The second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead has begun. And if the first couple of episodes of the new season are any indication, the show has lost none of the intense power (or popularity) it gathered last season. (No wonder the show has already been renewed for a third season.)
For a few years now, cable outlets such as AMC have been home to some of the most engaging shows on television. In its debut season, The Walking Dead quickly rose to the top of the cable ratings. The program is so popular that AMC now features a talk show immediately following Dead‘s Sunday night time slot, where panelist and fans discuss the latest Walking Dead episode and all things “zombie.”
Why has AMC’s The Walking Dead been such a huge hit with audiences and TV critics? Part of it is the show’s excellent production values – from the writing to the acting, it’s one of the best-made shows on TV right now. The other part? The “scare factor.” Combined, they make The Walking Dead possibly the best horror series to ever to appear on television.
High Production Values = High Ratings
The production values are extremely high for serial television – this is how digital filmmaking is done – and it pays off in the ratings. TV has waited a long time for a show this consistently scary; at times it’s even more frightening than many horror movies now playing in theaters.
While the zombie apocalypse is the underlying theme (and one key reason for the popularity) of The Walking Dead, it’s the relationships and journey the characters experience that are the heart of the show. You genuinely care about the cast and the predicaments they face.
Making The Walking Dead
It all started with a comic book…er, graphic novel. Robert Kirkman, the creator behind the series, already had huge success with the graphic novel, which has seen a resurgence in popularity due to AMC’s series.
Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) developed and launched the series, but a good part of the show’s success has to go to the astounding special effects. The zombies in The Walking Dead will turn your stomach, and their impeccable timing will never bore you: They always show up at just the right moment to peak the suspense and terror.
Sure, zombies don’t always move lightning fast, but when hundreds show up at once (as often happens), it creates an overwhelming effect; everywhere you turn, there’s another dead guy (or gal) – and from every walk of life – with a decomposing face.
So what if you’re interested in the show but are getting to the party late? No problem; we’ll get you caught up:
American life as we know it has slipped off the rails. A tide of death—whether from disease or supernatural forces (nobody knows for sure, which makes the premise even that more frightening) has swept the land. Hordes of human undead are now roaming the land in search of flesh to satisfy their zombie hunger. There aren’t many survivors left, but one group in Atlanta has banded together to take on the zombie menace. The group’s priorities are simple: 1) keep themselves alive 2) find a safety zone where they can exist zombie-free; and 3) find the answer as to why all of this zombie madness is happening in the first place.
The group changes (based on who lives through the episode) week after week, but here are the major characters you’ll get to know:
- Rick: A deputy sheriff from a small Georgia town, Rick serves as the group’s unofficial leader.
- Shane: Rick’s partner in law enforcement, and best friend since high school.
- Lori: Rick’s wife.
- Dale: A retiree, who owns and drives the RV that leads the group’s convoy.
- Andrea: A former attorney, she watched as her sister Amy died from a zombie attack.
- T-Dog: A former thug, who has become friends with Dale.
- Daryl: A survivalist whose favorite zombie weapon is a crossbow.
- Carol: A woman who has lost her husband to zombies; her daughter is her only known surviving relative.
- Sophia: Carol’s young daughter.
- Carl: Rick and Lori’s young son.
- Glenn: A former Atlanta pizza-delivery guy, whose navigation skills come in handy.
The Walking Dead Episode Guide
Episode 1: As the series begins, county sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes comes out of a lengthy coma to find himself alone in an empty hospital. He slowly realizes that he’s been reborn into a world where the dead—the walking dead—have taken over. He leaves the hospital and starts wandering. Along the way he meets other (live) people, all of whom are living under the threat of imminent zombie attack.
Episode 2: Surviving bands of hungry zombies isn’t easy, as Rick learns when he unknowingly enables a group of survivors to be trapped and savaged by “walkers.” Tensions and accusations follow with the small group of survivors that Rick now leads, and criminals within the group threaten to blow any chance of living through the zombie nightmare.
Episode 3: Rick doubles back to Atlanta to save a man’s life and get a bag of weapons. Along the way, he is reunited with his wife, Lori, who had assumed that Rick was dead. During that time, she became romantically involved with Shane, Rick’s friend. Now that Rick’s back in the picture, Lori and Shane vow to not tell Rick about their affair and pretend as if nothing had happened between them. (And Rick’s son, Carl, doesn’t know the extent of his mother’s involvement with Shane.)
Episode 4: More things go wrong on the path back to Atlanta, where the group is headed to find the headquarters of the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), hoping to find scientists alive who can help them. Tensions are escalating, and people are starting to become unglued by all the stress of living in this horrifying new world.
Episode 5: After being attacked by walkers, Rick successfully leads the group to the CDC, but there’s no time to relax. And the group learns that getting to the CDC doesn’t really solve their mounting problems.
Episode 6: After the group makes its way inside the heavily fortified building to temporary safety, the members discover that there’s only one scientist there. What’s worse—he isn’t altogether sure what caused the zombie epidemic…or what to do about it.
Episode 7: Season 2 begins in Atlanta at the CDC, with the group realizing that the lone CDC scientist (seeing no solution to the situation) has rigged the massive building with explosives and a timer and the whole thing is set to self-destruct. Making it out with seconds to spare, the group takes its convoy of vehicles out of Atlanta. They soon find the highway jammed to the hilt with abandoned vehicles. Then they are besieged by hundreds of walkers, with one of the survivors (Sophia) being chased by zombies through woods. At Carol’s urging, the group stays camped in the area while the members search for Sophia. As the episode ends, Carl is accidentally shot by a deer-hunting survivor of another group that lives nearby.
Episode 8: In order to save his life, Carl is taken to another group’s farmhouse, where (despite the lack of ample medical supplies) he’s treated. In order for him to be saved, however, they need more supplies and medical equipment- which can only be found at a medical facility in a zombie-infested part of town nearby. The man who accidentally shot Carl leads Shane head to the abandoned medical facility, where they retrieve the supplies. Now there’s just the matter of getting them and themselves back to safety…
Episode 9: The group desperately awaiting Shane’s return, but he can’t get out of a school he’s trapped in (and which is surrounded by the walking dead). Meanwhile, the search continues for Sophia…but the group knows it can’t remain in this area for much longer.
Zombies are white hot right now, and The Walking Dead is one of the reasons why. But zombies have been making a comeback for a few years; videogames like Resident Evil, Dead Rising and the recent Dead Island have been stoking the fire, as well as movies like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and 28 Days Later. Sure, the material isn’t for the faint of heart (or the younger set), still the subject matter makes for some great suspense.
You never know where the undead will turn up next – so you better be ready, especially this Halloween.
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