The Walking Dead: Critics Re-Evaluate Season 2

  • Publish Date: November 28, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 12 user comments

A spark of life at the midpoint of a long season

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Directed by Breaking Bad vet Michelle MacLaren, last night's seventh episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, "Pretty Much Dead Already," marked an end in many ways. Not only is it the midseason finale (the show now goes on hiatus for several months, returning on Sunday, February 12, 2012), but it is the last episode with Frank Darabont as showrunner; the next batch of episodes will take place under the guidance of producer Glen Mazzara. And, of course, the events that occur during the episode's final few minutes mean that much of this season's ongoing story (and we really do mean ongoing) have finally concluded as well.

While many critics originally reviewed the second season (quite positively) a few months ago after previewing the first two episodes, now that they have seen the entire half-season arc in its entirety, many television writers have taken the opportunity to reassess Season 2, in most cases downgrading their original opinions. We have collected their comments below; click on any publication name to read the full review.

AOL TV / Maureen Ryan
Too often this season, the humans on the show have been idiotic, annoying or sanctimonious -- sometimes all three. The time spent on Hershel Greene's farm was often a waste, not just of time but of the relatively sturdy momentum the show had cranked up in its short first season. ... The biggest problem with the first half of season 2 is that it was about two hours of viable storytelling stretched out over seven hours.
AOL TV / Mike Ryan
Yes, that was a great ending. I've enjoyed a couple other episodes, but the ending to tonight's half-season finale, if you will, was the first time that I felt any real amount of emotion. If this is a taste of what a post-Darabont 'The Walking Dead' will be like, sign me up. In other words: Things happened!
The A.V. Club / Zack Handlen
Until that last sequence, "Pretty Much Dead Already" was the usual mix of pretty good and deeply irritating, with characters having confrontations and big dramatic moments that would've been more impressive if they hadn't all seemed to happen independent of everything else. ...I can live with a show with unlikable protagonists. But characters need to have a certain level of coherency in which their goals drive the plot, and not the other way around. That's been one of The Walking Dead's problems for a long time now.
Collider / Scott Wampler
The Walking Dead is still not as great as it should be– they've got the ingredients for something amazing here, not the least of which is a truly talented cast—but the show's made some notable improvements over the course of the past half-season, and tonight's episode contained a biggie. ... For the first time in a long time, I'm feeling confident that the show's going to overcome the quibbles I've had sooner rather than later.
Den of Geek / Ron Hogan
The second season had a great debut, but since then, the fire has gone out of the show in a sense. It's still been good to great television, depending on the episode, but it hasn't felt epic.
Entertainment Weekly / Ken Tucker
The show has turned into a nighttime soap with occasional appearances by deceased but moving, flesh-rotting, flesh-eating cameo monsters. ... Every week, it seemed, a passel of folks went out and rooted around for awhile, came back to camp, and everyone lives off the fat of Hershel's land until it was time to go out and search for Sophia again. Occasionally someone reminded Rick they're supposed to be headed for Fort Benning and he gets all huffy about not leaving any child behind. It became a parody of a Samuel Beckett play.
Grantland / Andy Greenwald
It's important to remember that someone actively chose for it to play out like this, to begin the eagerly anticipated sophomore season of a highly rated show with a never-ending traffic jam and end it stalled out in a field. ... This was an independent and wildly wrongheaded decision to transform a promising series about surviving a zombie apocalypse into an overheated soap opera about rural campsite tension.
HitFix / Alan Sepinwall
I've been underwhelmed by a good chunk of the season so far, but tonight's closing scene was so effective that I think I'm going to remember it far more strongly over the next two-plus months than I will a lot of the dull moments we got during this long stay at Hershel's farm.
io9 / Cyriaque Lamar
Season 2 started off strong, dipped, and ended with a legitimately screwed-up finale.
Paste / Josh Jackson
For all my quibbles about lazy Southern stereotypes or occasional clunky dialogue, the plot arcs have been masterful again this season.
Screen Rant / Kevin Yeoman
The Walking Dead writers have taken advantage of the breathing room a 13-episode season has granted them. In fact, they have practically put on a clinic in terms of decompressed storytelling. ... The Walking Dead's second season has so far delivered a more compelling, thought-provoking program than the entirety of season 1.
Time / Nate Rawlings
The pace during the first half of this season has been brutally slow. ... Changes in pace would be fine if the writers had used that time well, which they have not. They've tried to develop individual characters, but each subplot meant to add a layer to a character has been quickly resolved.
TV Fanatic / Sean McKenna
And as much as I've liked the new direction of the show and have still found, for the most part, the episodes to be a relatively entertaining hour of television, the second half of the season needs to feed off that adrenaline kick induced in the final moments of the [finale] episode. There has been a certain slowness and storyline dragging that's kept season two from truly thriving.
Variety / Andrew Wallenstein
What's all the more remarkable about the show's maturation is the narrative risk it took to get there. By making the daring move to derail the "Dead" characters from the ceaseless violence that awaited them on the open road in favor of sequestering them on the relatively peaceful idyll of Hershel Greene's farm, this series truly came into its own. ... In my mind, "Walking" stands shoulder to shoulder with "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad."
Zap2It / Liz Kelly Nelson
If nothing else, the first half of the second season of "The Walking Dead" ... was a master class in storytelling: specifically, how one person's actions -- even a character who disappears in a show's season-opening episode -- can have massive repercussions for those around her and, to an extent, people she never even met (at least while alive). ... Robert Kirkman and the rest of the writing team ... showed us it is possible to tell a story over several episodes and to plant seeds early in the season that bear strange fruit only in later episodes.

