the tide, and one that shows Rick’s beginning in to a slow and steady transformation in priorities that involve self-preservation as much as protection for his friends and family. This takes a toll on Rick in the final episodes of season two, where Rick is confronted with the determination of his once best friend Shane, who slowly uncoils in the midst of the madness in this land of the dead, and seems to be planning something devious for everyone in the group. Particularly Rick. “Beside the Dying Fire” is a stunning and action packed finale, opposite of that to season one’s “TS-19.” Where the former finale focused more on book ending the series should it fail, “Beside the Dying Fire” is a guaranteed classic season finale and instant series finisher with gore, horror, an epic stand off and a closing scene that left fans craving for more. Season two definitely keeps the series momentum going in spite of the pit falls during production.
The bust from Todd McFarlane studios is about as close as it gets to the trailer zombie in the premiere “What Lies Ahead” without actually being face to face with the bust from Nicotero. With incredible detail, and an amazing texture, this is a zombie bust that is dazzling and incredibly eye catching to look at. I admire it literally every chance I get, and the feel of it is just insanely life-like and genuine. You also have to love how you can take the screwdriver in and out of its eye socket and use it as a handle to lift the zombie head to get to the Blu-Rays. it’s a sturdy and very solid bust and one that I love having as a rabid fan of “The Walking Dead.”
Featured in the packed Blu-Ray set are audio commentaries for “What Lies Ahead,” “Pretty Much Dead Already,” “Nebraska,” “Judge, Jury, Executioner,” and “Beside the Dying Fire,” with Executive Producer Glenn Mazzarra and various cast and crew for the key episodes of the second season that include Gregory Nicotero, Robert Kirkman, and Norman Reedus, just to name a few. There is “All the Guts Inside” about the look at the well zombie, “Live or Let Die,” the look at the differences between the characters in the comic and the television show, and “The Meat of the Music,” a look at the music of the series by composer Bear McCreary and how he implements sound and silence through the story telling. There’s “Fire on Set,” a look at the final episode of the season, “The Ink is Alive,” the similarities and differences between the comic and the show, “The Sound of Effects” about the creation of the sound effects of the season, “In the Dead Water,” about the creation of the famous well zombie sequence, “You Could Make a Killing” that explores Gregory Nicotero’s involvement in the episode “Judge Jury Executioner” and the death featured.
“She Will Fight” looks at Andrea’s character’s final scenes in the season and how she transforms, “The Cast of Season 2” in which the cast discusses the season as a whole, and “Extras Wardrobe” about costume designer Eulyn Womble and her dressing of the walkers. For fans, there’s the Gregory Nicotero directed webisodes about a young woman’s quest to save her family in the opening days of the zombie apocalypse, as well as thirty minutes of deleted scenes from the episodes “What Lies Ahead;” “Save the Last One;” “Secrets;” “Pretty Much Dead Already;” “Nebraska;” “Judge, Jury, Executioner;” “Better Angels;” and “Beside the Dying Fire.” All of which are available with optional audio commentary with Executive Producer Glen Mazzara.