Series 2 of The Walking Dead began with the group of survivors barely getting away as Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich) gave up the CDC headquarters and destroyed them. They had decided to head for Fort Benning, an army base where they hoped they could find refuge from the walkers. They didn’t get far before getting stuck on a road blocked by dozens of abandoned cars.
While trying to work out where to go next, a herd of walkers forced them to hide, before Carol’s daughter Sophia was lost. They decided to stay put as they searched for Sophia, and while Rick, Shane and Carl were on one expedition to find her, Carl was shot, forcing Rick to desperately search for help. This led him to Hershel Greene’s farm, where most of the series took place.
The characters seemed to find a new home and relative peace in series 2, behind the scenes things were anything but stable. The Walking Dead was originally developed for television by Frank Darabont, the critically acclaimed director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. But although AMC (where the series is shown in America) was delighted with the show’s ratings, rumours were rife that the writers room was not a great place to be, with Darabont’s vision of the show not really suiting a TV serial. With the series split into two parts, the first 6 episodes to air were the last with Darabont as show runner. When the show returned in February, Glen Mazarra was now in charge, and he was forced to find ways to rejuvenate a show that was starting to stagnate as (almost) everyone began to settle into a relatively relaxed life on the farm.
But when the main attraction of the show is that it takes place in a post-zombie apocalypse world, there needs to be danger. While the show was never entirely zombie free, most of the blood and guts splattered onto screen away from the farm, and some of the melodrama taking place on and around the farm was dragging the show down. There were also problems with the characters too.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was something of a reluctant leader of the group of survivors, and the group looked to him more and more to make decisions for them. But he had a very bad habit of changing his mind, and this inability to stick to one path made him a frustrating character. This was illustrated in particular by the side story of Randall. Randall was a member of another group of survivors who were somewhere close to the town near the farm. After Rick, Glenn and Hershel had met two of them (this was one of the best scenes of the whole series) and had, shall we say, a disagreement, Randall was working with members of that group trying to shoot Rick and his friends. By Randall fell off a roof, impaling his leg on a fence, and while Rick initially decided to leave him, he then rescued him and brought him back to the farm. When he had recovered from his injury, Shane and Rick drove him away from the farm, intending to leave him, but when an angry Shane accidentally roused a herd of walkers, Rick brought Randall back to the farm again. Later, he’d decided to kill Randall, but stopped when his son Carl wanted to see him do it. This gave Shane the chance to release and subsequently kill Randall himself, which would then allow him to get Rick alone and kill him too.
Shane was also a problematic character, with the writers desperate to portray him as a bad guy. And although he was very evidently a nutcase, it was often difficult to disagree with his point of view, as he appeared to be one of the few survivors willing to accept that the only thing that matters during a zombie apocalypse is surviving. His relationship with Rick’s wife Lori was a running theme throughout the series too, and when Lori discovered she was pregnant, it made Rick and Shane’s relationship even more fractious. Lori is another character that is hard to like. She doesn’t seem to understand the world she now lives in, and her twin relationships with Shane and Rick lead her to make strange choices throughout the series. Of the other characters in the show, Dale was incredibly irritating, Andrea started to become more Shane-like, more often than not agreeing with him ahead of the others, and Daryl was another character who was indecisive, sometimes alienating himself from the group, and other times happy to help. The Greene family seemed to be ever-expanding, with only two of them, Hershel and Maggie really ever doing anything. Glenn continued to the group’s lackey, going off on trips for supplies and even being lowered down a well as bait for a stranded walker. And there’s not much to say about Carol, other than she spent most of the series moping about when Sophia was missing, then moping some more when it was discovered that she’d become a walker.
But although the series had its problems and flaws, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Before it aired, I felt all zombied out, having read several zombie books (although not The Walking Dead comic series), and watched a host of films, I thought the genre was running out of steam. But The Walking Dead was always watchable, and the final two episodes of the series were an excellent ending, and hopefully the beginning of a better run in series 3.