‘THE WALKING DEAD’ REVIEW: Season Two Premiere

Andrew Lincoln in 'The Walking Dead' on AMC -- Photo courtesy of Gene Page / AMC

Review of “What Lies Ahead” (02:01)

SPOILER ALERT!

AMC’s The Walking Dead, based on the hit comic-book series by Robert Kirkman, scares its way into an impressive season-two premiere. “What Lies Ahead” picks up right where we left off with this ragtag group of survivors. Hope is lost. Eyes look tired. And the flesh-eating zombies are still on the hunt.

Just another day in Robert Kirkman’s universe.

The 90-minute episode uses many cliches from the world of horror: a vehicle all of a sudden breaks down; everyone get under the cars to seek protection; send the men after the captured girl; and so on.

Yet, even though the plot follows a familiar formula, The Walking Dead excels. The energy level is constantly high, and the action is intense. The gore factor has multiplied considerably over the first season, and the characters are subject to heinous acts of violence to defend themselves.

I’m still loving Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. He has a natural leadership quality that is wholly believable. When he opens up the episode by talking into a walkie-talkie, with the hopes that his friends will one day listen to his warnings, there is true desperation on his face. Plus, it takes a talented actor to elevate a cliche scene to such heights (and, trust me, having a character recount what happened in season one through an opening monologue is a little cheesy).

The special effects are amazing and probably some of the most violent portraits on television. Zombies bite and claw their way onto the screen, taking no prisoners and never seeming to go away.

For anyone who follows the comic books, it becomes obvious about halfway through the episode where the plot is heading. Hint: There’s just too few survivors left. So we need more characters added into the mix.

The Walking Dead still works better as a comic book, but the AMC series is an admirable retelling of the original story. I love that it stays interpretitve, rather than strictly adaptative. It understands that it can’t be the comic book scene for scene. So, instead, it expands on some ideas and let’s others stay on the page.

Its pacing is perfect: slow, yet never dull. The characters, for the most part, make logical choices and face actual scenes of rugged survivalism. This isn’t typical Hollywood fare where we know everything will be all right. The show’s creators have spun a tale that is quite dreary and claustrophobic. It’s difficult to see the hope in any situation — and that’s probably the best quality of the show.

This isn’t just another group of survivors on the run. They go about their business with no understanding what happened and how they will make it out alive. Like Falling Skies on TNT, small acts of kindness and heroism are catapulted to unbelievable heights. The actions of these few may be the last vestige of humanity.

I’m rooting for them to make it.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • The Walking Dead

  • AMC, Sundays at 9 p.m.

  • Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey DeMunn, Madison Lintz, IronE Singleton, Melissa Suzanne McBride, Steven Yeun and Chandler Riggs

  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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