After several excruciating months of wondering what exactly Dr. Jenner whispered into Rick’s ear in the final episode of the first season, The Walking Dead returns! However, we’re no closer to finding out Dr. Jenner’s last words, though. Most people I know are assuming it’s news of a pregnancy involving Lori, but I’m not convinced that’s it. A theory I have is that it could also have been some information regarding someone in the group being infected who doesn’t know it. Or maybe they do know, and they’re trying to hide it. It would be all too easy if they revealed the secret right away, and we open on Rick attempting to contact Morgan via walkie talkie. He’s about to tell us what he was told, teasing us, almost revealing it, then nothing. They’ve got to keep us coming back somehow, so he keeps it to himself…for now.
The second season premiere is entitled “What Lies Ahead,” and the episode does a great job of setting up what to expect from the new season. We find our little group of survivors abandoning Atlanta and heading for a new haven in Fort Benning. Several characters are faced with making tough decisions that could alter the dynamic of the group. I’m most excited to see what Andrea (Laurie Holden) decides to do considering her attempted suicide. She confronts Dale (Jeffery DeMunn) a few times on the road in this episode, claiming he took away her choice to get out of the entire situation the way she wanted. It’s an interesting storyline that I hope is explored a bit more, especially considering a new connection she has to Shane (Jon Bernthal).
The episode centers around the camper breaking down on the road to Fort Benning. Fortunately, they’re surrounded by abandoned cars, so parts are abundant. Repairs and looting begin, as well as a few conversations. Shane tells Lori that he’s leaving the group, just as soon as he can. Andrea overhears, and she wants in on Shane’s exit plan. Then, of course, the zombies appear.
I’m constantly impressed by The Walking Dead‘s ability to take something so small, like the car breaking down, and have that be the catalyst for an entire episode’s predicament. A seemingly mundane occurrence sets in motion an intense situation that I think the show needed to get us back on track. It reminds viewers why we are on this ride and why we keep coming back for the gore and the nastiness. We enjoy being scared, and we enjoy a good story. Needless to say, everyone has to hide, and there aren’t too many options for hiding places. The cars are going to have to do.
It surprises me, though, how no one ever seems to hear or see the zombie horde, or herd, as Andrea calls it, that always seems to be conveniently lurking just around the corner. I suppose it makes for good suspense, and the show somehow manages to earn its thrills and not rely on cheap shock value gimmicks.
The makeup in this episode is incredibly solid. I mean, I watched the episode in HD and nothing seemed obvious or out of place. The zombies are still incredibly believable and scary. Skin chunks fall off of faces, guts are splayed out for the whole world to see. It’s sick, so it’s effective and only slightly excessive, but I suppose that’s why some people watch the show. Seriously, this needs to win the Emmy for best makeup.
Several differences between the comics and the show are very apparent by this stage. They don’t bother me too much, as I think I’d be bored knowing exactly what is going to happen. One major difference is Shane still being around. In the comics, he meets an untimely death, but frankly, I’m okay with his character being there. It creates a tension for the human stories being told that is different than the scary/grody tension of the zombies trying to eat people’s faces off. And as we all know, any well-told zombie story worth its salt is about the people left behind and not the zombies.
There’s a big shock at the end of the episode, one I won’t reveal here, but I will say that it makes me think Jenner might have said something about a possible pregnancy after all. The show seems to be moving in a different direction from the comics now, and fans may feel tense, as I did, since I thought the series would follow the events of the comics more closely. The show continues to surprise me, though.
Besides, I’m glad Shane is still alive, because, really, he’s my eye candy. He’s half the reason I watch the show! Just check this out: