The Walking Dead Series 2

October 24th, 2013

Yeah, I know I’m way behind, but so it goes. Don’t spoiler me, people.

Enjoyed this quite a lot, actually, though not without its weaknesses.  I’d heard it was rather a limited/small scale/disappointing season and, yeah, they did use smaller locations and tread water quite a bit, but it still delivered on the basic premise – people adapting to immense pressures, struggling with the apocalypse, and occasionally being torn apart by zombies.  As basic premises go, it’s a goddamn winner, with tension inherent in every empty building, abandoned car, stretch of woodland, and one area they never really compromise on are the zombies themselves, which have rarely looked better (or worse).

Writing’s really rather uneven, though.  There’s a fair bit of drama squeezed from sulking and arguing over personal minutiae that surely would be a little bit moot at the end of the world.  Then there’s a lot, and I mean a LOT, of that hoary old horror standby: characters doing really ridiculous shit in order to create situations that need to be solved, usually involving wandering off on their own for reasons that seem absolutely incomprehensible/no real reason at all, even though character X previously got ripped apart by zombies doing exactly that and afterwards there was a big meeting in which everyone said ‘let’s never wander off on our own for really ridiculous reasons, eh?’  This is somewhat eye-rolling of itself, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of undermining your sympathy and, indeed, belief in the characters too.  I HAVE NO PATIENCE WITH PEOPLE WHO BEHAVE LIKE THIS.  Not helping either is that generally these moments of plot-specific stupidity are inflicted by the women and children, which tends to create a rather unhelpful vibe of tetchy, inconsistent, emotional and useless women and children of the group producing noble/ignoble/incompetent reactions in the heroic/villainous/incompetent men of the group.

Quality of acting is pretty patchy as well, with characters feeling like they wandered out of a range of different TV programmes and were arbitrarily combined in this one.  Gravitas, weight and believability from the likes of old timer Scott Wilson.  From some of the younger cast . . . less.  The realities of the zombie-plague and state of the world are best not considered in too much depth either – huge swarms in one spot but a couple of miles away they haven’t even had to board up their windows?  Desperate conservation of ammunition one moment, popping off practice rounds like there’s no tomorrow the next?  Scavenging out a bleak existence near the city with every can of beans or drop of petrol like gold, a few miles further on, meat on the hoof and lights running as normal?  But, as with Battlestar Galactica, the premise works best when you don’t think too closely, and concentrate on the reaction of the people to it.  And that reaction is, at times, splendidly ruthless, vile, and unsentimental.  I’m the type of guy who always found Saruman more interesting than Gandalf, Boromir more interesting than Aragorn, and it’s the conflicted, mixed, suspect characters here that become the most interesting.

Sure, creeping around in woods and bludgeoning zombies’ skulls in can be entertaining, but whether people can retain their humanity in a world where moment to moment survival is a desperate struggle is really the central question of the show, and it’s when it tackles that question that it’s most powerful.  Similar ground to that which the Last of Us covered so effectively, and the Walking Dead manages some powerful and shocking moments of its own.  I can’t think of many shows that succeed for me so well despite being so mixed as far as my liking for the characters and the writing goes.  But then I can forgive a lot in something with such a bold and ruthless lack of sentiment.  And zombies.

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on October 24th, 2013.

27 comments so far

  • Ran says:

    I have seen season 3 but haven’t started 4 yet, well, there only is one episode of that so far I think.

    Like you Joe, I enjoy the walking dead, but not so much for the story the writer is trying to tell as much as the sub plots. Without spoiling anything for you, I can say that it’s not always the biggest threat that is the scariest for the characters or the viewers. I found this in the series Revolution also, it can be tense because of what is taking place, but it’s those short scenes that really have your heart in your mouth.

    My favourite character was Shane, not because I would have wanted to be behind him to get me through a particular experience, but because as much of an arse as he became, if you break it down and really think about what he did, you can’t really argue with his thinking/reasoning. Much the same as the point you made with Boromir I guess?

    I am looking forward to season 4, but I’m a saver. I hate season breaks so refuse to watch anything until each season has finished and I can sit back with a couple of cans and crisps to escape to my own world.

    I can recommend season 3 for you Joe, it was a weaker story in my opinion, but there are a few unexpected twists and shocks as well as quite a few character developments setting up nicely for season 4.


  • Sara FE says:

    I felt almost the same when I watched the second season, even though my phobia of/obsession with zombies overwhelmed my brain most of the time. Thinking too much and trying to analyze what happens and so on is not always/ever very flattering to the TV shows.
    If you need an additional zombie series to watch I can recommend “Dead Set”. Very entertaining.

  • akarthis says:

    drop the series and play the video game.

  • Franck says:

    Yeah the Telltale game is A-freaking-mazing.

  • OJ Stapleton says:

    Which First Law character would be best suited for living in the world of The Walking Dead? I’m thinking Friendly.

  • red snow says:

    I take it you’re a Shane fan too? A lot of people hate him but I respected that he made difficult decisions.

  • Mesidin says:

    I agree with akarthis. The game by Telltale is very good.

