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The Walking Dead! Season 2! IT’S HERE!

by on October 14, 2011

The cast of The Walking Dead (Matthew Welch/AMC)

Grab your blunt objects and your loved ones and get ready for FUN ON THE RUN! Fun being kind of a subjective term in this case, but hey… it’s fun for us! Mostly. Other times it’s as grim as it gets. And that’s why we love it. The Walking Deadfinally returns to AMC for its second season this Sunday, and having seen the first two episodes (Short review: HOMFG AWESOMESAUCE), I thought I might toss out a few key points worth chatting about before this sprawling epic of undead mayhem begins its sophomore shuffle.

Before I do, however, a couple of very important notes about SPOILERS:

- There will NOT be any spoilers for the two episodes (this week’s and next), and not merely because it just wouldn’t be kosher. Even if you read the comics and you think you know what will happen, as the first season of The Walking Dead made it perfectly clear, you don’t. At all. And that’s as it should be.

- There MIGHT be some spoilers regarding the Walking Dead comic series, but only as pertains to the events which take place BEFORE the comparable point in the story which the television series has reached now. Further than that, I’m sayin’ nothing. Also, as it should be. So, if you haven’t read the comics but plan to… eh, skip this one. You’ll still enjoy the show. And the comic.

So, without further adieu… Opinions on the internet. I haz them.

Jon Bernthal as Shane, Andy Lincoln as Rick and Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori (Matthew Welch/AMC)

Jon Bernthal as Shane, Andy Lincoln as Rick and Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori (Matthew Welch/AMC)

- Keeping Shane around is the best creative decision this team has made. One thing which Robert Kirkman has constantly underlined in his interviews about being in the writers room on The Walking Dead is how writing the same story twice holds no interest for him whatsoever, so he’s one of the most vocal proponents of changing shit up in order to keep everyone – fans of the comic included – guessing. Certainly a wise decision, and not without precedent in TV. (Ever read Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels? By the end of the first one, Deb Morgan knows her brother’s a serial killer. We are now at the top of the sixth season of the TV series and she still doesn’t know.)

One of the hugest changes to The Walking Dead from the comics is the fact that now, having made their way out of the vicinity of Atlanta, Shane is still with the group. Not dead, as he very much is before now in the comics. And that is fantastic not merely because Jon Bernthal’s charismatic, unpredictable performance is a joy to watch, but because having Shane around completely changes the dynamic of the group in ways that far outstrip the complicated, semi-secret love triangle between him, Lori, and Rick. As circumstances cause everyone in our core group of survivors to ponder the gravity of where they are now and where they go from here – especially Rick, and Andrew Lincoln does some of his best work yet as our erstwhile hero starts to have his mettle tested like never before – Shane’s presence will have ramifications that promise to be very intriguing to watch they pan out. That’s clear right from our first episode back.

- Jeffrey DeMunn was born to play Dale. He really didn’t get as much to do, as a lot of fans of the comic hoped in the too-brief first season of the series, and whole subplots involving the character were either dropped or merely hinted at (we won’t know for sure until this season progresses). That said – nerd moment approaching! – one of my favorite moments at Comic-Con this year was getting to tell Jeff DeMunn how I thought early on while the series was in development that he (a frequent Frank Darabont staple) would make a perfect Dale, and how thrilled I was when he got the part. (His reaction was totally humble and rather adorable. Brilliant character actors FTW!) Anyway, the first couple of episodes of Season Two indicate that big-hearted, earnest – perhaps, sometimes, too much – Dale will be more of a major player as we move forward, and that’s excellent news indeed.

Lauren Cohen as Maggie (Gene Page/AMC)

Lauren Cohen as Maggie (Gene Page/AMC)

- Maggie is your new favorite character. Get used to it.Though we lost some great characters to “the big chomp” as it were in season one (*sniffle* Amy! We love you, Emma Bell!), we have some new faces to get to know, and if you are familiar with the characters from the comics, you’ll be pleased indeed. The excellent Scott Wilson is pitch-perfect as farmer Hershel, and hired hand Otis is in the capable hands of Pruitt Taylor-Vince. But by the time episode two rolls around, get ready to fall in deep crush (or girl-crush, depending on which way you swing) with Hershel’s bad-ass daughter, Maggie, played by Lauren Cohen. Without giving anything away, there is a Maggie moment in episode two that will make you a die-hard fan inside of about three seconds. She’s AWESOME, and she’ll be a fantastic addition to the group. (And yes, I’m sidestepping a major development for her character from the comics because that’s a *future* spoiler, but if you know… you know, don’t you? Yep, she’s definitely crush-worthy.)

- Glen Mazzara seems more than capable of steering this ship. I could double the length of this blog if I dove into the issue of Frank Darabont’s exit as showrunner of The Walking Dead. But I won’t, mainly because so many have already and we’re about to find out soon enough how the second season pans out without him, though he did map out a lot of the season’s arc before he departed. (Believe me, it’s hard not to bust out the thinky-thoughts. I’m an enormous Darabont fan, his grasp of both genre and storytelling are second to none. I don’t really collect autographs the way some of my geek brethren do, but one of my prized posessions is a copy of Darabont’s rejected Indiana Jones 4 script which he gamely signed “OY VEY!… Frank Darabont.” Legend.) The point is this: Glen Mazzara, best known for his work on The Shield, is steering the boat now and he wrote the second episode – which deals with an extremely crucial, emotional storyline and it is handled in a most thoughtful, unflinching and impressive manner. Don’t fret, kids. He’s got this.

- Even when you know what’s coming, you SO DON’T. One of the biggest aspects of The Walking Dead‘s appeal is that, as all great zombie lore is required to adhere to, anything could happen and everyone is fair game. Some of what plays out in the first two episodes of season two might not be a total shocker if you’ve read the comics, but the devil is in the details. It’s not always about the shocking moments, but rather about how our cast of characters deal with the fallout and the decisions they make which drives the story forward. That aspect of the show is certainly intact and promises yet more drama, thrills and splatters in the weeks to come. Shit’s about to get realer than real, folks.

Tune in to The Walking Dead‘s season two premiere this Sunday, October 16th at 9PM Eastern/Pacific on AMC. And be sure to stick around after for the premiere of The Talking Dead, the live post-show chat fest hosted by our own fearless leader, Chris Hardwick! His first night’s guests are Patton Oswalt, James Gunn, and the mastermind himself, Robert Kirkman. That is a USDA Choice panel, people. Any number of zombies would be drooling, and so should you!