AMC's coulda-been-great zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead returned to the airwaves last night to resume the show's second season after a shocking midseason finale (a concept we really should do away with altogether) back in December. It was a mean two months to make us wait, but, as time has a way of doing, somehow the weeks sped by and there we suddenly were last night, watching a bunch of ghouls lurch around and moan terrifyingly. But then after the Grammys we watched The Walking Dead.
And, oof, maybe it's just us, but we're starting to wonder if this show is ever going to pick up the pace. We get that it's "about the characters" and not the zombies, and we understand that not every episode can be a zombie-packed thrill ride, but honestly if there is even one more scene of hero Rick grappling with his hero-ness we might put a bullet in the TV's brain to put it out of its misery. There's slow burn and then there's this, the television pacing that is so repetitive and lacking in momentum that we're starting to think it's just a stall tactic used until the writers can figure out where they want the show to go. Will they leave Hershel's farm? Will Shane eventually go bad? Will Rick ever just throw the mother of all hissy fits and shriek "But I don't wanna be the leader!" and stomp off into the woods, never to be seen again? We're kinda hoping that will all happen, the latter most of all.
Think about it: what has really changed or developed since this season began? We [SPOILER ALERT from here on out] now know that Sophia got turned into a zombie and is now dead. Glen has a nice country girlfriend. Lori is pregnant. And that's... that's about it. And, with the Sophia business aside, we knew all that stuff pretty early on in the season. All the turgid emotion and whisper-fighting that goes on in this show can't, after a time, disguise the fact that not a lot has happened since, really, the series began. And then last night, when it looked like things might be picking up with the introduction of a new, menacing character played by True Blood's Michael Raymond-James? Well he and his buddy were killed by Rick after one scene. Sure, OK, maybe this little plotlet does introduce a new gang of bad humans, but way to finally introduce a cool and compelling new character played by a cool and compelling actor only to just snuff him out ten minutes later. C'mon, Walking Dead! Quit being such teases.
We know it would be crazy expensive for the the show to maintain a constantly propulsive, ever-moving narrative, but darned if we just increasingly don't care about the obvious and overstated conflicts that have been simmering for too long this season. Shane better do something, Rick better quit whining (maybe killing two dudes will help that happen), and everyone else needs to stop looking worried and grow a little more character. Aside from one or two episodes, IronE Singleton's T-Dog has been given barely anything to do, while Laurie Holden's Andrea had some tiresome plotline about shooting a gun that seems to have been abandoned, leaving her with nothing to do but stand around and frown. Why bother having all these characters on the show if we're only going to be focused on Rick's confliction and Shane's brooding and Lori's... bad driving? This show should feel like more of an ensemble than it does right now, like Lost did at its best. (And if that means having flashbacks, well then maybe, so help us god, there should be more flashbacks.)
Anyway, this is all to say that despite the compelling scene in the bar last night and a few other moments (Daryl calling Lori "Olive Oyl" was splendid), we're not so sure The Walking Dead was worth waiting all that time for. Hopefully the show will prove us wrong in the next few weeks (we keep watching despite our gripes, obviously) but past evidence suggests that the show is about as self-aware as your average walker. [Anguished moan]