    I enjoyed the third season much more than the second. There was way too much stalling around the farm house. Maybe it’s just my memory, but it feels like there was much more moving forward in the third. I do hate that they’ve seemed to ignore the world building laid down in the first season. Bites don’t turn you into a zombie. You are already one, just waiting to die. Sure, a bite or injury could kill you from infection or blood loss, but at least give people the chance to die. It’s not like everyone in the group isn’t an old hand at killing these things already anyway.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    OJ Stapleton,
    A lot of the first law characters are pretty well adjusted for this scenario. Ferro, Black Dow, Friendly, Monza, they’d all get by. Bayaz would flourish of course. But the total collapse of civilised society? Bremer dan Gorst would be in flipping HEAVEN. I was thinking at times, boy, a heavily armoured master swordsman would be extremely effective against zombies.

  • Adam says:

    Your second paragraph hits it on the head, Joe, and is the reason I gave up on the show in Season 3 (which I never finished, and don’t really care to). The characters just got so damn stupid, I couldn’t put up with it anymore.

    I agree with you about Scott Wilson’s acting, though. He was one of the highlights.

  • Travis says:

    Reminds me of the Blair Witch Project… if I’d been there I’d have killed those idiots myself…

  • Mike G says:

    Yes, the 2nd half of the season was much stronger than the first- especially when they started showing the danger that “outsider” groups could pose. Way too much time was spent on “Where’s Sophia!!??” It didn’t help that we really didn’t spend any time at all with this character previously to care.

    I sort of agree to how curious it was that the farm like of became this Zombie free oasis, while the rest of the world is a living hell. From what we see,all it really had was a standard low-ish wood fence wide about the perimeter.

    Of course, the eventual did swarm barrel it over quickly, but you would think the threat of stragglers would always be ever present.

  • Dangerboyjim says:

    I thought season 3 picked up the pace a bit. Let’s face it, it’s the best long running zombie apocalypse by a country mile.

    There are still loads of moments where you can’t help but think if just a couple got their shit together for a few minutes they could do more than just barely survive.

    A bit of armour, some swords and some well placed barricades and they’d be fine.

  • AntMac says:

    I love reading things you write, man. =]

    I just hear them being read out in this amused, ironical voice, and it makes me smile.
    “Gravitas, weight and believability from the likes of old timer Scott Wilson. From some of the younger cast . . . less”.

    *me* =]

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    If you want to see a movie that expertly mocks the ridiculously contrived situations in horror movies then you should watch Cabin in the Woods.

  • Thaddeus says:

    No spoilers, but I think season 3 is some distance better than season 2. The latter had its moments, but could drag a bit and sometimes there was rather a long wait for some action.

  • Myles says:

    Forget guns, a really disciplined Ancient Roman/Medieval army would destroy zombies, easy.

    But yes, the first half of season 3 is probably its best so far, it falls apart in the second half, bar an episode called ‘Safe’ which s probably my favourite episode of it so far.

  • Dangerboyjim says:

    I’d like to see that!

    Or maybe 14th century, a cavalry charge in full plate against a field of zombies would be a sight to see.

  • Thaddeus says:

    It puzzles me slightly that no-one thinks to break into a museum and steal suits of armour. Yes, they’re noisy and slow you down, but a zombie’s teeth would take a bloody long time to gnaw through chainmail. Plus, lots of the weapons in there would be useful for melee fighting.

  • Andy K says:

    I know it took some flack, but I loved the slow pacing of season two, and I thought that the big mid-season barn scene was one of the best moments of television ever. So many relationships, and the tensions in them, were both highlighted and moved on by that scene with barely a single word spoken, I thought that was great work by the actors, writers and director.

    That aside, if medieval armies are better equipped than modern people to fight zombies, does that make Army of Darkness the ultimate zombie survival film?

  • Ran says:

    Just googled it and came up with a movie like this for “Knight of The Dead”.

    It sounds soooooooo bad i just have to get it!

  • Nick D. says:

    I’ll echo / disagree with comments above. Season 2 I enjoyed, but the brutality and danger in season 3, I loved. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

  • Catfeesh says:

    Time for a story about zombies with some “Joebama Care” in it!

  • AO says:

    Worth keeping in mind that Season 2 had to make do with a budget cut.

    Despite the great ratings, the American broadcaster had to spend some of TWD’s earnings on big paydays to other shows, like Mad Men, that were demanding more than they brought in.

  • KatG says:

    My husband and daughter love the show. I attempt to watch it, separately from them so that I do not disturb them with my giggling. But I can only do it for a bit because I just root for the zombies to eat them. They are so insanely illogical and stupid. Lovely actors, but the characters just get pointless. Without spoilers, they don’t get any smarter in later seasons, but there will be some new characters you’ll like (who are also stupid, but more entertaining.) The special effects and zombie killing however is great fun, and it is a good show to quilt during as I don’t have to pay deep attention until the zombies try to eat them. Go zombies!

  • Nick D. says:

    KatG, that is hilarious. 🙂 Sounds like you’re having a great time – keep it up!

  • KatG says:

    To be fair, the drama of people dying in these horrible circumstances is often deeply done and poignant. But as Abercrombie noticed, the writers have characters do illogical things in order to create those scenes. They are not the only show that does this by a long shot, but in a humans versus far more successful zombies scenario, it gets rather frustrating. I think of all those willing extras who spent so much time in the make-up chair and cheer for them instead. They put their heart into it. Literally.

  • bardrhys says:

    Yes. But try the Videogame!

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *