The television series The Walking Dead premiered its second season in all its nightmarish, blood-soaked glory this past Sunday, Oct. 16. Maintaining the same form as its inaugural season, the premier episode delivered tense horror in conjunction with well-developed characters and an engaging storyline.
The show follows a group of survivors during a zombie apocalypse as they attempt to leave Atlanta and find some kind of safehouse to protect them from the horrors around them. After discovering that the CDC facility in Atlanta provide neither safety nor medicine, the group heads out to find on the way highway to find more supplies and shelter. In this particular episode, they stumble onto a roadblock of abandoned cars and attempt to stock up on supplies as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. Along the way, one of their children is chased by zombies and gets lost in the woods, leaving the community to decide how to find her without endangering themselves. Without spoiling the ending, the final twist in this episode is quite shocking and unexpected from any television show.
The series draws characters from all aspects of society. This includes the central character Rick, a police officer, as well as his family, friends and the other survivors he encounters. The community includes personalities from the hardened survivors to the more frightened and shell-shocked ones who come to terms with death and horror around them.
Atmospherically, no show delivers this level of tension and nerve-wracking suspense. An opening scene locks the characters in a zombie migration, pitting them under cars as they do their best to keep quiet. A moment that catches all of the characters by surprise, it forces them to improvise and fight in various ways from using rocks and kitchen knives to hiding underneath corpses.
This program minces nothing grotesque and does away with the aesthetic violence in standard action shows.
Everything that the characters must do, from killing the living dead to autopsying them is shown in unfiltered, graphic detail. The look and killing of the zombies is realistic looking as well as completely revolting.
The characters, while likeable and engaging, come off as more a collective than in other shows. Acting as more of an organic whole and less as individuals, their struggles are more sympathetic as a community and less by their singular personas.
Their inner conflicts, while amplified by extenuating circumstances, are still largely the social and power conflicts that affect people in everyday life. The over-arching conflict of this season appears to potential dissolution of the group with several members’ inner feelings beginning to conflict with the goals and dynamics of the collective. Even religious faith is dealt with as it usually must be in any situation of crisis.
Horror and violence aside, this show is as much of an examination of how peoples were together in a time of crisis.
Since zombies have no distinguishing characteristics or qualities, their presence more like that of a disease or a hurricane than a genuine enemy.
This show’s strengths lie on diametrically opposing ends. It satisfies the thirst for action, horror and suspense through its stylistic flair and gritty realism. However, it also portrays an illustration of communities in times of crisis, showing a person’s relationship and duties to the community he or she belongs to. It’s a blend of heightened violence and suspenseful style with an intimate look at social structures and institutions.