The Walking Dead S02E01 Recap: "What Lies Ahead"

Protip: When traveling in a convoy to a military fort during the zombie apocalypse, make sure your RV doesn't break down in a desolate and deserted middle-of-nowhere highway.

It's zombie-survival 101.

But it's also an easy way to build tension, anticipation, and suspense for your run-of-the-mill zombie TV show, as our heroes in "The Walking Dead" leave Atlanta in hopes of finding a place to go that, you know, isn't zombie infested, or populated by a semi-maniacal scientist.

In the season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead, Rick and the gang find themselves on their way to a fort in order to find shelter from the Walkers. Unfortunately, they're stopped by a large amount of deserted vehicles blocking the road ahead, and to make matters worse, Dale's RV's radiator overheats, stranding the group in this dangerous clearing.

At first, things look fine and properly deserted, but you know that's not going to last long. As the group searches through all the cars, looking for food, water, clothing, weapons, and any other supplies they can get their hands on, a large group of Walkers appears out of nowhere, taking a stroll through the area. The group takes shelter underneath cars, and sometimes even under dead zombies.

Notably, Andrea (Laurie Holden), finds herself trapped in the RV with a zombie menacing her in the bathroom, with, of course, no gun, since Shane (Joe Berthnal) took it apart to show her how to clean it -- good idea bro. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) is taking shelter on the room, and promptly hands her a screwdriver, which she proceeds to angrily insert into the zombie's face.

Then, young Sophia emerges from under her vehicular solitude, only to catch the attention of several zombies. She escapes into the woods, with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) on her and the Walkers' tail. Rick finds her and tells her to hide as he forces the zombies away from her and badassily kills them with a rock, but when he returns, Sophia is gone. He and Darryl (Norman Reedus) open up another Walker to make sure she hasn't been eaten, and return to camp to organize another search the next day.

As they search again the next day, the group stumbles onto a church, which leads to some easy religious references and conversations with Jesus (as well as a plot by Shane and Andrea to leave the group after they find Sophia), but again, no Sophia. Shane, Rick, and his son Carl stay behind to continue searching, but again, they find no girl. Instead, they stumble onto a buck, but as Carl looks onto the beautiful animal in awe, a gunshot goes off, through the deer and into Carl's chest, as the credits roll and we're left wondering what the Hell just happened.

First of all, it was great to have TWD back. It may have had its ups and downs during season one, but it was so fresh, so original, and more importantly, so well done, that we were willing to forgive some of the writing.

That said, expectations are high for season 2, especially with all the controversy the show suffered from in the off-season. Fans of the comics are expecting material closer to the source, now that the disease explanation is out of the way. Everyone is curious how the show will evolve without Frank Darabont (who was still involved in this episode), and with Glen Mazzara now at the helm.

For at least one episode, they've made it work. The story was well put together and took advantage of that suspense and anticipation, especially at the beginning. As the group was driving down the highway and then taking care of errands after they stopped, we were left wondering, how long until the encounter Walkers? And when they finally arrived, they arrived in force, in great number, and in all their original glory. When Dale looks through his binoculars and sees that first Walker, it felt exactly like the first scene in Atlanta that first year. As Rick and the gang stumbled across random Walkers in the woods, it was reminiscent of mid-season scenes.

And even if the writing was a little lazy in the church scenes, and the "look for the missing young girl" story was a little easy, it worked in terms of re-acquainting us with all the characters. The show definitely felt like most of the good from season 1.

Honestly, there were a few parts where you could tell that the show's budget has been essentially slashed in half, but overall, the zombies looked great, and the kills -- what we got to see of them anyway, were just as good.

The strength of the show has always been the balance between story elements, human drama and relationships, as well as great visuals, action sequences, and awesome zombie kills. Like early in season 1, they've struck that balance pretty well already. Hopefully, they can keep it up as budgetary and creative issues continue to manifest themselves in the coming weeks.

The Walking Dead is back, in full force, and we're very much looking forward to a great -- extended -- season. The season premiere, "What Lies Ahead", gets an 8.5 out of 10.

Bits & Pieces:

  • Things we still don't know: What Jenner whispered to Rick at the CDC; whether Morgan or his son are still alive; what the hell happened to Merle. Hopefully, all these things get resolved this season.
  • The scene where Daryl and Rick cut open a Walker hoping not to find Sophia's remains was very reminiscent of a scene in Jaws. Good stuff.
  • One of the things that makes this show so different and edgy: their willingness to put children in harm's way. You don't see that very often.
  • Rick asks God to show him a sign, God proceeds to get his son shot in the woods. Problem?

Next Week - "Bloodletting": Rick discovers a possible safe haven; Shane must go on a dangerous mission to get needed medical supplies.