By MARK TURNER
Yes, it's true, the best drama on TV these days features zombies. The second season of THE WALKING DEAD arrives this week on DVD and this is one series that not only keeps getting better but stays original and draws viewers in at a steady, even pace.
If you missed the first season the apocalypse has come upon the Earth not in the form of war but in a virus that has brought the dead back to life with an unquenchable thirst for blood. As they attack the living each new victim becomes another member of the walking dead, hungry as those who turned them.
Into this world we saw Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wake from a coma (he was a sheriff wounded in the line of duty) to an empty hospital. He struggled but found his way home to discover his wife and son were there no more and he set off in search of them, eventually reuniting with them and unaware that thinking he was dead his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) had taken up with his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthall). With a ragtag group of allies they headed to the CDC only do discover one last survivor there who then blew up the facility at the close of that season.
Season two begins with the group on the road once more heading towards Ft. Benning. When they get stuck in a traffic jam on the highway and their RV breaks down, they look for replacement parts only to have a herd of zombies head their way. For the most part they do well but two leftover zombies spot young Sophia and she heads into the woods. Rick follows, finds her and directs her back to the group while he distracts the zombies and then kills them. When he returns Sophia is no where to be found and the group spends their time searching for her. At the end of the first episode while they search, Rick's son Carl is shot by a stray hunter's bullet.
Episode two gets us to the place where the hunter lives, a farm with its own group of survivors led by the farm's owner Hershel (Scott Wilson). A veterinarian, he saves Carl and the rest of the group is brought to the farm as well. The search for Sophia continues and for the better half of the first season this is the focal point. It's what happens to the group during this search and after that brings forth the drama in the series.
The group changes as the show progresses. Secrets between various members are brought to light. Control of the group becomes a catalyst that drives wedges between these people. And slowly we begin to see Shane lose his mind. It's a slow burn that we watch progress from episode to episode that culminates with one of the most stunning solutions every shot in a series. This, along with the search and discovery of Sophia, makes for some stirring moments.
That may be the plotline that the story follows this season but it's the interaction between characters that make this series tick. Forget the fact that zombies are all around, the interplay between these survivors is what brings the story to life. The zombies take far less screen time then one would expect with a title like this. A true gathering doesn't even occur until the last two episodes.
Instead we have the drama played out by the love triangle involved with Rick, Lori and Shane. We have the development and maturing of young Carl in a world where there is no room for childhood. There is the fatherly affection between the older Dale and the emotionally scarred Andrea who begins to change as well. And in the midst of it all is Hershel and his family, thinking that there is still hope for a world to return to the way it was, secluded from the horror that has spun out of control in the world.
There are dramas on TV right now that have nothing on this series. As I said, if you took away the zombies the drama would still be the centerpiece and hold your attention. I considered if it would work in another format, say alien invasion or perhaps a world war on U.S. soil ala RED DAWN. In each format I choose the stories hold up. Zombies just add a touch of uneasiness to the mix.
The acting on view here is tremendous. There are no stand outs as every person involved brings their A game to the screen. From children to wizened aging actors, each does a fantastic job of bringing their character to life. There isn't a sympathetic character on view here, from the supposed bad guys to the amazingly good guys. And there are two things to know about every character here. One, they can change in the flick of an eye from good to bad and two, not everyone is going to make it. During one of the special extras sequences the statement is made that everyone comes to work wondering if their character will remain or not.
Words can not describe how amazing this series is. There were moments during season two where my jaw literally dropped and I had to pause the disc to absorb what just transpired. This is not just a DVD that you will want to rent; it is one worth having on the shelf. The only bad thing is having to wait until October for season three to begin.
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