Anchor Bay // 2011 // 600 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 17th, 2012
For the living, death is only the beginning...
AMC sure is turning out some pretty great shows. First was their homage to 1960s ad men, with the critically acclaimed hit Mad Men. Next they offered up the highly addictive Breaking Bad. And then came the comic book inspired The Walking Dead, a tale of what happens after the world has been overrun by a zombie apocalypse. What's next for AMC? A show about zombies in the 1960s cooking up meth! The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season is now available on Blu-ray care of Anchor Bay Home Entertainment.
One day at a time is how Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his band of survivors look at life. That's the only way to look at it, when the world as you know it being overrun by the living dead. Rick and his group continue their trek to find safety and shelter, as danger lurks around every corner. The group struggles to stay together, as inner conflict begins to slowly creep in. Rick's wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) deal with Shane's (Jon Bernthal) slowly maddening mindset, after he was ceremoniously dumped by Lori (after finding out Rick was alive). Meanwhile, a fragile Andrea (Laurie Holden) contends with being forced to continue living, after a suicide attempt was thwarted by the peaceful Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn). Glenn (Steven Yeun) finds potential love, as the group wearily enters a new setting: Hershel Farms. Tensions rise, as Rick desperately tries to convince owner Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) to allow his group to set up camp within the safety of his farm, while the group continues to look for Carol's (Melissa McBride) lost daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz), who may or may not end up as part of a zombie meal plan.
Can Rick's group survive so many struggles? Will Hershel be able to keep his farm -- and family -- safe from outside forces? Will we get at least one scene where someone's intestines are yanked out of their torso?
Note: I'll be discussing the entire season, which may include a few minor spoilers.
The end of The Walking Dead's first season ended with a bang -- literally. Rick Grimes and company left the CDC after Dr. Jennings blew it up. On their way out, Rick and his group drove off into an uncertain future, one which paved the way for a season where anything can happen...and anyone can be killed.
Rick's group weren't the only ones finding their lives shaken to the core. Behind-the-scenes production on The Walking Dead has not been pretty. Although many of the details have been hidden from public view, all signs point to showrunner and creator Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) clashing with AMC over the show's direction and budget. Unceremoniously ousted, many feared the quality of the show would suffer without Darabont's steady hand, and who could blame them? Frank is one of the main reasons the first season turned out so well. Instead of being a brainless show about zombies, it turned out to be a complex human drama...about zombies. The good news is The Walking Dead not only survives, but thrives. It's the best show ever made about zombies, even if it's the only show ever been made about zombies.
I've had discussions with people about The Walking Dead and the main criticism I hear from those who have no interest in the show is that it's "just about zombies." That's like saying Lost is "just a show about an island." One of the reasons this series works so well is because it's not "just about zombies", but about people dropped into a situation where they have to make hard and often flawed decisions. Being somewhat of a zombie connoisseur, one of the reasons I love movies about the living dead isn't because of the rotting corpses -- although that certainly adds to the fun -- but because we get to see what people are capable of (both good and evil) under great duress.
Criticisms of this sophomore season have been wildly uneven. Some really enjoyed the storyline involving Hershel's farm, while others found it stagnant and repetitive. The truth is, the first season was epic in scope and had so much momentum it was hard to top where Darabont had taken Rick and his roaming group of survivors. A hefty bulk of that season spanned cities and counties, feeling a lot bigger than the second season does. The fact that Rick's group end up on a farm for most of these episodes doesn't help matters. Many complained the zombie screen time decreased, while the human characters (and their mundane issues) only increased. To that I say: So what? The show is still tense, driven, and some of the best drama on television.
While I can empathize with the idea that the zombies are seemingly given a backseat, a show like The Walking Dead isn't really about the zombies, per say. It's about people and what they do when the world falls apart. I actually want to see what people do when they are shoved together on a farm, forced to keep it and themselves safe from the undead (itself a nice nod to George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead). The Walking Dead's second season does just that.
Many of these episodes focus on each character coming into their own (or in the case of Shane, falling apart). We see people like Dale being more proactive about standing up to Shane's deteriorating mindset, and Daryl's confusion in where he stands with the group. Rick's leadership comes into question, as he makes decisions that often turn out to have both positive and negative consequences. Even some of the secondary characters are given a chance to shine, including Carol's breakdown during the disappearance of her daughter. That isn't to say every choice by the writers works. The show's only African American character, T-Dog, is short shifted through much of the season, only popping up to offer random comic relief, while Rick's son Carl is so accident prone he comes off as the horror equivalent of Mr. Bean.
The second season also introduces new characters to the fold, most prominently Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene. For my money, Hershel has become one of the most interesting people on the show; blinded by his conviction, this man makes many mistakes, while still being sympathetic to the viewer. I'm glad the writers decided to give him a reprieve at the end of the season, even though the character was killed off rather quickly in the original comic book. Scott Wilson is an excellent actor and I'm fascinated to see where they take Hershel next.
Less screen time for zombies doesn't mean the show skimps on the blood and guts. Bloated bodies are dragged from a water well, zombies are given an autopsy to see what their last meal was, and a barn full of the dead are blown to pieces during one of the show's most intense moments. The stories are so involving, their absence is something I hardly noticed.
Is The Walking Dead a perfect show? No, but that's a goal damn near impossible to attain. Even with its flaws, I can't wait to see what lies ahead for Rick's group: the mysterious prison, the insidious Governor, and...Michonne!
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, I'm pleased with how each of these episodes look. The show has been filmed in a gritty style, meaning there is more grain than usual present, which only helps the visual feel and context. The colors are vibrant, even when the show is bathed in black and red blood, and those black levels are consistent. The TrueHD 7.1 Surround mix is fantastic, filling every speaker with shotgun blasts, grumbling zombie howls, Bear McCreary's atmospheric music (has there been a better main theme in recent years?), and small details which will give your home theater a sweaty workout. Also included are a French Dolby 2.0 language track, as well as English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season is packed with a nice amount of bonus features. The best are a group of informative and amusing audio commentaries (for episodes "What Lies Ahead," "Pretty Much Dead Already," "Nebraska," "Judge, Jury, Executioner," and "Beside the Dying Fire") with producers Glen Mazzara, Gale Anne Hurd, creator/writer Robert Kirkman, actors Scott Wilson and Steven Yeun, and effects artist Greg Nicotero (just to name a few). There are also multiple featurettes on the making of the show ("All the Guts Inside," "Live or Let Die," "The Meat of the Music," "Fire on Set," "The ink is Alive," "The Sounds of the Effects," "In the Dead of Winter," "You Could Make a Killing," "She Will Fight," "The Cast on Season Two," and "Extras Wardrobe") which are anywhere from two to ten minutes in length; twenty minutes of Webisodes, and a half hour worth of deleted scenes with optional commentary.
Don't believe the naysayers: The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season is riveting and absorbing entertainment on every level. I highly recommend this show, even to those who wouldn't step foot into a zombie movie.
Not Guilty. A gut-munching good time!
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 7.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site