After months of waiting, season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead is finally here with last night’s premiere episode, “What Lies Ahead.” That sound you didn’t hear last night? The silence of millions of The Walking Dead fans sitting tense on the edge of their seats as they watched events unfold for Rick Grimes and his merry band of survivors.
The premiere for season two was definitely worth the wait. The episode picks up right where season one left off, with the survivors from the camp outside of Atlanta stopped on a highway as they flee the CDC. The theme of the episode seemed to be “In the zombie apocalypse, even the smallest snag can turn into a major, life-threatening problem that snowballs into certain death at a moment’s notice.” Intrigued? Then read on for a run-down of the episode’s highs and lows.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. SERIOUSLY, IF YOU READ ON EVERYTHING WILL BE SPOILED FOR YOU AND IT WON’T BE MY FAULT BECAUSE YOU CAN’T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. MOVING ON.
The best thing about “What Lies Ahead” is that it turned out to be one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead so far. The simplicity of its plot was its strength. Basically, Rick & Co. stop on the interstate when Dale’s RV breaks down, and while the group is fixing the RV and scavenging for supplies, a herd of walkers literally stumbles upon them. They’re forced to hide under cars until the walkers shuffle on, and it looks like their hasty plan to hide is working until one of the walkers spots Sophia and she runs into the woods to escape. Rick follows to protect her, but in the ?ourse of events loses Sophia. The rest of the episode revolves around the group searching for the missing 12-year-old.
Lost kid in the woods. In normal circumstances, that would call for an Amber Alert and an organized search party. But with zombies on the loose and who knows what else… the odds are against them and the situation is grim. See what I mean by small snags turning into humongous problems?
The highlights of the episode were the interactions between the characters. While there were plenty of bad-ass zombie kills (do not mess with Andrea when she’s holding a screwdriver), like most stories in The Walking Dead, the focus was undeniably on how the characters got along (or didn’t). One such interaction was between Andrea and Dale, when she forces him to man u? to the fact that he didn’t save her in the CDC, she saved him. He merely took away her choice of suicide instead of eventual death by zombie om-nomming. Another moment was when Daryl saved T-Dog (twice) from the walkers, first by stabbing one in the back of the skull with a crossbow bolt, and then by piling dead bodies on top of the wounded T-Dog so the zombies wouldn’t notice him. Gross? Yes. Effective? Extremely. It looks like Daryl is a much more forgiving and noble character than his brother Merle.
It wouldn’t be The Walking Dead without a few barf-inducing moments. Half the cast is made u? of the living dead, after all. The major gross-out moment was when Daryl and Rick gutted a fallen walker to examine the contents of its stomach for signs of Sophia. This scene goes beyond description. You have to watch it to understand. Then there were the creative zombie kills by Andrea (screwdriver to eye socket) and Rick (big-ass rock to skull). While in another TV show these moments might seem gratuitous (and out of place, unless I missed the fact that zombies are a regular occurrence on Desperate Housewives), in The Walking Dead they are absolutely essential. They’re meant to make the viewer consider two things: 1) How mu?h would it absolutely suck to live in a world where I had to bash people’s brains in with a rock on a regular basis, and 2) Could I do it?
The episode eased us back into the tension between Shane and Lori with only one short scene, which I think was a wise decision. Fans of the comic book know that the Shane/Lori/Rick plot is now deviating greatly from the source material (on account of Shane still being alive), but it would be a mistake to center all the drama on that triangle right away.
The final moment of the episode is one that ?ould make even someone who knows what’s coming from the comic books squirm. It’s painfully drawn out, entirely too peaceful and calm to not end in a horrible blood bath. But even knowing what is about to happen, it’s still shocking and painful to view.
On the whole, “What Lies Ahead” is a very solid start to the new season, and certainly an improvement over the last two episodes of season one. Tune in next week when we find out where the hell Sophia got to, who accidentally shot Carl, and whether or not these people can keep their kids out of trouble for five minutes.
We are the walking dead: Tune into AMC every Sunday night at 9pm for the latest episode of the little zombie show that could, The Walking Dead.