• Walking Dead, The: The Complete Second Season

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Released on: August 28, 2012.

    Director: Various

    Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, Norman Reedus

    Year: 2012

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    The Movie:

    Based on the long running Image Comics series of the same name, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tony Moore and then later Charlie Adlard, AMC's first season of The Walking Dead had the daunting task of trying to bring a very popular and well written series to life on the small screen without alienating or upsetting a fairly fickle fan-base (it's a fact that horror fans and comic fans are pretty particular about details). The man who made it all happen, however, was none other than Frank Darabont, the same Frank Darabont responsible for directing The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile as well as more traditional genre fare like The Mist and writing credits on The Fly II and A Nightmare On Elm Street III: Dream Warriors.

    The core of the storyline follows a sheriff's deputy named Rick Grims (Andrew Lincoln) who is shot in the line of duty and falls into a coma, his life saved by his partner, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal). When he wakes up, the hospital is empty - he wanders around and soon realizes that the small town is littered with corpses, some of which have risen from the dead and are feasting on human flesh. Rick understandably heads to his home first but is broken hearted to learn that his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) aren't there, though there's enough evidence to support the idea that they weren't killed but fled. After meeting up with a man named Morgan (Lennie James) who, along with his son, are hiding out in the house next door he's brought up to speed. Something has happened and the dead have come back to life. The only way to keep them down is to shoot them in the brain or sever their heads. The government has supposedly set up a refugee center in Atlanta, which isn't too far away, but contact with the living has been sporadic at best. When the first season ends, things have gone from bad to worse, and Rick has joined up with his wife and son, much to Shane’s dismay and they in turn have joined up with a few other survivors who are relying on an RV owned by an older man named Dale Horvath (Jeffrey DeMunn). A young Asian guy named Glenn (Steven Yuen) is along for the ride and the best of the group at sneaking into places undetected while a woman named Andrea (Laurie Holden) is still upset over the death of her sister.

    The second season picks up where the first one left off – Rick and a group of survivors have left the city and are on the road when the first episode launches. A few new recruits have joined the group, most notably a redneck biker named Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) while Shane and Andrea debate leaving the group: Shane is understandably conflicted and upset about his relationship with Lori while Andrea is just annoyed at the way things are being done and that they won’t give her a gun. Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) becomes distraught when her daughter goes missing and so Rick spearheads a search that lasts quite a long time. The pair becomes more antisocial as the storyline continues. When Rick’s son gets shot in the woods, members of the group meet up with a family who live in a farm house seemingly untouched by the plague – the elder patriarch, a man named Hershel (Scott Wilson), is a veterinarian and the only chance of saving Carl’s life. He pulls it off, but in the process, Shane’s true nature is revealed. Relationships develop and evolve between the various parties involved in all of this all while the zombie threat looms large, sometimes as close as the other side of a chain link fence. Glenn and Hershel’s twenty-something daughter, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), hit it off while and develop a relationship. When the group finds out the truth about the secret in Hershel’s barn, things start to get complicated for all involved, but there are a lot more problems to deal with than just that, first and foremost being what to do about a missing child and how to get to the safe haven they hope will exist at Fort Benning. After they see the napalm drop, they know there’s no way they’re going back to Atlanta…

    The episodes that make up the complete second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead are included in the set as follows:

    Disc One: What Lies Ahead / Bloodletting / Save The Last One. Cherokee Rose

    Disc Two: Chupacabra / Secrets / Pretty Much Dead Already / Nebraska

    Disc Three: Triggerfinger / 18 Miles Out / Judge, Jury, Executioner / Better Angels

    Disc Four: Beside The Dying Fire

    The second season does a good job of continuing the events that happened in the shorter first season and adding to them. The cast of characters gets changed up a bit – some characters die, other new ones are brought on board but Rick remains the central character here and the leader of the group despite some protestations, verbal and otherwise, of some of the other members. This season deals with loss, with race relations, with faith and the lack there of, and of course with mankind’s inherent want to survive even in the face of adversity. The character development here makes this more than just another knock off of what George Romero did decades earlier and the fact that it is an ongoing series allows the writers to take things in less conventional directions. Case in point? As their son lies injured and in the throes of a violent seizure, Lori and Rick have a dramatic discussion as to whether they should even bother trying to save their sons life. It’s a lengthy scene, on which slows down the action that a lot might expect from a series about zombies, but it’s an important one and it’s a moment that makes us think what we might do ourselves in a situation like that. Moments like these make the show rewarding and interesting to watch and make the characters seem more real than they might seem otherwise.

