By Andrew Williams
January 15, 2014
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).
Now, this is a story all about how… Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), reunited with his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) & wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), continues to fight for the lives of those he loves as a zombie apocalypse rages around him.
Happy days? Season Two of The Walking Dead takes the thrilling potential of stories set against a zombie-infested wasteland and produces all the drama of the end-of-year drinks at your local community theatre. It fails the most basic test of a television show: the audience needs to care about your characters, especially if those characters are constantly in danger of being disembowelled by the undead. Otherwise it’s just disembowelment for disembowelment’s sake. (I should mention here that The Walking Dead is wildly popular.)
Look elsewhere, lovers of subtext, as stock characters say exactly what they need to say in order for the plot to stagger forward. Salivating over the storytelling possibilities of our heroes meeting all kinds of colourful characters in haunting locales? Bad luck, suckers! It all takes place on the same farm. As for our heroes themselves, I know their names but I know absolutely nothing about them. Remember how nearly everyone on Lost had character depth and a fascinating back-story? The Walking Dead is like Lost if every character was Nikki or Paulo. And there’s a reason Lost buried those two alive.
It’s not all bad: one episode manages to be genuinely surprising and unsettling, the acting is workmanlike yet never particularly bad, and the makers know how to stage a zombie attack with some panache. But there is so little depth on display that if you replaced every single member of the cast with an animal you’d have essentially the same show. You’d probably have a better one.
The final frontier: A spectacularly squandered storytelling opportunity, The Walking Dead Season Two is mostly a waste of time. Play the game or read the comics instead.
Top three episodes: 7) Pretty Much Dead Already. A shocking and desperately sad twist briefly teases The Walking Dead as a tragedy with brains and guts. 8) Nebraska. The potential of this unique environment is finally explored as Rick runs into two men in a bar who may have predatory intentions. The resulting mind games are terrifically tense; another example of how good The Walking Dead could be if it wasn’t so beige. 12) Better Angels. A beautifully filmed showdown finally resolves the show’s most problematic storyline.
Worst episode: 2) Bloodletting. A foregone conclusion is a bad thing to build tension around, and Bloodletting’s question of ‘Will main cast member and son of the protagonist die in Season 2, episode 2?’ (spoiler alert: nope) is as foregone as it gets.
Season MVP: Michael Raymond-James (True Blood) shows up for one scene in Nebraska and promptly walks away with the entire season. It’s a terrific, charismatic, menacing performance that only goes to highlight just how bland the rest of the cast is.
Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:
The Walking Dead is available on Quickflix.