This being the second season of a heavily serialized series and all, I'm not going to recap the overall premise or reintroduce its characters. If you need that sort of primer, you really ought to be reading the review of the first season anyway. With that out of the way... Last season drew to a close with the CDC reduced to a smoldering cinder. Former sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the handful of other survivors of this undead apocalypse set their sights south towards Fort Benning, but a Sargasso Sea of wreckage and a roving pack of flesheating ghouls quickly stand in their way. One of the youngest members of the group goes missing in the aftermath of all this chaos and another lays critically wounded. Unable to move forward, the survivors instead find sanctuary at a nearby farm. They certainly haven't come across anything like it in the weeks since this outbreak seized a chokehold over the world at large. There's no shortage of food, and they have access to all the fresh water they'll ever need. Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), the kindly owner of the farm, is a seasoned veterinarian who's more than capable of patching up their wounded. It doesn't hurt that there aren't any walkers shambling around either. It's more ideal than anything they could've hoped to find, and it clearly can't last.
The search for their missing companion grows increasingly hopeless. The group is splintered between marching forward and anchoring themselves here. Hershel is more than hospitable but grows increasingly concerned that his guests see this as a permanent
I guess I should admit to being more than a little bit pessimistic about this season of The Walking Dead, given my disillusionment with the comics over the past couple of years and how wholly inept so much of the first run of episodes ultimately were. This sophomore season, though...? Wholly and completely won me over. Sure, sure, it got to be kind of a meme for a while there that "yeah, they're still on Hershel's farm", and I get that. Season two was widely criticized, especially throughout its first half, for being insufferably static and talky. Most of those episodes were limited to a single zombie attack a week. With just a tiny handful of the undead and the backdrop of a pastoral farm -- where the series' cast was content to sit around and yammer on endlessly -- I can see how The Walking Dead might not feel all that much like it's waistdeep in a zombie apocalypse. I completely understand how that can be frustrating to watch week in and week out on basic cable, but all of those headaches are wiped away on Blu-ray. A series like The Walking Dead demands to be devoured in marathons. Though the first half of the season admittedly moves at a deliberate pace and is often stingy with the undead, I hardly ever felt it when episodes are separated by however long it takes me to grab a Coke out of the fridge rather than having to wait a full week. Aside from the back half of "What Lies Ahead" -- which runs around twenty minutes longer than a regular episode and winds up feeling kind of bloated as a result -- I can honestly say I was never bored.
The undead are the marquee draw here, as if you need me to spell that out, and when this season of The Walking Dead is at its best, it eclipses just about every last one of the hundred or so zombie flicks I have on the shelves downstairs. The attack sequences are unrelentingly intense and unflinchingly graphic, and because they're used somewhat
One sticking point for me still is the characterization. Of the ensemble returning from The Walking Dead's first season, the only two that I outright like are Daryl and Glenn. Boasting the most realized personality of anyone in the group, it's appreciated that Glenn's not just there for comic relief; he's one of the most dependable characters on the show when it comes to getting shit done. It's sort of the same deal with Daryl. That Southern-fried charm has helped to make him a fan favorite, but he's also the most capable warrior in the lot. When that turns out not to be enough to save the day, that failure hits him hard. I'm also intrigued by the way that Andrea comes into her own this year, summoning a strength that went largely unseen before now. Shane stands out as someone willing to make the difficult decisions, and though his
So many of the other characters, though...? They range anywhere from "forgettable" to "aggressively annoying". T-Dog (ugh) gets maybe a line or two an episode, never contributing much of anything. No idea why he's there, and the writers even saddle the poor guy with an "awwww, hayll no!" at one point, which is just...no. One frequent criticism of Robert Kirkman's comics -- capes and zombies alike -- is his fundamental inability to write women, and his female characters are generally squandered here too. Carol is teary-eyed dead weight. Although I like the direction Andrea takes over the course of this season, her defining trait in a lot of ways is not doing anything. Maggie scores a lot of the best lines this season but is mostly untapped potential (no pun intended there, Glenn). Lori remains one of the most shrill, argumentative, and fiercely unlikeable characters in the history of anything, ever. The rest of her family
Even looking beyond its scattershot characterization, season two suffers from its fair share of flaws. I didn't find the slower pace throughout the first half of the season to be an issue, but your mileage definitely may vary on that one. Because so many of its characters are thinly sketched and largely forgettable, the soapy melodrama they have to slog through tends to be woefully uninvolving. I mean, if I don't care all that much about the characters, it kinda follows that I don't really give a shit what happens to 'em either. Again, it's pulled off just well enough that I can look past all that, but am I on the edge of my seat about whether or not Andrea will make another suicide attempt or when Glenn will muster up the courage to tell Maggie how he feels about her...? Not really. Then you have the usual stuff like Hershel's unlimited ammo cheat code, offing characters who were so barely introduced that I found myself wondering "wait, who was that again?" twice in the space of one episode, the lookout failing to notice that 14,000 zombies are a couple dozen feet away, unnecessary exposition, a few groan-worthy lines of dialogue, a consistently terrible job conveying the passage of time...
