Original air date: October 23, 2011

Five Things: 

1). Much better pacing than last week’s episode. Even though this is Season 2, TWD is still a pretty young show.  This is only the 8th episode total, so when the creators serve us an awkwardly paced episode like S2E1, it isn’t inappropriate for fans to get concerned (especially with all the backstage drama on the show).  So, it was a big relief to see this episode flow much better.  Moving from last week’s 90 minute episode, the urgency of chopping this episode down to ~45 minutes kept out (almost) all of the monologuing that dragged down S2E1.  It just kept bouncing along from scene to scene and that’s what this story-driven show needs to do.

2). Enjoy the zombie scenes, but… There were two big zombie set pieces and both were well done.  The Shane and Otis scene was tense and pretty well done even if watching Otis running from the zombies reminded me of the first rule of Zombieland (Cardio!).  And, the Andrea v. Zombie scene was also pretty intense.  Great makeup all around.  The only quibble is that they’re going to shoot their wad with these scenes because this isn’t the audience’s first experience with zombies.  We’ve all seen shuffling masses before, so we need to be continually reminded that these zombies are dangerous, otherwise they’ll become a bit of a joke.  Either that, or the show needs to ramp up the other danger in the show: your fellow humans.

3). Badass Maggie.  It was generally pretty cool to see Hershel’s farm and meet a few more of the characters that should be pivotal as the show moves along.  They did a very nice job with all of Hershel’s gang even if it did seem like they’re missing a few of his kids and I kept looking around for a barn in the background but didn’t see it.  Hershel is just as he should be: a quietly confident man with a lot of practical skills for the group (just like in the comic).

4). A little heavy-handed at times. The show’s creators don’t need to be quite so heavy handed.  We get it; there are parallels between Rick getting shot and Carl getting shot.  It didn’t add much to the episode and about every 5 minutes we got bonked in the head again.  Then there were the repeated issues with Rick needing to be told to sit still and wait.  It’s as if the show’s creators are saying, “No….I don’t think you really get it.  It is REALLY hard for Rick to sit and wait.  He is a man of action, dammit!”  That’s why TWD is no Breaking Bad or Mad Men or The Wire. Those shows knew/know how to do subtle.  And, it wasn’t limited to those scenes either.  For example, when Darryl finds Merle’s drug stash to save T-Dog, he has to verbally explain where the drugs came from so we can appreciate the irony of racist Merle who was condemned to a nasty fate by T-Dog’s error, and now it’s Merle’s drugs saving T-Dog’s life.  That scene could have been more effective if Darryl had just tossed a prescription bottle to T-Dog and let the audience see that Merle’s name was on the bottle, pause for a second to allow the audience to appreciate the irony, and then cut to another scene or commercial.  The way they” did that scene, the audience has already appreciated the irony before the drugs have changed hands, so the timing is all screwed up.  And I hate to harp on it, but other examples of talking down to the audience abound like how Rick didn’t rinse off his bloody shirt and watch.  “Don’t you get it?!  The man is covered in his own child’s blood and you might forget that Carl has been shot if he rinsed himself off.”  TWD treats the audience like we’re stupid and won’t get things unless they are waved in front of our faces.

5). Boatload of quibbles. Hershel’s house looks unsecure as hell.  In the comics, he had a ramshackle fence rigged up.  How is Otis still so fat given that all the ice cream, butter and mayonnaise has spoiled?  Why does Otis go charging into battle with a scoped hunting rifle?  While it’s nice to learn T-Dog’s name is “Theodore”, it makes me wonder where Tyrese is?  How can there be no Tyrese?  He was a great character.  “Here….  Take my revolver, but I’ll hang onto the holster.  Just stick it down the front of your pants or something.”  Can we get on with the part of the show where Andrea becomes a badass or the part where she and Dale are shacking up?

Conclusion: Much better than last week’s episode, S2E2 had a lot of promising bits and propelled the story along nicely.  I do fear that the creators’ unwillingness to be subtle is going to keep this show from every being excellent though.  All the best shows do subtle and TWD treats you like you’re stupid.  Still, better than most tripe on TV.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

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