What do you think?

What did you think of last night's episode, and of the second season so far? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (12)

  • commenter-x  

    The show has a serious problem, and it's the characters act as stupidly as in any regular horror movie. It's fun to watch for two hours, but not on a TV show. If the point was to make you root for the zombies to eat these idiots, they accomplished it.

  • Beatz  

    I would like a Exiting fast pace show! this show just seems to be slowly turning into a DRY BORING soap Opera! i dont care about your relationship problems when there are zombies and which might be the end of the world! pick up the pace. I am loosing interest quickly!

  • Vidmeister  

    I work in the industry, and have seen the ENTIRE 2nd season. The second half ROCKS... Period... If anyone has gripes about the series at the END of S2, they need to ask themselves what attracted them to the show in the first place, because Season 2 Part 2 DELIVERS!!!

  • DukeJon  

    Good finale to the midpoint of season 2 but s-l-o-w to get there. Felt they could have wrapped up the whole "What happened to Sophia?" arc in a couple of episodes. Hoping for a better second half, and I also hope they do more flashbacks at the opening of each shows. The one where they see the helicopters drop napalm on the city was frightening, and better than everything in the whole series except the series finale. Less killing time on the farm and more backstory please.

  • RobertNJ  

    I agree with the critics. TWD's storyline has become stagnant and predictable, and the few plot twists that have happened thus far in season 2 really aren't that compelling. I recommend that Mazarra, Kirkman etc. watch a show on HBO called "Boardwalk Empire." Terrence Winters and the rest of the show's writers told a compelling and self-contained storyline in the show's first two seasons. It didn't leave viewers hanging at the end of season 2, yet the show's merits keep viewers wanting more. In the case of TWD, Kirkman & Co. Need to resort to the typical trick of asking a burning question at the end of very mediocre-at-best episode in an attempt to get viewers to tune in the following week. Seriously, I think Kirkman et al took an interesting (albeit unoriginal) premise of how survivors make it during the zombie apocalypse, and now have no idea how to move the story forward in any sort of interesting way. An example of this is that everyone wanted to know what Dr. Jenner whispered to Rick at the endof season one nearly a year ago, yet they still haven't revealed it because they're still trying to gain some sort of traction off of it. Sorry, but if that's all you're doing to try to get viewers to tune in, then AMC should seriously start contemplating a new show to take TWD's place. All-in-all, the story is moving at a snail's pace (we really don't know much more about TWD universe than we did at the end of season one) and the story now kind of sucks. Kirkman et al need to get their acts together. Really, take a look at "Boardwalk."

  • biatchstan  

    This season was terrible. It was way too slow and the characters got so annoying and over dramatic. I hope the second half of the season is less about everyone whining about the stuff and more about actually surviving.

  • ghammond  

    @Johnsm9 It's hard to take anyone seriously who doesn't know how to differentiate their to's and too's. And please keep your thoughts to yourself if you haven't even seen the entire half-season. That being said, I thought these episodes were great. While they were a bit slower than last season, which had to cram an entire plot-line based on the comics into 6 episodes, I think it was a well needed change of pace and gave some great insight into what is going in these characters' heads. After all, the strength of this series is in its true-to-life characters, not necessarily in the zombie killing (which is also pretty awesome).

  • LamontRaymond  

    The show is good, and I'll continue to watch, but it's simply not living up to the promise of the first few episodes. Will they leave the damned farm already?? The central crisis can't be whether Herschel is going to kick the group out or not. Let's go!

  • jdrandall38  

    I believe the first half of season 2 was intended to create an emotional attachment to the characters from a viewers standpoint. With that, the ending of the mid-season finale was perfection at the least. Quite the spin on this season that was built up to very well.

  • sebastian  

    For viewers who stayed the course through the first 6 episodes of season two, the conclusion of episode 7 provided the experience of genuine human horror--not cheap thrills or contrived plot twists, but horror at the moral realities facing the survivors. The slow pacing and the atmosphere of Hershel's farm created the necessary guise of a feeling of safety, while also allowing actual despair and doubt (not just fear and frustration) to creep into the show. Even more, the first six shows managed to pose a number of meaningful questions about human nature. When Sophia walks through the barn doors, all these questions, emotions, and mirages come together, resolving and exploding at the same time. It was more than great tv; it was great human storytelling. And because it was, it justified the moments of slow tv that made it possible.

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