Whatever, though. Despite walking in with the lowest possible expectations, I fucking loved the second season of The Walking Dead. Sure, I can recognize its flaws -- I've been hammering out reviews like this for close to a decade and a half, so it's kinda second-nature by now -- but I can honestly say that its missteps hardly ever get in the way. It's a colossal step forward over The Walking Dead's largely disappointing first run of episodes, and it feels as if the writers have found the steady footing they need to make for a hell of a third season. I know there was a lot of grousing about this season of The Walking Dead when it first aired, but I think marathon viewing smooths out a lot of those rough spots, and in between are several of the most spectacular zombie epics ever committed to film. Highly Recommended.
It was a remarkably inspired choice to shoot The Walking Dead on 16mm film. Its coarse, gritty texture is such an essential part of the series' visual character, lending it a sense of mood and atmosphere that'd be lost if shot
Though The Walking Dead by design isn't startlingly sharp or immaculately detailed, it's never in question that I'm watching a properly mastered 1080p boxed set, with definition and clarity as robust throughout as the cinematography will allow. Since The Walking Dead isn't afraid to skulk around in the shadows, it's essential that the image hold up under limited light, and there aren't any concerns whatsoever on that front either. Honestly, the only complaint I have is that a handful of shots have an overly digital appearance to them: mostly quick pans, although there are some other moments that suffer, such as one angle of a conversation between Rick and Shane near the end of 18 Miles Out. Other than that, though...? Given The Walking Dead's deliberately rough-hewn visual style, I couldn't ask for anything better than this.
These thirteen episodes are spread across four BD-50 discs. The Walking Dead's sophomore season has been encoded with AVC and is presented at its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
The Walking Dead has been lavished with 24-bit Dolby TrueHD tracks boasting eight discrete channels of sound, and the audio is every bit as cinematic as that suggests. The score, when appropriate, roars from every speaker. Almost every TV-on-BD set I've come across is timid when it comes to the lower frequencies; The Walking Dead, on the other hand, unleashes a hellish amount of bass. This series outclasses a lot of movies with as impactful as its gunfire can get. Every last element in the mix is rendered cleanly and distinctly. The surrounds do a tremendous job establishing a proper sense of atmosphere, and they ratchet up the intensity as the undead swarm from every direction. With a strong sense of directionality and quite a few pans across the soundscape, it's clear that The Walking Dead was mixed with home theaters expressly in mind rather than throwing all those extra channels in as an afterthought. Aside from the faint clipping to some of the dialogue, The Walking Dead's lossless audio teeters on the brink of perfection, and I doubt there's a better sounding television series out there.
Each episode of The Walking Dead also includes a French Dolby Digital stereo surround track (192kbps). Subtitles, meanwhile, are offered in English (SDH) and Spanish.
The standard edition of The Walking Dead comes packaged in a case about the same width as season one's, and there's a slipcover if you're into that sort of thing. It looks like there's an episode guide tucked inside, but instead, it's just a bunch of ads for various bits of Walking Dead merch. If you don't mind paying the extra premium, there's also an incredible looking collector's edition packaged inside a zombie head, complete with a screwdriver jutting out of its skewered eye.
The Final Word
I found the bulk of The Walking Dead's first season to be a complete letdown, falling short of both the brilliant feature-length premiere and the comics I'd been reading so ravenously for years on end. Thankfully, its sophomore season comes much, much closer to the series that The Walking Dead ought to be. Season two still has its struggles with uninvolving characters and uneven pacing, but a lot of those missteps are wiped away when devouring these thirteen episodes in quick succession. I'm a lifelong zombie fanatic, and what The Walking Dead delivers this time around is so intense and so gruesome that it outclasses just about every zombie flick I've ever come across. The second half of the season in particular is phenomenal, even when the gutmunching takes a back seat. Even if you were disappointed with season two the first time through, I'm sure the season will play a hell of a lot better on Blu-ray, and it's very heartening to see so many hours of extras piled on here. Highly Recommended.