“It’s nature correcting itself…restoring some balance.” – Hershel Greene
The new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead arrived with a major bang. The season 2 premiere episode, “What Lies Ahead”, was seen by over 7.3 million viewers which more than eclipsed the show’s own high-ratings pilot premiere from 2010. It’s no surprise that the episode would do so well with the network having pushed the new season through most of the summer. With fans of the showing growing with every passing month (DVD and Blu-Ray sales of the first season also helping keep the show in the public’s consciousness) there was really no doubt on whether the new season would come back firing.
“What Lies Ahead” saw Rick and his group fight through their very first experience of a zombie “herd” and how this event led to the two kids in the group in extreme danger as Sophia goes missing after the herd encounter on the highway and Carl getting himself accidentally shot to end the episode. While I would think that the writers would begin episode 2, “Bloodletting”, soon after the events of the premiere episode we instead get a flashback moment. A moment in time before the zombie apocalypse arrived and Lori waiting for Carl outside his school and confiding to a friend about her and Rick’s relationship. The emotional impact of this scene is not that Lori and Rick were having marital problems, but its from the arrival of Shane to inform her that Rick has been shot (seen in the pilot episode “Days Gone Bye”) and now she has to tell Carl. We see in this sequence the look of anguish on Shane and, most likely, the seed of his love not just for Lori but Carl as well.
This flashback will segue into Rick running desperately with an unconscious and bleeding Carl in his arms with Shane and Carl’s shooter, Otis, right behind them. For those who have read the comic book shouldn’t be surprised how this scene plays out, but I know that many who have not and only been following the show will be hoping for the worst for the youngest of the Grimes. Soon enough Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vance) leads them to the farm, the Greene family farm, where it’s patriarch might be able to help Carl survive the gunshot. We get to meet Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and his family, from the eldest daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to the youngest Beth (Emily Kinney) and, for the moment, we only see how this family will be able to help Rick and Carl. For fans of the book this family will prove to be integral to the continued survival of Rick and the original group.
“Bloodletting” continues the theme established with the premiere episode in that this new world is going to be about slim chances even if logic says there’s none to be had. There’s only the slimmest chance that a country veterinarian doctor will be able to save Carl. It’s the slimmest of chances that T-Dog may survive the wound he suffered from the previous episode. Only the slimmest of chance that they will ever find Sophia. Finally, the episode ends in another cliffhanger which gives Shane and Otis the slimmest of chances to survive their trip to an overrun FEMA station for much needed medical supplies and equipment.
This episode’s title also makes for a proper description for Rick and what he’s been going through since he woke up from his coma in the hospital. It’s not just the literal bloodletting he must endure to help save Carl’s life, but just every waking moment since the pilot episode. Rick has been trying to remain the bedrock of optimism and provide the sort of calm leadership his group of survivors need in this new world. Yet, we see how much every moment has cost him even before leading up to Carl’s incident with a wayward bullet. he’s being bled not just literally in this episode but figuratively. It helps that Andrew Lincoln’s performance during the first two episode of this new season has been great, so far. We get to see some genuine emotion as Rick must watch someone else try to save his son. The look of utter grief and impotence in Lincoln’s face as he tries to do anything and everything to save Carl continues to make Lincoln’s work in this show one of the reason to continue watching it.
The Walking Dead wouldn’t be the fan-favorite it has become if it skimped on any sort of zombie action. While it doesn’t have the high gore quotient that the previous episode had it still had enough zombies to sate the show’s fans until next week’s episode. Most of the zombies appear close at the end of the episode at the FEMA camp and it’s also in this sequence where we get the show’s heart-thumping moments as Shane and Otis must figure out a way to get out of their predicament which ends the episode on another cliffhanger.
“Bloodletting” doesn’t do much in terms of finding Sophia or even whether Carl gets to live. It does make a good job of introducing a new set of characters without making them feel extraneous. While we only got to know a few of these new additions there’s a sense that they will (at least some of them) become important ones during this first half of the season. Finally, those who have been fans of the comic books should accept the reality now and admit to themselves that this show has become it’s own growing tale. While still remaining on the basic path Kirkman set for them through the comic book the show has taken on a life of it’s own and it’s unpredicatability and changes in that path should make things interesting moving forward.
- Once again Norman Reedus continues to make Daryl Dixon a badass. He also has done a great job in making what happened been a stereotypical redneck role into a character with hidden complexities and layers. I was reticent on this character being added specifically for the show, but each new episode has made me a believer and thankful to the writers for doing it.
- Liked how Daryl nonchalantly tells the zombie that had been attacking Andrea in the woods to “shut up” before sending a crossbow bolt through the side of it’s head.
- One final great moment with Daryl is his surprise to the rest of the group concerning the hidden stash of “meds” that was Merle’s stash. He may be a Southern good ol’ boy, but Daryl continues to prove just how much more of a survivor and team player he has been to this group despite first appearances.
- One of the changes made from book to show has been the physical casting of veteran genre actor Pruitt Taylor Vance as the Greene ranch hand Otis. It’s an interesting choice, ut having Vance as part of the cast overrides any fanboy reaction to having a much larger actor portray the slimmer Otis from the book.
- Lori continues to become a stronger character this season and Sarah Wayne Callies does some very good work in this episode by becoming the steel to talk some sense to a grief-stricken Rick.
- I think the show’s didn’t need the brief, fever-induced paranoid rant from T-Dog about how he being the only black person in a group of Southern good ol’ boys. While part of me hopes all that talk from T-Dog was due to the fever from his injury I have a feeling he won’t be with the show for long. The way he’s talking makes him this season’s “Dead Man Walking” role.
- There was a positive, albeit very disturbing, moment involving T-Dog in this episode and that was when he noticed the baby seat in the back of the car he was looting for supplies. His growing expression of horror at seeing the bloody baby seat with bits of flesh on it was one of this episode’s best moments. I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer who wondered what happened to the baby in that seat.
- It was a nice bit of detail work on the writers of this episode to populate the FEMA camp with zombies from the soldiers, FEMA workers and refugees who were overrun prior to Shane and Otis arriving. Rarely do we see such detail in zombie films and stories. What else but the very people who were suppose to be in the camp would become zombies once they’ve been overrun.
- Can’t end this without mentioning Glenn’s look at seeing Maggie come riding in like Arwen from The Fellowship of the Ring. I do believe the boy’s been struck by cupid.