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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON -- DVD review by porfle



The world's first serialized zombie saga for television (that I know of, anyway) continues with Anchor Bay's 4-disc DVD set THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON.  And if you enjoyed yourself the first time around you won't want to miss what happens next. 

This time, our ragtag group of still-warm survivors led by former Alabama state trooper Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his partner Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) are on the road again after last season's visit to a military laboratory for help ended on a decidedly hopeless note.  Now, with the zombie apocalypse raging fiercer than ever and flesh-eating reanimated corpses popping up at every turn, their tiny caravan hits a traffic jam on the interstate and comes to a screeching halt. 

While ransacking the stalled vehicles for supplies and fuel, the group must hide from an entire herd of zombies as they go shambling by.  This zombie herd is one of season two's most noteworthy features--we'll not only see them again during a key climactic sequence, but we'll even get a flashback which answers the question, "Why the heck would hundreds of 'walkers' get together and become a herd in the first place?" 

Anyway, their passing leads to two of the key events of the season.  One is that little Sophia, daughter of Carol (Melissa McBride), goes missing and forces the others to undertake an exhaustive search of the surrounding woods which will keep them there for days.  The other is that when Rick's son Carl (Chandler Riggs) is accidentally shot by a hunter, he is taken to the secluded farm of aging veterinarian Hershel Greene (IN COLD BLOOD's Scott Wilson) for treatment.  Rick and the others see Hershel's farm as an almost walker-free haven where they could live in relative peace and safety--but Hershel wants no part of them and insists they leave after Carl has recovered.

With this idyllic farm setting as a backdrop, season two is less episodic than before and allows our characters time to engage in plenty of interpersonal dramatics punctuated here and there by sudden walker attacks to keep viewers jumpy.  The love triange between Rick, his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and an increasingly resentful Shane becomes more bitter and curdled than ever, especially with Lori's discovery that she may be pregnant.  Andrea (Laurie Holden) eschews "women's work" and wants to go zombie-hunting with the guys; she also clashes with the group's sage old RV driver Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) over whether she should be allowed to carry a gun or even, if she chooses to, commit suicide. 

Hershel's insistence that the group leave his farm turns explosive when they make a shocking discovery about what he's keeping out in the barn, leading to what is probably the most emotionally devastating scene of the series thus far.  Heated disputes between Rick and Shane over how things should be handled escalate until the former friends are at each other's throats, with the entire group split down the middle as well.  As Rick struggles to retain his humanity and Shane becomes increasingly ruthless, it becomes harder to decide whose way is more beneficial to the group and who will lead them to ruin.

But even with all this dramatic stuff going on, the main emphasis of "The Walking Dead" is still on zombies, zombies, and more zombies.  Despite the safety of Hershel's farm, there are frequent opportunities for our main characters to put themselves in danger during supply runs and other necessary excusions, which usually result in their being set upon by scores of ravenous walkers. 
Makeup effects are better than ever, with several of the "hero" zombies looking exquisitely horrible and some of the attack scenes generating nail-biting suspense.  As usual, a hapless human will occasionally find himself (or herself) feasted upon by a group of ghouls like a living, screaming buffet (I call this the "Full Meal Deal"), surely the most awful fate that can befall anyone in any zombie flick since George Romero's seminal work, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. 

A hefty percentage of the gory violence in "The Walking Dead", however, comes from humans dealing that fatal brain-extinguishing death blow to their undead foes in all manner of extremely messy ways including machetes, screwdrivers, hatchets, shovels, and, of course, guns. An impromptu autopsy by Rick and group outsider Daryl (Norman Reedus, BLADE II) on an expired walker is especially gruesome (and perversely amusing), as is the aftermath that occurs when a bloated ghoul is found splashing around at the bottom of a well and is hauled up by rope only to be pulled in half at the waist.  

The 4-disc DVD set from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Surround 2.0.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Bonuses include several behind-the-scenes featurettes, five cast and crew commentaries, deleted scenes, and a stunning 6-webisode tale that gives us the backstory for one of the most memorable minor characters in season one.

Filled with all the gruesome zombie action and intense personal drama we've come to expect from this unique series, THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON ends with the inevitable as Hershel's farm turns out to be not so walker-free after all.  As carnivorous chaos reigns over the once-peaceful countryside in a free-for-all of flesh-eating and brain-bashing, the season not only goes out with a bang but leaves us with a teasing glimpse of what's in store for our heroes next time.


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1st season review

3rd season review

4th season review

5th season review



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