    Performances are pretty strong across the board. Andrew Lincoln continues to play Rick as a man who sincerely has the best of intentions while Jon Bernthal’s interpretation of Shane continues to get sneakier and more sinister as the series progresses. Sarah Wayne Callies is given more to do as Lori this season and it’s to the show’s benefit as she delivers some very strong work here while Norman Reedus, a new addition, does fine as the redneck biker type, particularly in an interesting scene in which he is ‘visited’ by his brother Merle (Michael Rooker). Jeffrey DeMunn and Scott Wilson also impress as Dale and Hershel respectively and for the most part, all involved do a very good job with the material.

    As far as the production values go, a fair bit of CGI was used but thankfully most of the zombies are actual people in makeup and move just as you would want them to. They're a bit on the fast side, something that will likely annoy Romero purists, but aside from that they're both impressive and eerie, particularly en masse as they are quite frequently in this show. The film has a fair bit of blood and guts to it and some well executed action scenes, but the focus is on the human characters and their collective struggle to hold on to that humanity. There are power struggles that erupt within the groups, selfish (though sometimes understandable) acts of desperation and even some romance here and there, all of which serve to further the plot and grow the characters into more than just stereotypes.


    The Walking Dead was shot mostly on 16mm film, so expect a fair bit of grain in the presentation (thankfully the powers that be chose not to scrub it out). The quality of the 1.78.1 widescreen AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation is strong throughout offers nice depth and detail, much better than standard definition could have provided, but sometimes appears a bit on the soft side when compared to other HD presentations. This appears to have been an intentional decision on the part of Darbont and his team and in the context of the series' sense of impending doom and apocalyptic despair, it actually works quite well. Color reproduction has a nice, natural feel to it and though the series tends to rely more on earth tones and drab interiors there are bright spots where it pops, such as the green of the plant life or the warmth of a light in a dimly lit room. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts to note save for a couple of darker spots where some minor bits block up, nor are there any issues with heavy edge enhancement to complain about. Things shape up quite well here, really, and the series looks very good.

    The same high praise can also be levied to the series' English language Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, which comes with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. Pretty damn close to perfect, this mix offers fantastic bass response and a really tight lower end, which you'll notice when you feel the impact from every bullet fired and every punch thrown. There's some great surround activity present throughout the six episodes that make up this first season, be it the moan of a zombie in the rear channels, a bullet zipping from left to right or some insects buzzing around near a still corpse. Directionality is tight and well placed and the excellent quality of this mix really enhances the viewing experience the way a good lossless mix should. Dialogue is perfectly balanced and the series' instrumental score is mixed in perfectly to compliment the action, drama and horror without burying any of the effects or dialogue. The quality of the sound in this set is very impressive indeed. An optional French language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included here.

    Extras are plentiful here, starting with commentary tracks recorded by the cast and and crew for the following episodes: What Lies Ahead, Pretty Much Dead Already, Nebraska, Judge Jury Executioner and Beside The Dying Fire. These tracks cover a lot of ground but generally they’re quite informative. We basically get an insider’ look into the creative process by way of comments from the crew in addition to plenty of input into what goes into bringing the characters to life by way of input from the cast.

