The hit AMC show can't decide if it's a character drama or a blood-and-guts horror story
Last night's second-season premiere episode of AMC's hit zombie series The Walking Dead finds the series caught in the same identity crisis that plagued its first season. Is the series aiming to be a sharply-written, character-driven drama, like sister shows Mad Men and Breaking Bad? Or is The Walking Dead simply content to offer an hour of generically gory thrills each week? Unfortunately, "What Lies Ahead"—an entertaining but slight episode of television—indicates the former. Much like the first season, there's plenty to admire about the series: an intriguing premise, excellent production values, and a generally likable cast. But it's hard to shake the feeling that The Walking Dead could be—and should be—so much more.
"What Lies Ahead" picks up shortly after last season's finale left off, with the remaining survivors banding together under the general leadership of series protagonist Rick Grimes. Our heroes' best hope, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, self-destructed at the end of season one, so they've turned to Plan B: a 125-mile trek to Fort Benning. This being The Walking Dead, the Fort Benning plan goes awry pretty much immediately when the group's RV breaks down on a long stretch of highway.
From there, "What Lies Ahead" alternates between zombie-killing action and bland, repetitive characterization. In between all the blood and guts, we spend a lot of time retreading the building blocks of The Walking Dead's first season: Rick struggles to find the best way to protect his family and lead the rest of the survivors. Shane guiltily pines for Lori after their aborted love affair. Andrea snaps at everyone and complains about how terrible it is to be alive. These subplots were all featured extensively in the first season of The Walking Dead, and it's getting harder to ignore the fact that none of the series' characters has grown or changed at all since they were first introduced.