The first season of The Walking Dead was principally concerned with Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his trip through zombie-plagued Georgia to find a) his family and b) the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Season 2 was likewise focussed on the well-meaning lawman’s journey – only this time, it was more of a spiritual expedition than an actual trek through the southern US.
Although Rick – along with his gaggle of bickering, moaning, shagging, scrapping, disease-catching, God-fearing, hat-wearing, murderous, insane, zombie-fied (delete as applicable) gang of survivors – doesn’t make it much further than the farm owned by Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and the surrounding woods until the very last episode, his inner journey is much longer and equally as fraught. At the beginning of part one, he’s still the affable, gallant, democratic hero he was throughout the preceding season. But by the climax of the final instalment, everything has changed.
Throughout the thirteen episodes, Rick carries a secret burden which gradually wears him down: the knowledge, passed on by understandably suicidal scientist Dr Jenner, that everyone is infected with the zombie virus and no matter how they die, they’ll come back as a walker. Yet this is only one heavy spoon with which the onetime Egg has his head bashed.
He learns that wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) had an affair with best friend and fellow-deputy Shane (Jon Bernthal) and apparently bears the debilitating knowledge with fortitude. He sees said BFF go completely bonkers, become a murderer and, briefly, a walker without seeming to let it get to him. It even looks like he’s coping with having his leadership abilities questioned by the ungrateful group by whom he’s constantly and thanklessly trying to do right.
However, Rick isn’t really coping or bearing things with fortitude, and things are getting to him. At the very end of Episode 13, he announces – heartbreakingly, but not entirely surprisingly – that the previously egalitarian structure of the group is changing to what basically amounts to a military dictatorship with him as the figurehead. ‘If you’re staying,’ he tells them as they camp in the shadows near Woodbury Jail, ‘this ain’t a democracy anymore.’ Rick Grimes has become Rick Grim, and he won’t be standing for any more bullshit. No sir.
While the second season of The Walking Dead might not have the jaw-dropping ZOMG factor or the Hollywood production values of its predecessor throughout, the gentle unfolding of its multi-stranded storyline amid the gorgeous Georgian countryside, punctuated by reliably defibrillating shocks, a succession of unexpected twists and a lot of hideously realistic gore, make the tale of Rick’s voyage from hero to antihero a compelling one. If history looks back on it as the weakest of the – hopefully many – Walking Dead series, it will only be because what followed was even better.
Extras: In addition to six deleted scenes (including a protracted sequence set in Atlanta that was cut from the season premiere), five episodes with cast and crew commentary, six webisodes and – if you fork out for the limited edition box – packaging designed to look like a zombie’s head with a screwdriver jammed in the eye, the Complete Second Season set contains eleven fascinating featurettes that demonstrate the phenomenal amount of talent and hard work that goes into producing the show.
Highlights include The Ink is Alive, which features creator Robert Kirkwood discussing the differences between his original graphic novels and the TV series. ‘Staying true to that stuff [the comics] is great when it’s necessary,’ he says, ‘but there are so many great ideas being thrown around the writers’ room that you just have to do that stuff, and I think it makes the show that much better.’
Live or Let Die studies the intricacies of Shane’s character, journey and demise – ‘Everything’s a struggle with him,’ Jon Bernthal admits, ‘nothing is easy’ – while You Could Make A Killing looks at Jeffrey DeMunn’s final scenes as Dale and the variety of work done on the series by multi-tasking director, producer, FX supervisor and former Romero associate Greg Nicotera.
Best of all, though, is All the Guts Inside, which looks behind-the-scenes at the walker autopsy in Episode 1 and shows plainly that the making of the programme is even gorier than what we see onscreen. ‘It was rank,’ Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) says of having to rummage around inside a corpse and pull its innards out. ‘But it was dope.’ If you say so, man.
Released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 27th August 2012 by Entertainment One.
Watch the Season 2 trailer…
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