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SPOILER ALERT: This review assumes you have an inkling as to what The Walking Dead is and that you’ve already watched the first season and Episode 1 of Season 2.0.

The Walking Dead Episode 2.1

Written by Ardeth Bey and Robert Kirkman

Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton

Reviewed by Brad Jones

Following a wildly-imaginative 6-episode season, The Walking Dead seemed to implode behind the scenes: show-runner Frank Darabont and the team of writers were publicly dismissed, the budget was slashed and AMC caught a lot of fan backlash. As huge a fan as I am of Frank Darabont (specifically his Stephen King adaptations), I’m happy to report that the backstage drama does not translate onto the screen for this Season 2 premier. In fact, this episode was kick-ass and a return to form after a moderately lackluster finale.

We catch back up with our hero Rick Grimes radioing Morgan from a rooftop warning the latter to stay out of Atlanta and that Grimes and what’s left of his caravan will be journeying to a military base in search of some remains of human civilization. On the highway, the group comes upon a traffic jam, where Dale’s RV breaks down. While Dale and Glenn (my personal fave) get to work fixing the trailer, Grimes and the rest of the survivors begin scavenging the abandoned cars for goods and fuel. In one of the most intense sequences in TV this year, a “herd” of zombies winds through the maze of cars, our heroes hiding underneath. I held my breath through this whole scene, watching Grimes and Co. doing the same thing, nervously waiting for the throngs of undead to pass them by.

When the little girl, Sophia, preemptively jumps out from under her shelter she’s chased off by two straggling zombies and Grimes pursues them through the backwoods of Georgia. A thrilling chase ensues, culminating in an awesome shot of Rick waiting for the first straggler to creep by so Grimes can literally bash his head in with a rock. What I thought was so great about this scene is that so infrequently do we see our group going on the offensive with the zombies; too often, they’re running for their lives and concocting some elaborate scheme to evade the hoards of undead. This situation forced Rick to grab a rock and start swinging, and it seemed to empower Rick as much as it empowered me.  Rick rushes back to where he stowed Sophia…but she’s missing. The hunt for the girl proves fruitless, though we get a cool zombie autopsy scene and a very organic, emotional scene in a church.

Afterwards, Rick, partner/bff/guy-who-slept-with-Rick’s-wife, Shane, and Rick’s son, Carl, are walking through the woods, when they slam head-on into a magnificent buck. This little scene acts as a reminder that there is still existing beauty in this world of walking death…at least until a bullet rips through the air, the buck and Carl. And then we dramatically cut to the end credits.

The only gripe I had about this episode was the first sequence of Rick on the rooftop…his monologue-ing felt forced and doesn’t gently ease us into the tone of the show. Frankly, I think the “previously on” clips do a better job of guiding us back into the universe than Rick saying a bunch of unrealistic stuff into a walkie-talkie. In fact, the one piece of info I wanted Rick to say – what CDC scientist Dr. Jenner whispered to Grimes in the Season 1 finale – he balks at, saying it doesn’t matter what was said. Uhm, yes it does matter, and I wanna hear it!

Overall, this episode was exceptional and takes established relationships and conflicts and evolves them to the next level. I, for one, cannot wait for the next installment.

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