My principle complaint of the first season of The Walking Dead was that at just six episodes long there wasn’t really much more to it in either time or depth, than a standard feature film. The great news is that with thirteen episodes and all the foundations already in place, season 2 finally gave me what I’d been hoping for. The extended runtime was put to really good use with characters and stories being developed with far more care and detail than any film ever could.
For me, probably 75% of my enjoyment of television shows comes from watching characters develop, working why they do what they do, and how they change as they’re affected by whatever occurrences the writers throw at them. Season 2 of The Walking Dead eases up on the running around evading zombies and could almost be seen as an extended character study.
The season plays out over just a couple of weeks (maybe even only a few days) as the group find somewhere to settle for a while, maybe even permanently. As people stop having to focus on the immediate day-to-day fight to survive, priorities change, relationships adjust and the whole dynamic of the group shifts. Characters can start to evaluate what’s happened, who they are now and how they want to live in this new world. The characters grow beyond the limited fences imposed by the large cast and short runtime of the first season. Everyone gets more attention and characters that I’d mostly ignored because of their background position in the group got a little more depth and interest to them. The new additions to the group who have been surviving in an entirely different way challenge the characters and relationships even further, asking questions that may otherwise not have occurred to anyone.
There are still plenty of practical issues of survival for the group to deal with and I thought the pacing of the season was well handled, not just building and relieving tension smoothly but occasionally startling me with sudden jumps or even more cleverly, introducing moments of calm into the chaos. The show is beautifully produced, and every shot, whether an edge of seat action sequence or a lingering shot of a zombie shambling across a field is gorgeously framed and lit.
There are still a few problems with the show – cliché moments, appearing and disappearing plot threads and overly contrived scenarios litter the scripts. I also still struggle to relate to some of the ‘lead’ characters who I wouldn’t really want to be stuck with in any sort of crisis. While that’s probably intentional, sometimes it felt like the writers were trying a little too hard to make their leaders flawed and the fact the other characters don’t stage a coup becomes increasingly unrealistic. I also continue to struggle with Andrew Lincoln, I’m not sure he has enough ‘oomph’ for the role and I am unconvinced by his accent.
My recommendation to anyone that hasn’t been watching is to pick up the first two series together and just watch them straight through back to back. Season 1 is really just an extended trailer, establishing the world they are living in, It’s Season 2 where the meaty stuff kicks in and there’s an interesting exploration of what happens to people and society long term. This was far more the show that I’d been hoping for!