‘THE WALKING DEAD’ REVIEW: Mid-season report

Norman Reedus in AMC's 'The Walking Dead' -- Photo courtesy of Gene Page / AMC

Review of “Bloodletting,” “Save the Last One,” “Cherokee Rose” and “Chupacabra” (02:02, 02:03, 02:04, 02:05)

SPOILER ALERT!

The Walking Dead’s second season makes for some great television. The action is finely focused around this ragtag group of survivors. There’s not much humor, but when it comes to drama, the series is unmatched in its excellence.

The arc of the season is obviously the search for Sophia (Madison Lintz), who went missing in the first episode. This has caused immeasurable anxiety for her mother, Carol (Melissa McBride), who refuses to give up the search.

As the survivors, all following the lead of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), make their way into the forest to find Sophia, further tragedy strikes. This time it isn’t a brain-eating zombie or crazy vigilante. They encounter a single bullet that travels from a hunter’s gun right into Carl (Chandler Riggs). The hunting accident is well staged and obviously meant to be slightly allegorical. Here is this beautiful deer in a clearing, and this young boy approaches the animal with a calm hand and gentle posture. It’s one of the few peaceful scenes in a savage television series.

But this is The Walking Dead. The serenity is broken up by the bullet and suddenly we return to reality. There is no more beauty in this world. Hope is in short supply.

Weighing the severity of the situation, Rick and company take the boy to a nearby farm for some immediate medical care. Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is the culprit who took the shot. But he’s an innocent man who simply made a mistake. To try and make amends, he introduces the group of survivors to Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), a veterinarian holed up on his family farm with a few other relatives.

Hershel comes across as one of those old-time doctors who would make house calls and offer a lollipop after a visit. He’s got a calming presence and always speaks the truth. After assessing the situation with Carl, the doctor employs the help of Otis and Shane (Jon Bernthal) to go find some antibiotics in a nearby town. Rick and eventually Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) watch over their son, offering their blood for makeshift transfusions.

This premise sets The Walking Dead up for a secondary arc. Not only are the survivors continuing the search for Sophia, but now Carl needs to be saved. It’s interesting how the television series has focused in on the children as the main tentpoles. It makes the show intense and also heartbreaking. Losing an adult to the zombie apocalypse is one thing, but losing these children would be devastating. The developments make the motives of the survivors that much more crucial.

As the plot progresses, we begin to see the true colors of many of the characters. Shane savagely shoots Otis in the leg, in order to leave him as zombie bait. Rick and Lori refuse to leave the bedside of their son. Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) continue to fight. Andrea is still depressed over the loss of her sister in season one, but she refuses to sit by and become another victim. She quickly takes a liking to guns and ammunition.

Glenn (Steven Yeun) is a young guy with a vision of no tomorrow. This causes him to fall for Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Hershel’s 22-year-old daughter. Daryl (Norman Reedus) doesn’t receive too much exposition or exploration for the first few episodes. We know that the group doesn’t like him too much and that’s he still reeling over the loss of his brother. It takes a nice scene with Carol to show another side to this hard, gruff character. He offers the grieving mother a solitary flower and ensures her that he’ll find Sophia.

T-Dog (IronE Singleton) is the casualty of the season so far. I don’t mean that he’s succumbed to the zombies; I mean that his character hasn’t progressed much. The writers need to figure out something for him to do.

Some of the most recent developments: Daryl finds the little doll that Sophia carried around. But as he’s retrieving it, he falls down a steep slope and stabs himself with an arrow. The only motivation he can muster to save himself are visions of his brother.

With a bloody arrow wound, this poor guy treks back to the farm and is actually shot by Andrea, who thinks he’s a zombie. Luckily, both the arrow and bullet graze him. Talk about bad luck.

Rick and Shane continue to spar over the proper plan for Sophia’s rescue. After enduring Carl’s difficulties, Rick refuses to leave. Shane believes the group is wasting its resources on a lost cause.

One of the largest bombshells: Lori finds out she’s pregnant, but who’s the father?

One gruesome sequence that features some of the best special effects of the series involves a bloated zombie stuck at the bottom of a well. The whole scene is actually humorous, but still gross.

The latest cliffhanger is when Glenn and Maggie consummate their relationship and then decide to go for a second round in the hayloft. When Glenn climbs up to the top, he finds the strangest thing he could ever imagine inside the barn: zombies being held prisoner.

Who is this Hershel guy?

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead continues its dominance both in the ratings and the critical circles. It’s a show that smartly follows the comic book, but also works in some flexibility. These survivors are not saving the world; they are merely saving each other. This makes their actions very human and easy to follow.

The show never takes things for granted. These characters strive to find food, shelter, ammunition. They aren’t busting through walls and mowing down zombies. They are doing the best they can with the resources they have. This reality makes for intense sequences and many trials and tribulations.

The acting is top-notch. There’s not a weak actor in the bunch. My favorites are Lincoln’s Rick, Bernthal’s Shane, DeMunn’s Dale and McBride’s Carol. These survivors cover so many different areas of life, from fathers and mothers to children and young adults. It should be easy for each viewer to identify with a particular character.

My hope is that the second half of the second season is as thrilling as the first half. However, I wouldn’t mind a few more somber moments. Also, incorporating flashbacks is a nice development. Eventually, we need to know a little more about how the world became infested with this virus. Season one’s CDC storyline was interesting, but not enough to satiate the palette.

Here’s hoping The Walking Dead continues to knock ’em dead.

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 McBride, Steven Yeun and Chandler Riggs

  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

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

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