‘The Walking Dead’: Season 2 Episode 5 spoiler-free review

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‘It’s like a drug,’ Rick remarks to Shane this week, while they continue the endless search for missing Sophia. ‘It keeps you from seeing things the way they really are.’ He’s talking about nostalgia, but he could easily be referring to The Walking Dead.

With every episode, the show sucks you in a little more with the insidious refinement of a Class A narcotic. The rubbish things in the world beyond the television screen can be forgone in favour of an hour with the supercool sheriff, his all-but bonkers deputy and more fiendishly gruesome ways to kill of a zombie than in the entire Romero back catalogue. We can’t give this up. What’s worrying is that soon, we’re going to have to.

Daryl – whose behaviour recently has been so humane and selfless he might as well be volunteering for the Red(neck) Cross – goes out alone and is confronted by a vision of his missing brother Merle, who taunts him about his role within the group of survivors. ‘You’re nothing but a freak to them,’ the Southern bellend jeers. ‘They’re laughing at you behind your back.’

It’s probably not the worst moment for the king of the crossbow in an episode where it seems he’s been brought to the fore simply to have horrible things happen to him, but it’s certainly a reminder of what a thoroughly loathsome character his big bro was.

Meanwhile, Glenn is suffering from a dilemma not dissimilar to the one which plagues Bart Simpson in Stealing First Base; Maggie Greene is not so much blowing hot-and-cold as playing a kind of post-shag hard-to-get. ‘We’ve still got eleven condoms,’ he points out to her with the flirtatious subtlety of a Stone Age speed-dating event. ‘You see eleven condoms,’ Maggie coolly retorts, ‘I see eleven minutes of my life I’m never going to get back.’ Glenn, mortified, blurts, ‘It wasn’t that bad, was it?’

Later, he seeks out romantic advice from (of all people) Dale, moaning: ‘First she was mean to me; then she wanted to have sex with me; now she’s being mean to me again.’

Dale’s dubiety about the whole business – ‘Jesus, Glenn, what have you done?’ – is only surpassed by Hershel’s, who rather ominously warns his daughter: ‘Don’t get too close to them. They’re not going to be around forever.’

But of course, lustful teenage hormones are as much an unstoppable force as a thousand-strong army of walkers – or the smell of Rick’s sheriff’s shirt, which has been so long without a wash it could probably stand up to a couple of zombies on its own – and the two randy rascals are soon taking advantage of an excruciatingly awkward dinner party to arrange a late-night tryst. Unfortunately, Glenn’s choice of location is so spectacularly disastrous it grabs this enjoyably ordinary subplot by the scruff of its vest top and drags it straight into the middle of the main storyline.

Enjoying The Walking Dead is probably the closest most of us will ever get to outright sadism, as it adheres to a Big Brother-esque law of inverse enjoyment: the worst it gets for the protagonists, the better it gets for us.

However, there’s something looming on the horizon that is grimmer than anything Rick and his ragtag band of disparate malcontents have encountered so far. The mid-season break is only two weeks away – and going cold turkey over Christmas is a gloomier proposition than going speed-dating in the Stone Age.

Airs at 9/8c on Sunday 13th November 2011 on AMC in the US.

Airs at 10pm on Friday 18th November 2011 on FX in the UK.

> Buy the Season 1 DVD on Amazon.

What do you think of Season 2 so far? Let us know below…