    Here's who contributes to each commentary track:

    -What Lies Ahead: Executive Producer Glenn Mazzara, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer /Writer Robert Kirkman and Executive Producer David Alpert

    -Pretty Much Dead Already: Executive Producer Glenn Mazzara, Producer Scott M. Gimple, Director Michelle MacLaren and Editor Julius Ramsey

    -Nebraska: Executive Producer Glenn Mazzara, Co-Executive Producer Evan Reilly, and Actors Scott Wilsen and Steven Yuen

    -Judge Jury Executioner: Executive Producer Glenn Mazzara, Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make Up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero, Writer Angela Kang and Actor Laurie Holden

    -Beside The Dying Fire: Executive Producer/Writer Glenn Mazzara, Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make Up Artist Greg Nicotero, Executive Producer /Writer Robert Kirkman and Actor Norman Reedus

    Additionally, look for six webisodes on the fourth disc: A New Day, Family Matters, Domestic Violence, Neighborly Advice, Step-Mother, Everything Dies. These were originally shown on AMC’s website before Season Two debuted, all six are directed by effects guru Greg Nicotero, who co-wrote them with John Esposito. They do a good job of explaining the origins of the ‘Bicycle Girl’ zombie who pops up in the first episode of the first season and they’re a nice inclusion here. Greg Nicotero offers up optional commentary for each of the six shorts. These are short, running only a minute or two each but these are a very cool addition to the set.

    Also on the fourth disc are a collection of eight deleted scenes, one each for the following episodes: What Lies Ahead, Save The Last One, Secrets, Pretty Much Dead Already, Nebraska, Judge Jury Executioner, Better Angels, and Beside The Dying Fire. These are worth checking out, though they won’t sway your opinion on the series one way or the other and were understandably mainly been cut out for timing reasons more than anything else - but not all. Executive Producer Glen Mazzara offers up commentary for each sequence, offering context and an explanation for why this material was removed in the first place.

    Moving on to the featurettes, we find eleven short documentaries:

    -All The Guts Inside (5:34) - how the effects were done for the scene where the zombie is cut open to see if a certain character's remains are inside.

    -Live Or Let Die (6:51) - the producers explain why certain characters live longer and why certain characters live shorter in the TV series than they do in the original comic book series.

    -The Meat Of The Music (7:54) - a look at what goes into composing and creating the score for the series and why it sounds the way that it does in the series.

    -Fire On Set (6:10) - some insight into the farm location, how it was found, how they decided it was the right farm, and what happens to it.

    -The Ink Is Alive (9:06) - some insight from Kirkman on how he likes to 'screw with the readers of the comic books' in the TV series and other bits and pieces about the black and white comics that inspired the series.

    -The Sound Of The Effects (4:33) - a look at the importance of the sound effects to the series and how they are created by folly artists and used in the show.

    -In The Dead Water (5:05) - a great look at how the infamous scene involving the well and the zombie that lived inside it/was pulled outside of it was handled.

    -You Could Make a Killing (6:20) - cast and crew discuss the 'invaluable' contributions of Greg Nicotero to the series, and how he took what he learned from assisting George A. Romero and how he brings his own touch to the show.

    -She Will Fight (5:40) - a piece that discusses Andrea's evolution over the course of the second season, how she changes and why in addition to how she is played in the show.

    -The Cast On Season 2 (4:50) - basically what it sounds like, some comments from the cast members on the events and storylines that take place in the second series of the show.

    -Extras Wardrobe (2:48) - A behind the scenes look at what the extras wear in the show, and how that extensive wardrobe is created by a talented crew who deal specifically with this side of the production.

    All of the extras are presented in high definition. Included inside the keepcase is a booklet containing some advertising for other Walking Dead related material like a Facebook game and some action figures. The four discs fit inside a keepcase which in turn fits inside a slipcase with matching cover art.

    The Final Word:

    The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season takes a little bit of time to get moving but once it hits the half way mark it turns into some seriously good television. While it isn’t always scary, it offers up interesting characters well played by a game cast and provides some scenarios that can be both tense and thought provoking, proof positive that you can make an intelligent horror TV series if you don’t need to play it down for the major networks. Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray set is excellent as it both looks and sounds very good and additionally includes a load of extra features that are quite interesting and offer up a lot of great contextual and background information on the show. All in all, a very solid release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      I've really been enjoying this season.
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      Actually Daryl was part of the group in the first season. He just got way more screen time in season 2.