Still, and always will be, one of the greatest movies ever filmed, from a wonderful, lesser-read story by the master Stephen King.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 1: “What Lies Ahead”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson & Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Written by Frank Darabont & Robert Kirkman
* For a review of the previous Season 1 finale, “TS-19” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bloodletting” – click here
After Season 1’s finish and the destruction of the CDC, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his crew of survivors are on the road. Up on a rooftop, Rick talks into the radio again. Trying to reach Morgan Jones (Lennie James), whose fate is – as of this point – unknown. He tells Morgan, if he’s listening, that the CDC is gone. We almost get what Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich) told Rick at the end of the first season. But still, he conceals the information and even we as the audience know nothing. Sly and solid writing.
Everyone else tries their best to keep going – Shane (Jon Bernthal), Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl (Chandler Riggs), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Andrea (Laurie Holden), T-Dog (Irone Singleton), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Carol (Melissa McBride). They pile in and out of the big R.V., their other vehicle, they head out into a great and diseased unknown, somewhere away from the city. Because now, the big cities have fallen. They’re infested like rat nests with zombies, far as the eye can see.
Where will Season 2 take the survivors? It’ll be exciting to ride alongside.
Rick: “I guess I‘m losing hope that you can hear me… but there‘s always that chance, isn‘t there? That slim chance. It‘s all about slim chances now.”
Speaking of ride, we get good shots of Daryl cruising down the road on his motorcycle. Even if there’s a bit of Nazi insignia. Though, I’m pretty sure it’s not actually his bike. This whole sequence at the start is a transition. We’re seeing them all start to settle down for a bit after the whole CDC debacle. Andrea and Shane bond slightly over gun maintenance. Rick and Lori and Carl remember a trip to the Grand Canyon.
Everything’s peachy until the group come across a massive blockage of cars across the highway. Weaving in and out between sections, there doesn’t seem to be much of a way through. The entire place reeks of death and decay. Something I have to mention: production design. Overall, there is an amazing amount of work put into this show. From the zombie makeup to the stunts, all of it is fun. But the production design, the massive job it must take to make this show look appropriately wasteland-ish is impressive. Even just seeing the interstate with all the cars and everything spread out, the scope of the production is wild.
After the R.V. steams out, everybody takes to the road and tries to gather as much as they can, from gas to random items, to hopefully car parts. Except Lori isn’t too keen, calling the highway itself “a graveyard“. Although, I can already feel an air of uneasiness, an ominous tone. Rick and Dale look through binoculars sharing an odd glance, Andrea finds a stray baby bottle on the roadside and looks at it, almost scared. Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Carol’s daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz) stay off to the side, but Lori tells her son to stay within sight. It feels like being on the edge of a cliff and waiting to drop off the side.
First, some walkers wander close to the area where everyone is scavenging. Not just some: a ton. A horde of them, extending back along the highway. Everybody does their best to hide, going underneath the cars, as Dale lays flat on top of the R.V. with Andrea inside on the floor. The massive pack of living dead shambles on ahead with the survivors attempting to stay quiet, and out of the reach or bite of the walkers. T-Dog gets himself a nasty, deep cut, which puts him in jeopardy while Andrea gets stuck in the motorhome bathroom with a zombie just outside, clawing to find her. I won’t spoil everything; an intense and at times pretty creepy, scary sequence.
When Sophia runs into the woods with zombies after her, Rick heads in. He ends up asking her to hide while he takes care of the walkers. Only when he goes back for the girl she isn’t there. For all he does, Rick is a good man. Now this one time, trying to help someone, it sort of backfires on him. Will that affect his standing in the group? Will people doubt him? They’re all searching now, hoping to find Sophia before the worst imaginable thing happens.
Rick clearly takes the guilt on himself. Perhaps he should in a sense, but he only tried to help, to do the best he could. And still there’s doubt in his own mind. He and Daryl go so far as to sift through the guts of zombies to try and determine if Sophia was eaten. He willingly dives into them, as if trying to make himself sure that he will do what it takes. In any and all cases. Back on the road, Rick has to tell Carol they still can’t find Sophia. The night is coming and the search has to stop, though, it does nothing to make her mother feel better.
Next morning Rick heads out again to search. Andrea and Dale are at odds; he won’t give her back the gun, afraid she has a death wish and wants to commit suicide. She only resents Dale for making her essentially save him at the CDC, after he stayed put with her. Sad to see, as Dale only felt a connection to her and didn’t want Andrea giving up on life. For now, Dale is left behind with T-Dog who awkwardly tries to pretend he didn’t hear everything.
Out in the woods, Shane is still playing would-be-dad with Carl. Except he’s acting like a child himself, wounded from his semi-relationship with Lori. This causes strain on them all. Everybody stumbles onto a tent in the woods, hoping maybe Sophia found her way into it during the night. No such luck. And so on they press.
At one point they find a church. Inside are only zombies, sitting in the congregation. Up they rise, not for a sermon, but for human flesh. Easily taken down, though, it is a super creepy scene. Along with a nice couple zombie kills and excellently executed makeup effects, as always. This series really gives us a lot of good stuff in that sense, with the makeup wizards at KNB – Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero – showing us their skills. They consistently do expert and fascinating work, from television to the big screen.
What happens afterwards is Andrea hears a conversation between Shane and Lori. An intimate one about their relationship, as Shane discusses leaving the group, striking out on his own. What will that bring about? More importantly, Carol has to bear the loss of her daughter. It’s likely the girl won’t survive on her own, yet still there is hope. Watching Carol have to deal with Sophia lost in the wilderness is touching, breaks the heart. And Andrea, she wants to leave with Shane. She wants to get away: “I see two people who don‘t belong,” Andrea tells him.
With some heading one way, Rick wants to stay put for now. For Sophia.
Rick has a heart to heart with a statue of Jesus in the church. He’s looking for a sign, an “indication I‘m doing the right thing“. I’m personally not a follower of any faith, but I love this scene. To know Rick has a deep faith of any sort, something to keep him going is interesting. It isn’t just his family, his wife and child. He has a deeper purpose in life, or so that’s what he feels. The contrast between him and Shane has never been more evident: “Get whatchu needed?” Shane asks Rick after the latter comes out of the church. I don’t believe in God, but those who follow, especially silently and faithfully, I admire and say: do as you will. Here, we see Shane is a lawless man and lacking in morals, even though before the fall of the world he worked as police officer. The divide between him and Rick is huge.
As the rest of the group moves on, Lori makes a passionate speech about Rick, hoping to take away some of the bad feelings, if any, about her husband over Sophia being lost. Although, I’m pretty sure most of those people realize how essential Rick is already. Even in Season 2. They’ll damn sure learn it better as time progresses.
The end of this episode is a shocking, brutal shot in the dark – almost literally. Carl is hit with an errant bullet that was headed for a deer. In the middle of the woods, cut off from society as it is to begin with in the zombie apocalypse, Rick and Shane panic as Carl begins to bleed out.
Excited to watch and review the second Season 2 episode, “Bloodletting”. Things are intense right off the bat with this season and it gets better with each passing episode. Stay with me, fellow fans!