The Walking Dead: Season Two - Online Review

'Nine times out of ten, this season is at its very best when Lincoln and Bernthal share the screen'.

It's fair to say that Season One of The Walking Dead left me feeling somewhat indifferent about continuing watching beyond those initial half a dozen episodes. Whilst there was enough that entertained, there was also a disconcerting amount that the opening season failed to get right, not least developing its characters and story arcs to a satisfying degree. Thankfully, giving Season Two a chance to prove that The Walking Dead warrants its considerable popularity is a choice which delivers its rewards almost immediately.

Where Season One struggled to give any characters outside of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) much depth, Season Two rarely has such problems. Character development is admirably made into one of the season's key strengths with many members of the group who had felt somewhat one-dimensional genuinely coming into their own. The introduction of new regulars such as Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is also handly deftly, allowing themes such as faith and tolerance to be richly explored. The season's biggest success in terms of character however is undoubtedly Daryl (Norman Reedus), a role that could easily have become the most clich├ęd of the series, but instead develops into one of the most intriguing and layered thanks to some impressive writing and a consistently strong turn by Reedus.

Consisting of only six episodes, Season One was never given much room to develop story arcs beyond Rick's central journey. But once again Season Two tackles the issue head on by turning a former shortcoming it into a positive. The search for Sophia (Madison Lintz) provides a strong backbone for several episodes throughout the first half of the season, culminating in one of it's strongest episodes, "Pretty Much Dead Already". It's a shame that, after the story winds up, at least two or three filler episodes appear late on in the season, "Judge, Jury, Executioner" perhaps being the biggest offender with only one genuinely worthwhile scene to be found within its forty minutes.

The narrative that most regularly makes Season Two compelling viewing however is the relationship between Rick and Shane (Jon Bernthal). Nine times out of ten, this season is at its very best when Lincoln and Bernthal share the screen. Together, the two actors believably craft and reshape the long-standing friendship between the two lawmen as it sustains greater and greater damage, giving Season Two a strong central pairing around which it can pleasingly gravitate.

The horror aspects of Season Two are also more than deserving of a mention, with effects expert Greg Nicotero building superbly upon the strong foundation he laid in Season One. The "day-to-day" horror encountered by the characters is just as good, but where this season stands out is in the scenes and sequences purpose-built to put Nicotero's impressive effects on the screen. There are several highlights to choose from, but the scenes based around the farm well in "Cherokee Rose" provide the perfect example of The Walking Dead's horror at its best. Without question, Nicotero regularly delivers both carnage and consternation of significantly higher quality than the vast majority of contemporary horror movies.

Despite the wealth of improvements from Season One, there are still issues here. A couple of characters, most prominently T-Dog (IronE Singleton), disappointingly miss out on the development others receive. The choice to set much of the season's action on Hershel's almost-too-idyllic farm is part of the reason that characters and stories can receive the attention they do, but there is an undeniable side-effect of reducing the palpable threat felt throughout the first season. Simply put, the world of The Walking Dead at times during Season Two comes across as somewhat safer than you want a zombie-ravaged dystopia to be.

Whilst not perfect, Season Two is unquestionably a significant step up from The Walking Dead's opening run. There are still issues and problems here and there to iron out, but much what is on offer here is both entertaining and well-crafted, leaving the series in a strong position to take its characters and ideas further in future seasons.

The Walking Dead: Season Two is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video now.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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