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The Walking Dead Season Two Review

on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 00:00

“It’s all about slim chances now,” Rick Grimes reflects to himself at the beginning of the second season of the AMC drama The Walking Dead. “I tried to do everything right. Keep people safe. I tried. Our group’s smaller now. We lost another, day before last. It was her choice. I won’t say I blame her. She lost faith. It doesn’t matter. What matters is, we’re moving on. Atlanta’s done. We’re going to try for Fort Benning. We’re facing a long, hard journey. Maybe even harder than I can imagine, but it can’t be harder than the journey’s been so far. Can it? A hundred twenty five miles, that’s what lies ahead. And I’m trying hard not to lose faith. There’s just a few of us now so we got to stick together. Fight for each other. Be willing to lay down our lives for each other if it comes to that. It’s the only chance we’ve got.”

The Walking Dead takes place in a world where a disease has overpowered the globe, raising the dead from the grave and turning them into mindless zombies. The series follows a small band of survivors in Georgia as they make their way through the devastation, hoping to find refuge and an answer to their prayers for salvation. While the group still must face the inevitable attacks by the “walking dead,” season two also focuses on the internal conflicts and struggles—as well as competing viewpoints—that ultimately arise within the meager collection of human beings. How does one endure in a post-apocalyptic universe? Does Darwin and his “survival of the fittest” become both the rule and the law? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? Or is it best for everyone to “stick together” and “fight for each other,” regardless of the consequences? These are the questions that The Walking Dead raises during its sophomore effort, and while there are no definitive answers, there are more than enough consequences for each action taken regardless of the philosophy behind them.

Although the group initially intends to make the journey to Fort Benning, they quickly become sidetracked when the young daughter of one of the survivors flees into the woods after being chased by a pair of zombies. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the primary leader of the group, quickly follows and kills the two “walkers.” The girl, however, becomes lost in the vast forest during the aftermath. A search is organized and the days roll on, but there is no sign of her. Grimes is determined to not give up hope, even if the chances of finding her alive dwindle as time goes on. But should they continue the search? Risk their lives in a futile endeavor? Or do they give up and move on for the sake of the larger group?

For Rick Grimes, the answer is easy—they keep searching. “Little girl goes missing, you look for her,” he says. “It’s plain and simple.” His former deputy sheriff partner Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) has a different opinion. “Rick, he ain’t built for this world,” Walsh tells Grimes’ wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). The foundation for his reasoning goes back to season one, when Rick Grimes went to rescue a former member of the group who was abandoned in Atlanta and the main camp was subsequently attacked by zombies. “We wouldn’t have been in that situation if he hadn’t left because he felt that he needed to leave to save a drug dealer,” Walsh continues. “And so we lost Amy and we lost Jim.” Continuing the search for the lost girl only puts the group in another potentially dangerous situation in Shane Walsh’s mind. For Walsh, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

This is most exemplified earlier in season two when Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), the young son of Rick and Lori, is accidently shot. Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh are able to find refuge on the farm of a former veterinarian named Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), who offers to operate on Carl but doesn’t have the necessary equipment. Walsh and another resident of the farm, Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vice), thus embark on a mission to raid a FEMA shelter set up at the local high school. Although they successfully obtain the needed equipment, the two are inevitably overrun by a horde of zombies nonetheless. Down to their final bullets, it is obvious that they are not going to make it out alive. This causes Walsh to shoot Otis in the leg, sacrificing him as a distraction for the hungry zombies so that Shane Walsh himself can escape. “One of us wasn’t going to make it out,” he later tells Rick Grimes. “Had to be him. One shot to the leg, Carl lives. Reality is, he had no business being here.”

Shane Walsh’s philosophy is further put to the test when Rick Grimes rescues the stranger Randall (Michael Zegen) from yet another zombie attack only to be faced with the question of what to do with him afterwards. Randall is part of a larger group of 30 survivors who have embraced the concepts of murder and rape as they make their way through the apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. Can Randall be trusted? Should he be released into the wild to find his own way? Or would he eventually lead his group to Hershel Greene’s farm and put everyone’s life in danger? Shane Wilson believes the only sensible thing to do is to kill Randall, a decision that Rick Grimes and the others initially agree—everyone, that is, except Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn).

“If we do this, we’re saying there’s no hope,” Horvath tells the group. “Rule of law is dead, there is no civilization. If we do this, the people we were, the world that we knew is dead. And this new world is ugly. It’s harsh, it’s survival of the fittest. And that’s a world I don’t want to live in. And I don’t believe that any of you do. I can’t. Please, let’s just do what’s right.”

Is Shane Walsh’s viewpoint the correct one or are Dale Horvath’s beliefs? In the end, the question is never answered as fate intervenes with more death amongst the small group of survivors in the form of both human and otherworldly intervention. The harsh reality of The Walking Dead that Horvath finds unacceptable ultimately overwhelms the group, and they are forced to flee the safe enclave of Hershel Greene’s farm for the unknown life of being on the run. Debates over the meaning of civilization are thus left in the wake, as the future of mankind’s mere survival once again takes center stage. Does hope lie over the next horizon, or only more hardship? Like life itself, that is the question that The Walking Dead forces one to ponder.

Anthony Letizia

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