The Walking Dead
9 p.m. Sunday, AMC. Viewer discretion is advised in a biiiig way.
The makers of The Walking Dead clearly heard some of the audience complaints about last seasons slow pacing and excessive jibber-jabber regarding what constitutes morally appropriate behavior in a post-apocalyptic climate. Perhaps thats why Season 2 of Americas most-watched zombie-oriented TV series begins with a steady barrage of gunshots to undead foreheads, throat impalements and walker-eyeball stabbings.
That doesnt even count the partial amputation of a key characters leg or the murder of a defenseless hoot owl. Hey, a zombie-apocalypse survivors gotta eat.
Yes, seven months after the Season 2 finale in which the Walking Dead survivors bolted from Hershels farm in the wake of a rotter takeover, the series has returned, moving home base to an (almost) abandoned prison and cranking up the action to zombie-kill 11. Thats good news for those who watch this AMC drama for the thrill of the goosh-thud of walkers permanently meeting their makers.
But viewers who savor the shows prickly tension and existential themes may find themselves pondering a question once sort of posed by Bob Dylan: How many roads filled with zombies can a fan walk down before she decides to change the channel?
The shows creative forces are eager to give the small band of rugged survivors more to worry about than the zombie hordes. Its a human threat, embodied most ominously by a new character known as the Governor, that awaits them.
Its not about zombies
In less than two years, The Walking Dead has jumped into a crowded pop culture pool of serial killers, vampires and dragons to become a darling of the horror/fantasy set while managing to draw a broader audience that usually avoids genre entertainment. The series ranks as one of basic cables highest-rated dramas and finished its second season with a ratings bang. It corralled 9 million viewers and set a record among younger viewers.
The show has also become a vital franchise for AMC, home to prestige dramas Mad Men and Breaking Bad, which are winding down.
To be fair, only two episodes from this third season which splits its 16 installments into two chunks, October to December and again starting in February were made available to critics. Based on teasers, as well as the events that unfold in Robert Kirkmans graphic novels, on which the show is based, we know the prison move and the introduction of new characters (the ruthless, sword-wielding Michonne) promise to take the narrative in fresh directions.
In the meantime, dont be surprised if these first two hours feel, at times, a little been bitten there, already zombie-killed that.
In the few months that have passed in the Walking Dead narrative, things have changed, but only a tad.
Perpetually conflicted leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a little more decisive. His wife, Lori Grimes, is a bit more pregnant, but no one can be bothered to throw her a baby shower because, you know, zombies. Their son, Carl a preteen whose lack of supervision last season inspired a Tumblr and a Jeopardy category titled Where is Carl?! is still not being adequately supervised. But now his voice has changed, which means his sassy comments sound slightly more mature.
Why we keep watching
These hardy souls in post-apocalyptic survival-scrapping will focus episodes 1 and 2 (Oct. 21) on turning that jail into a cozy home where they can comfortably rest without fear of their faces being chewed off. Some obstacles naturally get in the way, including one that pushes a main characters survival into the maybe category and leads to a scene that may make even the most gore-obsessed a little teary. The Walking Dead can still surprise us that way.
Thats one of the reasons why we must keep watching.
We also must keep watching to reassure ourselves that if faced with a global meltdown, zombie-virus-related or otherwise, we could survive, even though we dissolve into puddles when the power company cant flick the electricity back on three days after a storm.
Well keep watching to find out how long our undead-battling posse can survive at the prison. Well keep watching to keep track of how many zombie eyeballs get stabbed during the season, since theres a good chance this show may set a Guinness World Record. Well keep watching because we just know Carl is going to make some terrible decisions that will turn into hilarious Internet memes that we wont grasp nearly as quickly if we havent kept up with the action.
And well keep watching because we want to believe that if a time comes when the dead really do walk the Earth, attention must be paid to the living who stubbornly remain. The Los Angeles Times contributed