Zombies are all the rage these days. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the pilot for "The Walking Dead" managed to score the highest ratings for a series premiere on AMC. Based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman, "Walking Dead" shows us how a small group of diverse individuals struggles to survive under horrific circumstances.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a deputy from King County, Georgia, is ostensibly the leader of the survivors. He awoke from a coma and went on a search for his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and son, Carl (Chandler Riggs). Unbeknownst to Rick, his best friend, Shane (Jon Bernthal), had told them he was dead and shacked up with Lori. Upon Rick's return, tension grew between them and built to a fever pitch in season 2. Then, there's Andrea (Laurie Holden), who had her heart figuratively ripped out following the death of her younger sister, Amy (Emma Bell). Initially despondent and suicidal, Andrea slowly grows into the battled hardened woman that current readers of the comic know.
"The Walking Dead" itself faced as much of an uncertain future as its cast of characters. AMC was plagued by rumors of backstage turmoil as executives clashed with the creators of their biggest shows, "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad." The network reportedly wanted to slash the budget of "Walking Dead" while pocketing lucrative tax credits for themselves. They wanted more indoor scenes and fewer zombies to save money. Eventually showrunner Frank Darabont was fired only days after promoting the series at Comic-Con 2011. The behind-the-scenes upheaval may have played a role in the slipshod nature of the second season. When last we left the survivors, they had escaped a zombie filled Atlanta and the destruction of CDC headquarters. A near-tragic accident involving Carl leads Rick and the gang to the farmhouse of veterinarian Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson). The survivors find respite there, but overstay their welcome, both for Hershel and the audience. The dead may walk, yet it seems all the living do is talk with the most frequent complaint of season 2 being too much drama and not enough action.
When it does fire on all cylinders, "Walking Dead" is suspenseful and atmospheric. Under the watchful eye of make-up guru Greg Nicotero, the zombies are every bit the ravenous hordes that haunt your nightmares.
Anchor Bay has released all 13 episodes of season 2 in this 4-disc set. The episodes included are:
- "What Lies Ahead" – Following the explosion in Atlanta, Rick leads the survivors to possible safe haven only to be separated by a zombie attack.
- "Bloodletting" – After Carl is accidentally wounded by a hunter, the survivors are taken to the farm of a veterinarian named Hershel Greene.
- "Save the Last One" – Rick and Lori watch over Carl as Shane fights to return with much-needed medical supplies and Daryl & Andrea continue to search for Sophia.
- "Cherokee Rose" – Hershel wants the group to move along once Carl is healed, but Rick tries to convince him to let them stay.
- "Chupacabra" – Daryl continues his search for Sophia while Glenn's proposed tryst with Maggie leads to the discovery of a shocking secret.
- "Secrets" – As the title suggests, Rick learns more about what went on between Shane and Lori while he was in a coma as Glenn and Dale deals with what Hershel hid in the barn.
- "Pretty Much Dead Already" – Hershel's hidden secrets are literally let out of the barn.
- "Nebraska" – In the aftermath of the previous episode, Rick and Glenn search for a missing Hershel.
- "Triggerfinger" – Rick, Glenn, and Hershel are confronted by another group of gun-toting survivors as the pressure grows between Lori and Shane.
- "18 Miles Out" – Rick and Shane argue over what to do with Randall, a rival survivor, who may reveal the location of their safe haven to others.
- "Judge, Jury, Executioner" – Dale tries to be the voice of reason as the group debates about what to do with Randall.
- "Better Angels" – Rick and Shane finally have their confrontation as Carl watches on.
- "Beside the Dying Fire" – After splintering emotionally, the group is physically separated as zombies surround the farmhouse.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. "The Walking Dead" is shot on 16mm so there's an inherent grain in the picture. That doesn't hurt the quality at all. Rather, it adds a level of texture that wouldn't be found in an immaculate digital transfer. It certainly harkens back to the golden days of George Romero. Colors are still bold and fine details shine through.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1, which packs a tremendous wallop. You may find yourself looking over your shoulder to see if a walker is there. The moans of the zombies and the shuffling of their feet come in crystal clear while more powerful sounds like gunshots, the score, and the tearing of flesh reverberate.
Disc 1 features an audio commentary track for "What Lies Ahead" with executive producers Glen Mazzara, Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman and David Alpert. Disc 2 features an audio commentary track for "Pretty Much Dead Already" with Mazzara, producer Scott M. Glimple, director Michelle MacLaren and editor Julius Ramsay. There's also an audio commentary track for "Nebraska" with Mazzara, co-executive producer Evan Riley, Scott Wilson and Steven Yuen. For Disc 3, you'll find an audio commentary track for "Judge, Jury, Executioner" with Mazzara, Greg Nicotero, writer Angela Kang and Laurie Holden. Finally, disc 4 features an audio commentary track for "Beside the Dying Fire" with Mazzara, director Ernest Dickerson, Greg Nicotero, Robert Kirkman and Norman Reedus.
The rest of the extras can be found on disc 4, including a host of featurettes.
All the Guts Inside (5:34) looks at the effects work that went into the zombie autopsy sequence.
In the Dead Water (5:05) is a behind-the-scenes featurette about the zombie trapped in the well from "
Live or Let Die (5:51) focuses on Jon Bernthal and how the character of Shane has evolved in the comics and television show.
You Could Make a Killing (6:20) focuses on Greg Nicotero's make-up effects and his work as director on "Judge, Jury, Executioner."
The Meat of the Music (7:54) takes us into the studio of composer Bear McCreary as he records the orchestral score for the series.
She Will Fight (5:40) focuses on Laurie Holden and the character of Andrea.
Fire on Set (6:10) is all about Hershel's Farm, how the producers discovered the location, and how the production team built a weathered barn from scratch.
The Cast on Season 2 (4:50) is a brief promotional piece that previews the sophomore season.
The Ink is Alive (9:06) is an interview with Robert Kirkman as he discusses the differences between the TV show and the comic book.
Extras Wardrobe (2:48) is a quick piece that finds wardrobe artist Eulyn Womble dressing the zombies.
The Sound of the Effects (4:32) looks at how the foley effects are done.
Webisodes (19:42) is a six-part series of shorts, entitled "Torn Apart," which revolve around life during the initial outbreak and the origin of the Bicycle Zombie from the pilot. There's also an optional commentary track from Greg Nicotero.
Finally, you'll get almost half an hour of deleted scenes.
"The Walking Dead: Season 2" suffers from a pace every bit as plodding as the stereotypical zombie. The characters are thinly drawn and the storylines feel stretched beyond the breaking point. However, the final episodes are examples of the show at its best. Hopefully, season 3 is an improvement as they introduce the sword-wielding Michonne, the megalomaniacal Governor, and the return of Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon.