The second series of The Walking Dead has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand we’ve been given something that I’ve always wanted – a zombie-based TV show – and on the other hand, that show has frequently demonstrated poor pacing and a lack of direction. But still we have a zombie TV show, so perhaps we shouldn’t complain too loudly.
The second series of The Walking Dead took place on Hershal’s farm, a locale where the protagonists hung out for little more than a couple of issues in the source material (a long-running cult-favourite comic of the same name), before things came to a head and the gang were forced to move on. Yet in the show, this lasted for something like 11 episodes. During this lengthy and frequently uneventful stay on the farm, it seemed to me like nothing of real consequence happened for whole episodes.
(It should be noted at this point that I like the comic book not only because of the badass zombie action it provides, but because it is first and foremost a story about people caught up in a difficult situation. One of the primary reasons I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction is that it can provide a platform for social commentary and the exploration of the ways communities evolve in and adapt to high-pressure situations. The comic does this, with perhaps more than a touch of melodrama, admirably. Yet the show, up until this point hasn’t managed to match the comic on this front – I have found the characters uninteresting and – at times – quite grating. If I appear to seem biased towards the more action-orientated aspects of this show, it is because it has – at least up until now – failed to provide consistently interesting characters or social interactions. And the action frequently kicks ass.)
As the finale unfolded, it was hard not to think that these events should have happened four or five episodes ago. Yet it was exciting to see the characters finally move on. Bringing the group together once they had fled the house allowed us to take stock of who we were left with. Throughout the series I haven’t been particularly engaged with the ensemble cast, yet seeing them all together, forced into a position where they will have to function as a cohesive group, I felt hopeful that perhaps this cast could provide an interesting dynamic as we move forward into the next series.
The zombie attack on the farm was possibly a highpoint of the series thus far. The action was exciting, fast-paced and perfectly paced as the group first try to defend the farm and then resorted to fleeing. The hazy shots of the crowds of zombies, backlit by the burning barn, were fitting goodbye to this chapter of the story.
Any fan of the comic will tell you that its backbone is Rick and his struggle to balance his humanity with what he is prepared to do to ensure the survival of the group and his family. Forcing Rick to kill Shane has proven their willingness to take Rick down darker paths that the comic didn’t shy away from. Rick’s brutal admission to the killing shows that he is prepared to embrace the necessary brutality of this new world in order to become the true leader that the group needs.
The series finished by providing fans of the comic with a couple of teasing glimpses of familiar faces and locales that the next series will introduce. That they let us know that these key aspects of the comic will form part of the story of the TV series is reassuring and has left this fan greatly anticipating the possibiliities of the next series.
Despite all the slip ups we have experienced since Frank Darabonts exceptional pilot episode, it feels like series three could be the best yet. The final reveal of the nearby prison and the brilliant entry of a mysterious hooded stranger, trailing two tame (armless, presumably toothless – I can’t recall from the comic) zombie on chains, was a tempting glimpse into future of the series.